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Introduction and Early Years of Travel

Travel is many things to many people. For some, it represents the break from work, getting away from the daily routine, and could be as basic as sitting by the pool or on the beach. For others it is visiting family and friends or the opportunity to go somewhere different, whether it be in one’s own country or in another part of the world. There are still others that use it as their “trip of a lifetime”, saving for that special, one-time event and then having the time of their life.

Then there is one more type of traveler, one who makes it part of their life and themselves, who is thinking about it even when at home, continually dreaming and living the previous experience while planning the next adventure. When away, they genuinely have a passion for those things different and they want to share their experience with others. I had someone ask me once if travel was one of my hobbies and I responded that, no, I saw it as a way of life. As such, sharing that with others is a natural extension of me and my family.

So this is a story about a family of four who decided to make travel a part of their lives and see the world. A little background is probably in order. Travel has been a part of my life since I was a child. My parents were both teachers and took my brother and me on long summer trips each year in a camper. By the age of 13 I had been to 45 states. When I was in high school, I saw a presentation about foreign exchange students and ran home begging my parents to let me go abroad. I was able to spend a summer in Sweden, living with a family, between my sophomore and junior years in high school. It was an incredible experience that changed me as a person.

Upon my return home from Sweden, my family hosted a foreign exchange student, named Barbara, from Germany for a year. This resulted in a family trip for 3 ½ weeks to Europe the next year, partly to meet my Swedish host family and Barbara’s parents.

Getting Married, having Children and Traveling in Between

Darren and I met in college. After he and I got married and began working, I began to bug him about taking a vacation in Europe. He had been around the United States and on a couple of Caribbean cruises, but not out of North America. We were able to save a little money and, in 1987, took a two-week trip to Europe. We started in Paris, where Darren suffered a classic case of culture shock. He stayed in our hotel room, unwilling to venture out. Once we got going, though, there was no looking back. We did took a traditional Eurail Pass trip and serendipitously made our way through France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany, where we met up with Barbara and my parents. After that trip, Darren was hooked.

We took a few short vacations before our daughter Lauren was born in 1990. Then Kristen came into the world in 1993. We were able to get away here and there when the girls were little, and, as soon as they were old enough to walk, we began to take them with us. Our first international trip as a family was to England in 1997. Kristen was not quite four, Lauren six. We only went for 10 days, figuring we could cope with the worst if need be. Our fears were not realized. The girls made it through with flying colors and really enjoyed the experience.

Other Travels leading up to our Around the World Journey

We then took other trips, expanding our horizons in the process. In 2000 we took a three week vacation to Europe with the kids. Darren and I visited China in 2001 for three weeks and we went to Japan for two weeks as a family in 2002. This culminated in our 4 1/2 month long trip around the world in 2003 – 2004, which we called ‘Cosmos’. After that we continued to explore in other parts of the globe, now having been to 40 countries for Darren and me on six continents (still have Antarctica on the list). The girls have each been to close to 30 countries themselves.

During these trips we have built up a following of people who have desired to follow our adventures, beginning with emails we sent from China in 2001 and now from the six continents we have visited. We have progressed with photos and video to continue to chronicle our journeys. Darren now has an HD video camera and I take the majority of the still pictures.

We have shared the sights and sounds from our travels, as well as our advice and wisdom, with numerous civic and school groups over the past five years, speaking about Cosmos (Around the World), Peru and Uganda, with Ecuador in the works. So travel has and continues to be an integral part of who we are.