By Sally Ross
For me, travel started with family. My Dad drove December back roads from Ohio to Key Biscayne for his yearly convention for golf course superintendents—with my grandmother, pregnant mom, 3-year-old sister, and me (age 5) in tow. I still have that scrapbook and pictures of tee-pee motels, an undeveloped Gatlinburg, and little hiker me proudly standing in black and white in front of Clingmans Dome. Later, Dad surprised us with impromptu journeys to Niagara Falls, Washington, D.C., and most of Ohio.
As I aged, travel became a luminous source of learning. With a high school club, I rode the overnight bus to New York City, where we explored the United Nations, I fell in love with food cart pretzels, and I was trusted to take my first camera (8 mm film!). During a junior year, college semester studying in Exeter, England, I was hooked forever. I got less than stellar grades in those English literature lecture courses, but that was because my roommate Nancy and I hitchhiked to see original documents and locations of D.H. Lawrence, Wordsworth, and Thomas Hardy. Primary sources still stop me cold with awe.
As a career educator, I too attended conferences (like my Dad had and often on my own dime) to explore the USA, as well as my field of English Education. Going early or staying late, my patriotism grew in coming to know San Francisco, New Orleans, San Diego, Portland, Boston, Phoenix, and national parks. Gradually, opportunities arose to travel abroad to Greece, Canada, Ireland, and Japan, and to return to England.
Teaching overseas for four months was a professional highlight. In 1987, I taught future English teachers in Xi’an, mainland China, and traveled extensively on my own by train. When I returned as a tourist 24 years later in 2011, I was stunned. One thousand unearthed terracotta soldiers had expanded to 8000 thanks to archeologists; ancient Mao-like uniforms had blossomed into modern fashions; and the miserably-kept university I had known had been replaced by a massive, incredibly modern two-campus site! Time travel is possible within a generation!
As a gift, I took my niece Mary Elizabeth, training to be a Spanish teacher, to Oaxaca, Mexico, where she stayed for year. Now in her tenth year of teaching, she continues to pay it forward by sharing her enthusiasm and intimate knowledge of her other world with American students.
Now in my later years, I have the freedom to travel for vacations (Cancun, Germany, England) as well as celebrations (Australia and New Zealand, after my husband received a life-changing double lung transplant). I travel for sport: hiking in Italy; Ireland or the English Lake District; golf in Scotland and Palm Springs; snorkeling in Hawaii. I am endlessly overwhelmed and inspired by natural wonders from Zion to Maine to cruising around Cape Horn. I honestly travel for weather: 70° Scottish summers beat Georgia heat, and Argentinian warmth eases Georgia winter. I travel with friends old (including Nancy from way back in 1970 who got me to Russia in 2014) and new (including Marilyn with whom I enjoyed Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and London this year).
Basically, I travel for adventure. Pure and simple. Whether I am in Paris or Rome, Budapest or Suzhou, every day is an open-ended joy. Once routines pass away, transport is safely behind me, and I step into a new morning, extraordinary opportunities beckon.
Can’t you just feel it?