I love to travel, and I’ve been fortunate to grow up in a family of wanderers, and marry into
a family that makes traveling a priority. While it’s a drag to sit for hours in airports, live out of asuitcase, and deal with the stomach distress of strange foods, traveling is worth the expense and hassles. Flat tires, canceled flights, lost luggage, and seedy hotels are all part of the adventure. Seeing new places and experiencing new cultures is one of my favorite things to do.
When I was very young my father was in the Army. I don’t remember much about living in Yorkshire, England, but I’m grateful my parents took the opportunity to see parts of Europe. I was also able to see different parts of the country living in Maryland, Utah, Michigan, North Carolina (east, west, and central), and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
As an adult, I’ve been able to travel with my husband for work to Honolulu, San Diego, Amsterdam, Beijing, and Orlando. We traveled internationally for adoptions to Hefei and Guangdong, China, and Bangkok, Thailand. When my brother’s family was stationed in Ramstein, Germany, we took the family to Europe to see London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Trier, and we took a Rhine cruise. We’ve also been blessed to have family living in interesting places like Charleston, New Orleans (before Katrina), and Boston.
We lived outside of Washington, D.C., for four years, giving us access to incredible museums and national history. As a child and as an adult, I’ve been able to visit many church historical sites (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), resulting in some unforgettable trips to Palmyra, NY, Salt Lake City, UT, and Nauvoo, IL. Living most of my life in North Carolina, I’ve been to the beaches and mountains too many times to count.
Now that we live in Utah, we’ve been to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. This month we’ll visit Arches and Zion National Parks when my mother-in-law comes to visit. Her travel résumé is twice as long as mine. At the young age of 83, she still plans trips all over the world.
Our bucket list for travel includes an Alaskan cruise, Scotland and Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Hawaii again, maybe with all of our adult children this time. Planning a trip gives you something to look forward to, a break from the mundane and the constant grind of work and life in general. I honestly don’t know how people can never travel outside their home states. There is so much to see, and it doesn’t cost a fortune if you plan ahead.
1) Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. If you have an opportunity to travel somewhere, go.
2) Take the kids, no matter how young. Yes, it’s makes traveling more complicated, but being away from your young children can really put a damper on your enjoyment. And if they’re old enough to remember the trip, it will become a priceless memory for all of you.
3) Venture outside your comfort zone. Some of the most breathtaking sites are well beyond the ‘tourist’ areas. In Beijing, we skipped the touristy section of the Great Wall and went to Mutianyu one weekend and Simitai the next. It was so worth the long drives and arduous climbs see unrestored, original parts of the Great Wall.
4) Take your time. My husband Glen wants to see as much as possible and often makes long ‘to-do’ lists when we arrive someplace. Cut the list in half and take the time to appreciate what you can see. If you’re with children, cut the list in half again. To me, listening to Glen complain about what we might miss is a small price to pay for avoiding exhaustion. In London, the rest of the family went on strike after walking for miles along the Thames. We were tired and hungry but Glen wanted to keep walking, so we sat down on a bench and refused to go any further unless the next thing we saw was the nearest Tube station and the stop for our hostel.
5) Don’t drink the water. This is true no matter where you travel. Yes, London tap water is safe, but don’t drink it. It’s not the same as the water in NC. Learned from painful experience, plus I missed a full day of sight-seeing in London.
6) Be aware of your surroundings. If you travel abroad, be safe. Wear a money belt, don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket (or keep all your money in it -- use the hotel safe), tell the taxi-driver to set the meter (and be prepared to exit the cab if he won’t), say no to stranger’s offers to ‘give you a personal tour’ or ‘take a ride in my boat’ -- really, there are too many types of swindles to name them all. Keep your kids close, even in areas that seem family-friendly. Don’t be afraid to haggle over prices, especially in Asia, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel that they’re trying to take advantage of you because you’re a ‘rich American.’
7) Learn a little bit of the language, just a few phrases like ‘where is the toilet?’ or ‘how much does it cost?’ can save you a lot of pantomiming and potential headaches.
8) Respect the culture. It’s important not to offend the natives. Learn enough about their ways so you don’t lose your temper or make them lose theirs in certain situations.
9) Take memorable pictures -- put yourself in them. Yes, the Eiffel Tower lit up at night is amazing (and worth the hour-long sweltering subway ride), but a photo of your family standing in front of it will mean more to you years from now.
10) Keep a travel journal because someday you will forget what a wonderful time you had.