Pictures ….. from the traveling world..




So, it’s Spring Break and Keri and Sarah are both off to Hawaii. My husband and I are off to Florida on Monday, where we will visit his mother and also spend time on the beach and swimming in the Gulf. But as I began to think about this blog post, at first I was going to write about the joys of traveling alone, and about a particular trip I took by myself to a small island off the coast of England, but that’s not the way it’s going  to be.  Rather I am going to write a series of mosaics, small photos of travelers and would-be travelers.

Our Writing Center at Sheridan College is a dynamic and interesting place where people work, write, talk about writing but also talk about many other things. Allison, one of our student-consultants came in the other day and announced that she had decided that she was going to go to Bucharest. She has never been to Europe, knows little about Romania, but someone told it was cheap to live there.  I do not know if she will actually go, but she well might, and if she does, she’ll come home a different person.

Thomas, another student-consultant, announced a few days ago that he was going to Detroit. Now, in my mind, Detroit has none of the charm of Bucharest, but that is perhaps only because I have a romanticized view of Eastern Europe and a not-particularly positive view of decaying American cities. Thomas told me that someone told him that Detroit was “funky” and had an interesting music scene. Who knows? But Thomas is riding the bus from Sheridan, Wyoming, to Detroit and back this spring break. He will come home changed.

Last week, Jake, our third student-consultant, was madly filling out the last of his college applications for the institutions where he wants to finish his college education. All of his choices are in New York City. He will love the city, but he will also gain a new appreciation for his home town while he is gone.

One of my sisters once, in the 1970’s, took a cross country bus trip just because she wanted to. She got terribly homesick when she was 3,000 miles from home, but she made it back and was glad she did it.

When my daughter was a senior in college in 1999, she traveled to Vietnam with a group of students and two faculty members from her college. They spent a semester based in Hanoi, but also traveled around the country. She brought home a smattering of Vietnamese language, silk clothing, a set of small rice bowls that live in my cupboard, and an appreciation and love of a country and culture very foreign from her own.  I have a photo of her in a Vietnamese dress, and wearing the conical straw hat, straddling a bicycle on the street.  She doesn’t quite fit in, but she doesn’t quite stand out either.

When I was in my 50’s,  I went to England to visit my son and his family, but then I traveled alone from Carlisle, England, where he lives, to the Isle of Iona, on the Scottish coast. Iona is tiny. It is 3 miles long and 1 mile wide. It is the home of the Iona Abbey first built by St. Columba in 600 CE. It is a place of pilgrimage and meditation. Most of the permanent residents on the island (about 200) do not have cars, and other cars are not allowed on the island which is accessible by ferry from the Isle of Mull. Iona is a barren and wind-swept place. The abbey itself, reconstructed in the 19th Century, is beautiful and peaceful.  I spent part of a day on a whale-watching boat. We saw no whales, but many puffins and more barren islands. I left Iona on my third morning there in a cold, driving rain. But the train ride back to Glasgow, and then to Carlisle felt like I was re-entering another world. I carried the bells of the Iona Abbey with me in my heart.




Wanderlust Genes

Mom behind some sunflowers in Yellowstone NP

Mom behind some sunflowers in Yellowstone NP

I am convinced that wanderlust is inherited. My great-great-grandfather, Reverend Nelson William Crowell, was the first I know of in my family who loved to travel. He owned property near Manville, Wyoming and traveled between New York and Wyoming at a time when travel wasn’t as convenient as it is today. He was referred to as the “wanderer” in the Crowell genealogy book.This propensity for travel spread through my mother’s side of the family to me. Growing up, my mother worked several jobs to save for summer trips. We spent summers in the car traveling across the country, or we took short trips throughout Arizona. Often, I spent summers with my dad in Minnesota, North Dakota, or New Mexico.

Eventually, we branched out away from the United States into Scandinavia and Costa Rica. One summer, my mother and I toured Scandinavia, and that led to living a year in Sweden as a high school exchange student.

Getting ready to ski in Sweden.

Getting ready to ski in Sweden.

