The joy of travel

Yesterday I gathered with some friends at a local coffee shop and cafe that has an old Volkswagen van as part of its decor. As I sat there it occurred to me that this summer will be the 40th anniversary of a grand adventure.

In the summer of 1978 my parents took my wife and me and my sister and her husband to Europe. My parents always loved to travel and had taken quite a few adventures as a couple and others as a family. We had just finished seminary and were able to take off a little time before staring our new job. My sister and her husband were similarly able to take a little time off. It all worked out. My family had participated in a group called SERVAS, in which people provide hosting for international guests. They had a good list of contacts and friends in various places in Europe. We found reasonably-priced airfares from Calgary, Canada. Susan and I graduated from seminary in Chicago, packed up our belongings and drove from Chicago to Montana, were we met up with the others. We all drove in my parents’ station wagon to Calgary and flew to Amsterdam where we had reserved a rental van. Waiting for us was a shiny new Volkswagen van that was bright orange with the Eurovan logo painted boldly on both sides. There was no way not to notice that this van was being used by tourists. I reinforced that image fairly early in the trip by locking the keys in the van, which brought no small amount of attention from helpful locals and provided no small amount of amusement for them as well.

It was a grand adventure. We stayed in Youth Hostels, with friends and traveled about visiting cathedrals and castles and seeing as much as we could in the time we had. We even put the van on a ferry and spend a little time in England. Driving on the left hand side of the road is even more challenging when you have a vehicle designed for driving on the right hand side. We took lots and lots of pictures and had lots of wonderful memories of the trip. We had no way of knowing that it would be the last big trip for my father, who died of brain cancer just a little more than two years later.

And life goes on. And here we are 40 years later. Among the delightful legacies of that trip is that the joy of traveling as a family has been handed down to the next generation. This summer Susan and I will be off on a grand adventure: a sabbatical that includes a trip to Japan. Japan is very special because our daughter and son-in-law live there. It is also special because when our children were teen agers, they participated in exchanges in Japan and we hosted a Japanese exchange daughter for a year.

The summer that our exchange daughter was with us we took a family adventure, driving west with the five of us, two adults and three teens, in our 5-passenger car, pulling a pop-up tent trailer. We camped our way through Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, introducing our Japanese daughter to family and friends and showing her some of the expanse of the American West and some of the sights of our country beyond Rapid City. We went to the top of the Space Needle and visited the beach and camped in some very beautiful locations.

One thing that we are looking forward to on this trip to Japan is being able to meet our Japanese daughter and her husband. We’ll travel with them, along with our daughter and son in law by train to another city where we will meet her parents and her sister and family. It will be a special time of reunion and reconnection with people who have graced our lives with their generosity of spirit.

There have been many other trips.

In 2006 our congregation was recipient of a grant to support a sabbatical that funded excellent leadership for the church in our absence and paid for our family to travel to Australia. The trip included our adult children. We got to drive on the left hand side of the road again, which, by the way, is the way they drive in Japan. We were able to tour quite a bit of Australia from Tasmania to the center of the continent at Alice Springs. We saw Melbourne and Sydney as well as visiting a number of small and rural towns.

I’ve read plenty of horror stories about family vacations. It is a popular theme for comedy movies. I’m sure that there are a lot of families who have had vacations that were less than perfect and filled with experiences that were painful. But we have been very fortunate. Travel has been a real blessing and a grand adventure for our family and the joy of traveling together had never left us. It is not that we are unhappy at our home. We’ve lived in the same house for nearly a quarter of a century. We love to come home. We are delighted with the deer and turkeys and people of our neighborhood. We enjoy the wind in the trees and the sweet smells of living in such a place. We feel fortunate and blessed to be able to live in such a wonderful place. Still. it is a lot of fun to travel and see more of the world.

I realize that travel is a luxury item and a great privilege afforded to some but not all. It is an indulgence that we have allowed and enjoyed over the years. We are indeed blessed to be able to make such grand trips. I plan to share as much of the trip as possible through this journal and in reports upon our return. And I am confident that the trip will provide stories that we will be telling for the rest of our lives.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!