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


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.