Monday, April 7, 2008

The Wanderlust

My Aunt D is a world-wide traveler. She has been on every continent except Antarctica, and she still may venture there someday! You just never know.

(Quick! Name the seven continents! With my second graders today, that just fit right into the lesson I was teaching, and they really struggle with knowing them. Sooooooooo, are you smarter than a second grader?? I'll put the answer at the end of the post, for those of you who just aren't quite sure.)

Aunt D retired from a MAJOR airline a few years ago. She was the best administrative assistant in the company. She even knew shorthand! That always amazed me. I tried to learn it, but never could. I had a book and tried to teach myself. That's probably not the best way to learn it.

Anyway, as an airline employee she had some travel perks. And she took advantage of them. She has always loved to travel and visit new places. She can make friends with anyone and can learn to get along in any foreign country, even if she doesn't know the language. She still gets travel perks too, as a retiree.

She is single and therefore, doesn't need to "check" with anyone about a convenient time for a trip. If she wants to go somewhere, SHE GOES, and she can do it when it's convenient for HER. She travels with friends, family, and by herself. She has no qualms about that.

She recently got back from the Galapagos Islands. Sometimes I have to look up the places that she travels to, because I don't know where they are. As far as the Galapagos Islands, all I knew is that they were somewhere near the equator, and on either side of South America.

But now I know just a wee little bit more. They are a series of islands just to the west of South America, in the Pacific Ocean, and they actually straddle the equator. They are known for their tortoises that inhabit the islands. The islands are made almost totally of volcanic rock. The nature and wildlife are absolutely incredible. Aunt D was there for a couple of weeks.

Last fall Aunt D went to Africa, along with my cousin and her husband. They were gone for about 3 weeks. They started off in Kenya, and traveled around parts of the continent. I wish I could recall the specific countries they visited, but it escapes me now. I saw my cousin's pictures and they were great, so interesting.

Aunt D also went to China about a year and a half or so ago with another aunt and uncle. Her pictures were amazing. There were so many things I didn't know about China and it was so interesting to hear about them from a person who was actually there, rather than a textbook.

She's been to Italy several times, Hong Kong, Micronesia, and so many other places. Over the years she has gotten me things while on her travels, including some jewelry, and that means a lot to me. She loves to travel, and I think it's wonderful that she just up and goes places.

I've always been in awe of Aunt D and her travels. I used to think to myself, "Gee, I wonder if I could handle doing what she does?" A few years ago, I tried it for myself...but I started out SMALL!

I decided to go to Las Vegas. Alone. As in all by myself.

I asked Ted if he wanted to go, and his answer was, "Noooooooooooooo thank you!" So I told him that I would still like to go, and he encouraged me to do that, so I did.

Aunt D lives near the airport in Cleveland, so I went to her place the night before I left. I spent the night and she dropped me off at the airport the next morning. And I was on my own. Wow. I would have no one else to rely on, but ME. Could I do it? Could I handle a trip by myself? I was going to find out.

I flew out to Vegas, found out how to get around (thanks to a couple of books I bought beforehand, and actually read!), got to the Mirage in one piece, then settled in for a little vacation.

Not only could I do WHAT I wanted, but I could do it WHEN I wanted, and HOW I wanted. It was great! One day I took a taxi (my first taxi ride) back to the airport and rented a car, ALL ON MY OWN. I kept it for the entire day, and went to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and checked out a few other things along the way. I also stopped at a Catholic Church (it was a Saturday) and attended the 2:30 pm Visitors' Mass (as they referred to it as) and it was so crowded I had to sit in the balcony! I returned the car around midnight that night and the strip was lit up like it was the middle of the day! I drove past the fountains at the Bellagio and they were awesome. When I got back to the Mirage, I stayed in the casino, playing the slots and other games, until 3:15 am.



I got back out to the airport and made my flight back to Cleveland all in great shape. My Aunt D picked me up at the airport that night, I spent the night with her again, then drove home the next day.

And I learned something. I CAN count on myself if I need to. It was a very liberating experience. I'm not sure I want to do it again, but I had an absolute blast. And I did it alone. And I loved it.

I don't think that Aunt D has anything to worry about though....she can remain the world traveler of the family, because although Vegas was great fun, I have discovered that it's a lot of trouble to make sure everything will be handled at home while I'm gone, and get packed, hoping I haven't forgotten anything.

Happy Travels Aunt D!

The seven continents are: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica.


Jen said...

Wow, I am impressed that you went to Vegas by yourself. Awesome!

My dad has also hit all the continents except Antartica. In fact, he hit all six in one year once. (And yes, I did name them all!)

Dr. Grumbles said...

I once worked on a study where I did a lot of IQ testing. One of the items was to name all the continents. I was always amazed by how many adults said only a few or something like "France" or "Artica."

I have never been out of the U.S. (except for a school trip to the Bahamas in 9th grade).

Paulie said...

I could name them all too! That I never learned to drive is one thing I regret. I would love to travel. The only travel I did as an adult is moving from place to place. 13 homes in ten years. I was lucky enough when I was 19 to travel with my folks and little sister around the US, Mexico and Canada. Only a few southern states and a few northeaster states I haven't been to in my travels. I lived in Hawaii three years and had a son thee and visited Alaska for 19 days and I traveled the state with friends during my visit there.

Glad you did that. Maybe you will again someday.