Another summer, we spent in Costa Rica where I learned a little bit of Spanish and learned to love coffee, and black beans. I can still remember the Costa Rican seasoning and the delicious hot sauce. I can’t duplicate it, but I’m trying.

Yet another summer, we traveled to Brice Canyon and Yellowstone, and that led to my desire to move to Wyoming.

When I moved away from my family and went to college, I thought my traveling days were over. I never thought I would make enough money to travel on my own. While my college friends spent spring break in Cabo San Lucas, I’d study, write papers, or work extra hours for tuition.

When I graduated, I struggled to find a job, and found myself living with my parents once again—this time in Nebraska. I worked for an advertising company and started paying off my student loans, again thinking my traveling days were over. But I couldn’t run from the inherited wanderlust. After a one-week vacation to Laramie, Wyoming to explore the University, I moved there. I lived at the KOA with my dog and loaded Geo Metro until I could find a house to rent. Two years later, I was a graduate student at the University of Wyoming.

As a grad student, once again, I found myself homebound, house sitting while my roommates jet set to Europe for three weeks while I read for class, practiced viola, and graded student essays.

Studying on the couch

Studying on the couch during spring break

For me, spring break wasn’t about traveling to exotic places and drinking to excess. It was about catching up on my schoolwork or my sleep. It was about getting ahead financially or starting on a school project. It wasn’t about fun.

Even as a full-time college instructor, I spend most breaks grading, preparing for the next semester, and reading. It’s relaxing, but I’m envious as I watch my colleagues travel to Italy, Florida, or even Phoenix.

It’s Spirit Week on campus this week, and that means a decorating contest. We decorate our area in the theme of our dream Spring Break destination. My dream? Hawaii…actually, any beach will do, but I’ve never been to Hawaii, so that would be nice.

Back in January, when the temperatures were below zero, and I was a little bit depressed returning from sabbatical, I knew I needed a little bit of hope to get me through the semester. It came in the form of an email advertisement.

Normally, I delete those, but this one, I followed the link. It lead me to various vacation deals. That’s when I decided it was time to take a real Spring Break. So, on Monday, March 16, my husband and I will be on our way to Oahu. We’ll spend three days and nights in Waikiki Beach where my husband and I plan to spend two days on the beach and in the ocean.

As people around me express their jealousy, I simply smile and say, “You’ll have your chance someday.” Hopefully, they will, but for now, it’s my turn, and who knows what this trip will bring. But I can’t wait.

~ Keri

Have Kids. Will Travel.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain

crying frank

Tired traveler #1

crying luca

Tired traveler #2

I’ve long said that there should be a family section on airplanes. We used to segregate smokers, somehow expecting that little blue curtain to save us from carcinogen uptake. The first class cabin still ropes off their bigger seats and free drinks. Why not at least give parents the luxury of traveling with our brethren? That way at least we know that our kicking and screaming travel companions aren’t alone in their revolt. We could share snacks and mild sedatives in our own little corner of commercial airline purgatory. Business travelers intent on laptop time and stiff drinks might even pay extra to keep us caged.


Early wanderlust

I’ve written about the perspective that travel offers, about the necessity of understanding how big the world is, about how it makes time slow and eyes open. For some of us travel is a compulsion, even an addiction. Having a trip on the horizon – even just an interstate road trip – keeps me sane. I get a little crazy if my passport threatens to expire. And here’s the thing: I worry that wanderlust isn’t hereditary.

So I’ve dragged my kids around the planet. When they were tiny, Cody and I insisted that nothing would change – we’d keep pace. We added a port-a-crib to our tent and forced our babies to endure east coast road trips in traffic. When our oldest son revolted and refused to nap in his car seat, we conceded to a few changes.

We slow down. One thing a day. No more running ragged around a new city collecting sights like merit badges. We take our time getting out in the morning, prioritizing an easy breakfast and lazy wake-ups. And we quit early. An hour in the pool or in front of the TV makes the next day bearable.

