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Column: A life filled with travels

Posted: July 19, 2018 3:02 p.m.
Updated: July 20, 2018 1:00 a.m.

I’m very lucky to have lived in and visited a number of places around the world and the U.S. during my 50-plus years on this planet.

As a child, I lived in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Guadalajara, Mexico. As a teenager, I lived on Saipan, the principal island of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Although my memory is spotty now, I know that my family visited other places along the way to, while living in, and on the way back from Kabul. We sailed on the S.S. United States (about a year before it was pulled from service) to London, then by train through Europe, possibly on the Orient Express. We also visited Pakistan and India and Israel. Somewhere, there’s a picture of a very young me standing by the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

In between Kabul and Guadalajara, my father took a girlfriend of his, my sister and me on a cross-country excursion one summer. I no longer remember the exact route (I was 6 years old at the time), but I remember stops in St. Louis and the Gateway Arch; and my dad crossing into Nebraska, putting his foot down on the blacktop and then turning around to continue on I-29 and then I-90 to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. I know we crossed into Canada somewhere and came back into the states in Washington where I have the distinct memory of people snow skiing in mid-summer.

My memory gets a little better from there. We made our way south and visited San Francisco and Los Angeles, including Disneyland, then on to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We crossed the Rockies and eventually made our way back east to Washington, D.C. I vaguely remember waking up in the middle of the night in Kentucky and seeing signs pointing one way to Louisville and the other to Lexington.

While living in Guadalajara, we also visited Mexico City and (I think) either Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta.
For the next six years, we stayed stateside in the D.C. area, but visited my father’s family in New York and Florida, my mother in Virginia, and my stepfather’s family right here in South Carolina, up in Clinton.

Then, we were off to Saipan. Of course, Hawaii had to be a stop. On the way to Saipan in the spring of 1979, we also visited Pohnpei and Truk before reaching Guam and then the Marianas. On one trip back to the states, we visited Japan and Alaska.

The big trip was actually to Manila in The Philippines. Manila is 1,650 miles west of Saipan, but we went east, visiting family in the states and then literally going around the world to London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Cairo, Bangkok, Hong Kong and, finally, Manila. It was a long, but fantastic experience for 15-year-old me.

Since returning to the states, I’ve lived in Syracuse, N.Y.; the D.C. suburbs, Memphis, Tenn. (twice); Atlanta and Dahlonega, Ga.; and then here in the Midlands.

During the last 25-plus years, travels have been kept mostly to the East Coast and, mostly, places I’ve been before. The big exception was three years ago when I visited New Orleans. I very much hope to get back there someday.

Meanwhile, there are places I’d still love to visit if I could ever find a way to afford doing so. I’ve never been south of the equator, which means I’ve never visited my No. 1 wish: Australia. I’ve also never been to Scandinavia or South America or Africa -- except for Cairo, of course, but that’s considered part of the Middle East.

What’s got me thinking about all this?

Pictures -- oddly enough, Windows 10 pictures.

The way my computer is set up here at work, every day I see a different picture from places around the world. It’s part of what’s known as Windows Spotlight, and I can’t tell you how many stunning images I’ve seen of places right here on Planet Earth I’d love to visit. Recently, there was a high aerial shot of a small beach in Greece completely cut off from the rest of its surroundings by mountainous cliffs atop which you could see a villa. Wednesday, it showed a terraced farm in a Chinese province that looked like the floating islands from James Cameron’s breakthrough 3D movie, Avatar.

Even in this internet age of ours, I still love a good wall calendar. In recent years, I’ve purchased the National Geographic American Landscapes calendar to remind me how gorgeous our own country is to behold.

Images on this year’s calendar include Stanley Basin in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Recreation Area; Alaska’s Denali National Park (which I’ve been lucky enough to visit); Pierce Lake in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin; Turret Arch in Utah’s Arches National Park (that’s the iconic one where you seem to be looking through a hole); and perhaps the most stunning to me, the Yampa River running through Colorado’s Dinosaur National Monument.

The combination of these images, plus my own memories, allow me to, virtually, speaking, roam to all sorts of locations. Hopefully, one day, I’ll get to visit or revisit some of these wonderful places.

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