Essay

Life’s Little Travel Lists

By Mark D. Walker

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
Robert Frost

During my stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I was smitten by and would marry a strawberry blond, green eyed parade queen of a small Guatemalan town where I was based. Ligia and I agreed at the outset that travel would be an important part of our lives together. In a moment of transparency, I probably should have shared the “She’d Reconsider Marrying Me List”:

  • The honeymoon will include many twelve-hour drives up and down the coasts of Mexico in a yellow Volkswagen Bug that will almost get crushed between two trucks carrying dynamite.
  • Shortly after the honeymoon, I’ll take a backpack and head off for four months alone throughout Latin America without even calling periodically.
  • I’ll take you home to meet my family in Colorado, when it snows constantly and the temperature rarely exceeds the freezing point.
  • I’ll be threatened by a local revolutionary guerilla group in Bogota, Colombia and have to leave the country in three days.
  • I will think that being absent for months on end is acceptable.
  • I will constantly embarrass you in social settings with my horrendous grammar and constant use of foul language picked up in various slums and rural settings.
  • Every three years, I’ll ask you to pack up the children and all your earthly belongings and move to a different country, where you’ll not know a soul.
  • My idea of fun will include visiting endless museums of every type all over the globe.
  • I’ll think that having parasites is a viable weight-loss strategy and discuss them at the dinner table.
  • I’ll insist on speaking Spanish at home, despite your spending the day teaching it and my never remembering any of your grammatical corrections—for over forty years.

When I took our family to West Africa, I probably should have given her a heads up with my “Traveling in Africa List”:

  • Freetown has the second-highest precipitation rate of any capital city in the world. It could rain for six days straight—nonstop—so any leather left in the closet for a week might turn a bright green.
  • Instead of a cuddly dog or cat for a house pet, we will have a large spider monkey.
  • We will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get to our house in Freetown.
  • One of the two guard dogs in our compound will be struck in the eyes by a spitting cobra.
  • The International School is anything but international.
  • I’d be medevacked to the Tropical Disease Center in Manchester, England to treat large boils under my arm which were never properly diagnosed.

Over the years we’d travel together including a trip through Europe but before departing I should have shared my “She’d Reconsider Traveling Away from Home with Me List”:

  • I’ll continue to travel as if I’m alone
  • I’ll continue to search for the cheapest option to eat and where we stay.
  • I’ll say you can pack whatever you want as long as it will fit into a relatively small back-pack.
  • I’ll avoid trip planning, preferring to go with the “flow” to determine what to visit next
  • I’ll insist on exploring every colonial, ancient church in even the smallest villages
  • My idea of fun will be endless hours in any museum open to the public and preferably free.
  • I’ll never suggest a “night out” because I’ll want to get up at the break of dawn to start exploring the next day.
  • I’ll never have enough money to actually consider “splurging.”
  • My idea of a “swanky” spot will be a Holiday Inn Plus.
  • I’ll wear out the tread of several pairs of heavy-duty hiking boots by insisting that walking is the only way to explore a city, town or village.

This would change when we were stuck on a roundabout at the entrance of the popular Lake District of western England where I’d miscalculated the popularity of the area and didn’t realize that nobody would pick-up hitchhikers and all the hotels were booked anyway. Ligia threw down her wedding ring with a, “Basta” (that’s enough)! She’d present her own “Revised Travel List Going Forward, ”which included the following:

  • You will organize several river cruises through Europe.
  • Cities we visit will include Munich, Melk, Budapest, Prague, Lyon, Aix en Provence, Berlin and Dresden
  • Where we don’t have to make a bed, make the food, wash the clothes.
  • We will indulge in meals prepared by professionals which include local ingredients and local wines
  • We will lounge around on the top deck doing nothing other than watch the incredible scenery and ancient castles pass by
  • We will only go on tours organized by professionals with transportation and food included.

In the course of our 45 years together in this wanderlust life, we’ve seen many amazing places but ended up in Phoenix, Arizona where, much to our amazement, all three children ended up, motivating our “Reintroducing Our Children to Guatemala Travel List.”

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Categories: Essay, Travel

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