We plan our food. Feeding four people in an unfamiliar place breeds anxiety and threatens marriages. We carry snacks, but we sit down for meals. This guarantees breaks for our kids and a beer for us.

We wander widely and stick close to home. Some of our best travel has taken us just one state away. We’ve spent a week exploring new places in a familiar city, forcing ourselves to see the familiar from another angle, pretending to be bright eyed tourists. We’ve also lugged a baby and a toddler to Europe. Both trips necessitated adult beverages and significant patience.

We practice the art of anticipation. In about two weeks we will take our boys to Hawaii for spring break. I’d planned an elaborate surprise al a whimsical Disney TV commercials: I wanted to tell the kids about the trip on the way to the airport. But the boys are far more perceptive than I give them credit for and my husband is a terrible liar. They discovered the ruse weeks ago. Now I realize I was wrong. Their travel joy might be measured in direct proportion to their anticipation. Had they not had the opportunity to plan and dream about our trip, the experience would have suffered. Besides, I’d miss out on the “how-many-days-till-Hawaii” whine. Every. Single. Morning.

My boys are big now and generally quiet on airplanes. My eleven year-old is almost taller than I am so his days of short-leg-induced-seat-kicking should be waning, but I’ve been that mom for years. I’ve always traveled with my kids. It was easy when they were tiny – I just schlepped them around in a sling. I boarded more than one flight without anyone realizing I had an infant strapped to my chest. I won’t pretend toddler travel was easy. I’m sure I was every flight attendant’s worst nightmare: two boys under three. But I soldiered on insistent that travel was as good for my little people as it was for me. I can hope that it will make my family’s views broader, more wholesome and charitable, but at the very least it will get us out of “our little corner of the earth.” ~ Sarah


Backpacking First-Timer: Dos and Don’ts…

Entering the Cloud Peak Wilderness on my first solo backpacking trip.

Entering the Cloud Peak Wilderness on my first solo backpacking trip.

Weighing 280+ pounds, several years ago, I took my first backpacking trip up into the Big Horn Mountains. I went with my husband, and I remember an unrelenting trail. I fell backwards once and needed help getting up like a bug who could not turn itself over. We never made it to our original destination, Big Stull Lake–a regret I had until this year.

This summer, 100+ pounds lighter, I took the same backpacking trip; this time solo but not without my trusty dog, Nikko. My destination was 3.7 miles to Coney Lake with a short stop at Big Stull Lake. Things didn’t quite go the way I had planned, so I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned on my first solo backpacking trip.

#1 Don’t overestimate the amount you can carry. Chances are when you’re hiking, you aren’t going to need a lot of clothing. One pair of shorts, one short sleeve shirt, one long sleeve shirt, rain gear, thermals, and a jacket for high elevations is probably enough. On my first backpacking trip, I ended up with too many clothes and as a result, I could barely lift my backpack. At one point, I tripped on a tiny stump in the middle of the trail and ended up face first in the dirt. With a smaller pack, I could have kept my balance.

#2 Do pack and repack. If I had followed this simple rule, I would have realized I didn’t need 6 pairs of underwear, three shirts, and two jackets for my two-night backpacking trip. Repacking and packing can help you stick to the minimum requirements as well as give you practice packing. Make sure to try on your backpack so you’re not stuck with a too-heavy bag when you get to the trailhead, and it’s always a good idea to consult an expert about what you should or should not bring.

Stull Lake Campsite#3 Do know where you’re going, and have a contingency plan. Experts say not to hike alone, but I knew the trail, I let people know where I was going, and I had a contingency plan. I planned my trip based on the previous hike my husband and I had taken years ago. We had not planned well, so we found ourselves stuck searching for a camping spot in the dark during a thunder storm. It turned into a pleasant camping trip, but without good luck, it could have been a disaster. On this solo trip, I planned ahead and had a contingency plan. I wanted to make it 3.7 miles to Coney Lake with a short stop at Stull Lake, 1.6 miles from the trailhead. I ended up staying at Stull Lake and hiking on to Coney Lake the next day without my pack. I would not have made it through the steep, rocky switchbacks with my super heavy pack. Instead, I had an easy hike and more “me time” next to quiet Stull Lake.

