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My childhood did not include traveling. Up until the age of 15, the only time I was out of the state of New Jersey was on a grade school trip to Washington's Crossing, Pennsylvania. In high school, bus trips opened up the vast new world of New York City. The Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the United Nations Building.....that was the extent of my world travels. Other than that, my world was restricted to the farm fields across the street from my home. The summer I graduated from high school, before entering college, my uncle took me on a road trip to Akron, Ohio to visit relatives. We continued on to Michigan to visit the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. On the way back home, we spent a day at the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania. That was the first time I was ever on a road trip. It was just me and my uncle. Maybe that's when it all began....the urge to travel.

In college, there was one book I read that always stuck with me, "Travels with Charley" by John Steinbeck. I just loved that book. I imagined doing what he did. The adventure of traveling the country at will was so appealing! Maybe that's when it all began....the urge to travel. After college, the U.S. Air Force took me to Texas, Illinois and back to Texas. When my father died suddenly, I applied for a hardship discharge so I could get a job and support my mother. On the way home I visited Dallas, Texas and New Orleans. Eventually I met Eleanor. My job at Fireman's Fund Insurance Company took me to San Francisco for two weeks on a training seminar. Those two weeks convinced me of two things: (1) to propose marriage to Eleanor, and (2) traveling was for me. For our honeymoon, we wanted to go to Hawaii. But limited finances forced us to "settle" for a three week road trip across the mid-section the the United States to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Wow! It was "Travels with Charley" all over again. That trip was so thrilling that for our 25th anniverary, we repeated it (including staying in the exact same room, room 711, at the Grand Teton Lodge). But this time we extended our second honeymoon to 5 1/2 weeks, circling the United States....location of "The Bridges of Madison County" in Iowa, Wall Drugs, Dakota Badlands, Devil's Tower, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Deadwood, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, Salt Lake City, Bryce, Zion, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Mammoth Caves. I think that "Travels with Charley" sparked my imagination years ago. But the actual experience of traveling was the final reward. That's what cemented it in my heart. From then on I had the urge to travel.

Tonight we watched a movie called "Into the Wild". The main character in the movie at one point makes the statement "The spirit of a man is in his experiences". It's traveling that opens up new experiences, touches the soul and refreshes our spirits. There are two joys in the heart of a traveler : First imagining the trip and then experiencing it. So I have no doubts now. I have the heart of a traveler.

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Comment by Marlene Hench on March 29, 2008 at 2:44am
"Travels With Charley" is one of my favorite books too. I loved the way Steinbeck described Charley's first experience in the Redwoods and how after he looked at how big the Redwoods were, he decided to lift his poodle leg to a weed next to the tree instead.

As a child growing up in Maryland, my family was too poor to travel but my Mom dreamed of it all the time. I was lucky to be the youngest child, so after my sisters got married, we finally could afford to travel by camping along the way. They were great vacations camping up and down the East Coast. They gave me the desire to go out and explore the world. When I graduated from College, I had the opportunity to be the first one in our family to fly and it was all the way across the country to San Francisco. While there, I was determined to see everything I could because I would never be back again. A couple years later I ended up living in the SF area.
After Frank and I married we were stationed on the Navajo Reservation in AZ and honeymooned across country from MD to AZ. During the year we lived in AZ, we were able to travel all over the Four Corners area and the Southwest which just instilled even more desire to travel. After moving to CA, we had a chance to travel in the West for a few years. Then as we had our four children, traveling long distances became prohibitive again so we spent our vacations family camping in the Sierras. After the children reached High School, we were able to wander out into farther distances in the western states.
For the past 10 years, it has been just Frank and me now and we have expanded our travel zones all over the US including my much dreamed of trips to Hawaii and Frank’s Europe (thank goodness we found Untours). So far we have visited 41 states and 6 countries and are still counting.
We like Bill and Eleanor, have hearts of a traveler and being able to share this with other Untourists is a wonderful thing.
Thanks, Bill, for making us stop and think about it!


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