Travelers

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Paula Hiuser

I grew up in a small rural village in Southern Ontario, surrounded by cattle and corn fields. I discovered the world through my Grandfather’s enormous cache of National Geographic Magazines.  I longed to see the world for myself, hear romantic languages, dance to different rhythms, taste and smell exotic foods, and fall in love over and over.

At 18, I ‘planned’ my first Epic Adventure with my best gal pal. We had Eurail passes, unwieldy backpacks, a guidebook and no clue what we were in for.  Our plan was to go where our hearts and good weather led us. 

The bomb went off, shortly after we arrived at Frankfurt airport.  

We were devastated and scared. A soldier about our age, walked us through the bombed terminal. We tried not to cry as we walked past the crater in the floor, shards of glass and twisted rebar, blood and thick dust that made it hard to breathe. Three people died that day. We headed straight for the outbound trains and took the first train to anywhere.  Anywhere was Zurich at midnight.

 

We had no Swiss currency and no hotel so we hunkered down on a sidewalk outside the train station with indigents and other lost souls. (For more of this story read 'A Train to Anywhere' on my Blog.

 

Those first 48 hours in Europe could have derailed me, but they didn’t. I found out what I was capable of in a very short time.  There wasn’t much that could deter me or a situation that I couldn’t handle.

When I dreamt of Europe, it was all romantic flying buttresses, cobblestone streets, and outdoor cafes full of chic women who wore jaunty scarves. But real travel isn’t Disney.  There are language gaffs, foods that scare you, currency and exchange rates that will confound you.  Wrong turns, missed flights and maps that don’t look right no matter which way you turn them.  Literal and figurative, lost-in-translation moments that are enlightening, empowering and humbling. Travel will change your relationship with the world. It will change your relationship with yourself.

 

I earned degrees in Classical Civilization (Greek & Latin) and Recreation & Tourism. I worked at Harrods in London and hitchhiked through the UK and Ireland. I worked on an archaeological dig in Israel - it  is nothing like Indiana Jones. I traveled Greece alone and experienced the grace of strangers who took me into their homes. I fell in love with Costa Rica and her 12 biological life zones when I lived there to learn Spanish and  worked as an adventure tour guide before my life took an unexpected turn. I met a guy, emigrated to the United States and got my accidental MBA so I could start a 'real' career.  

 

I kept traveling, but my bucket list items waited for the right time.  The right time – is right now.  

 

Tomorrow is not a given.  Practice a sense of urgency, see and do much as you can with the resources you have.  I will do the heavy lifting and sort out the logistical stuff.  You pack your bags and go find wonder.

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Ilse Haag

Both my parents immigrated to the United States and taught me by example to not only embrace “new” and “different”, but to seek it out, in order to truly own my experiences. This actually became my way of life: Between the ages of 0-18, I lived in 14 different places. I spent every summer of my childhood living with family (whom I continue to visit frequently) in Germany and Austria; sent to them on my own for the first time when I was six years old. I graduated from an international high school in Brazil. Vagabonded through Europe by myself after college. Met my husband and got married in Montana. And finally put down roots when I landed in Maine on a whim in 1996–literally: “Let’s move here! They get a lot of sunny days and have a cool live-music scene!”

When I travel, no matter how many people I may be with, I become closer to my own true essence; traveling reminds me to savor each moment. When something is new—a new view, a new language, a new flavor, a new smell—it’s easy to pause and relish in the newness. By paying closer attention to everything, in the context of ME, I become intimately more connected with my world. When I come home from traveling–no matter how near or far from home I’ve gone–I want that vibrant immediacy and connection to linger. So I make a conscious effort to bring that awareness into my everyday life.

It would be my honor to share with you that absolute magic that comes from opening yourself up to the “new” and the “different”.