#4 Don’t forget the mole skin. No matter how much you think you’ve broken in your new hiking boots, there is always a chance of chafing. I put several miles on my hiking boots before this trip, but the rocky terrain and up- and down-hill hiking took its toll on my feet. Thankfully, I had mole skin in my first-aid kit, and I managed to cover the hot spots before they developed into giant blisters.

#5 Do pack water shoes or sandals. I was grateful to have my water shoes. They had nice traction for walking in the lake and on the lakeside trail, and they are nice to have if you have to ford any deep creeks. Luckily, my hike was in late summer, so the creeks were dry enough to expose rocks for crossing. Look for shoes that can be easily attached with a carabineer to the outside of your pack, and pick shoes that are light…again, refer to Rule #1.

#6 Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t think you’re going fast or far enough. Yes, there are hard-core hikers out there who count their miles, and you may or may not cover as much ground. Who cares! It’s about your ability and about taking time out for you. Take time to relax and enjoy the scenery. Focusing too much on your speed or the miles you’ve covered can leave you forgetting why you wanted to backpack in the first place. Remember that it’s not a race. If you plan your time accordingly, you won’t have to rush to the campsite and you can take time for breaks, pictures, and bird watching.

Most of all, be proud of what you accomplished. So what if someone else went farther or faster. The point is that you got outside, you had fun, and you experienced something new.

Happy Hiking!

~ K

Stull Lake

Are You Small Town or Big City?

NewYorkCityOn July 31st, at 2:00 AM, I sat in a 24-hour deli having breakfast in downtown Manhattan.

Some people would consider this unwise, but I was amazed at how safe I felt. In fact, after finishing my coffee and yogurt, I walked to Times Square with my mother’s voice repeating in my head, “Nice girls aren’t out after 10.”

I have always been a night person, but I rarely go outside that late because of the supposed dangers lurking in the shadows. I have also always considered myself a small-town girl, and I never thought I would feel comfortable in a city like Manhattan. I expected to be intimidated, self conscious, and hurried. Instead, I was energized, fearless, and confident.

As I sat in the deli, I realized that I could get used to the city life. I could imagine living there writing, walking at night, and loving the fast-paced lifestyle during the day. The other side of me–the side that loves the solitude of the wilderness, fishing, hiking, and just listening to the birds–wonders how long it would take before I would need to escape the city environment.

Despite the fact that I live in a small town, I’m not exactly a hick. I have lived in and visited urban neighborhoods before. In fact, I had been to New York before. I have also lived in Tucson, Arizona, a city of 520,000+, for over 6 years. I also lived in Lincoln, NE, not quite as big as Tucson, but still bigger than Sheridan, Wyoming. I’ve also visited Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Stockholm, London, and Paris. In Paris, my traveling companion refused to be outside after dark. Maybe that’s good practice, but I longed to see the Eiffel Tower lit up after dark. I wasn’t brave enough then to venture out on my own.

This trip to New York was my first experience in a large metropolis alone, so I was completely shocked with how comfortable I felt as I walked down 7th Avenue towards Times Square. Several people were around…men and women dressed in various styles. There were police officers, city workers, and even some homeless people out and about. I did get some strange looks…it was probably completely obvious that I was not a New Yorker…but for the most part, people left me alone, and I felt completely comfortable.

I didn’t have much time once I got to Times Square. I had to catch the airport shuttle at 3:30AM, and I still needed to check out, so I hustled back to the hotel completely energized and not really wanting to go home.

Today, back in Sheridan, I feel out of place. I tried walking at midnight in my neighborhood, but I was uncomfortable and frightened. Without really understanding why, I rushed back to the comfort of home. (It’s possible I realized internally what this study found.)

I don’t really know what to do with myself now. I suppose I’ll settle back into my “normal” life in Sheridan, and New York will be a distant memory. Until then, I have realized that no matter how much I think I know myself, I should remain open to new experiences and new places…because who knows, I may find that I’m a city girl after all.