Why I LOVE to Travel

One could say that the way we grow up has a tremendous impact on who we are as adults. Others may say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

It’s the age old dilemma of NATURE vs NURTURE.

And the ramifications are enormous.

It could also be described as DESTINY vs DESTINATION.

Destiny—they might say—is where we end up regardless of our decisions.

Destination—I might say—is where you choose to end up regardless of your situation.

Who we become and what we do with our given set of circumstances has an incredible impact on where we end up, on our destination.

When I consider my story of growing up in poverty, abuse and a nomadic lifestyle—I chose a different destination instead of accepting that as my destiny. If I were to accept what seemed to be my destiny (you know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree) then I would be living a very different life today.

You may not be able to change your destiny, but you can change your destination.

The irony of this is, I recognized this at a fairly young age. I refused to live the life I was handed. I determined to end up at a different destination.

Yet, no matter how hard I try and no matter how much I want to be different, I have characteristics built into me by probably both nature and nurture. 

A couple of the characteristics that I inherited from my dad are a love for change and intense emotions. When I was a kid, I saw this as his chase for something better over the next horizon. The pursuit of greener grass directed our lives, I thought.

My dad moved us constantly, in pursuit of a better situation, a better job. He always thought that the next small town would provide the community he wanted, the location of our prosperity, where it would all come together, I assume. Yet, it never really did. 

Things got slightly better over the years, but usually only because we slowed down and moved less. After all, I only attended four high schools. But, our lives, our interactions, didn’t change much.

Every place we ever lived—all 74 by graduation—the people there, couldn’t wait to get out. Whether it was Montana, Colorado, California, Indiana, Wisconsin or Texas they couldn’t wait to get out. You would think that once you’ve lived in 19 states, you would find one where people couldn’t wait to get in. 

Now, as an adult who wanted better for my kids, as a parent who didn’t want his girls to experience constant upheaval, I have lived in the Springfield area of Ohio for 25 years since I got out of the Marine Corps. 

And let me tell you, living in one area has been quite the challenge for me.

Thus, comes my inherited traits of intense emotions and a desire for constant change.

I don’t know how to explain it, but due to moving so many times as a kid, I have a great need for change. Most people hate change. I crave it. While consistency in some areas is still needed, change is just as necessary for me.

As an adult, I have had to rearrange the furniture in my house every 6-12 months. We will often supplement that with a new coat of paint. And, maybe a new set of decorations every few years.

While this has been enough to help me survive and even thrive in our lives, it had grown increasingly difficult to stay in the same locale. However, I still put my kid’s needs for stability and development before my own desire to move on. 

Enter, stage left. TRAVEL

For years, we took the obligatory Spring Break trip every year to escape the cold winters of Ohio, typically to Florida to thaw out for a week. This proved very fruitful and I was able to find rest, renewal and refreshment from the sun.

Oh, how I love Florida.

I cannot begin to express how the Florida sun energizes me after a long winter. Those intense emotions of the winter blahs quickly go away in just a week’s time. The weather makes a dramatic impact on me in immeasurable fashion.

Yet, in the past ten years, since I’ve been working in the education field and have had my summers off, we have been able to extend our weeks of vacation and travel more in the summer now. We never miss a Spring Break, for sure, but now we have been able to travel longer and farther. We almost always travel by car.

The opportunity to see new places and experience new people has helped tremendously. I only rearrange our bedroom about once a year now and our living room about the same. The rest of our rooms don’t have enough flexibility to be changed and we’ve only added one coat of paint to the bedroom since we moved into our house five or six years ago.

Let’s just say that our ability to travel in the summer has been a marvelous change agent to maintain our home base. Below are just a few destinations we have been able to experience in that time and have led to my growing love of travel.

Boston and the historic northeast coast. I know most people say to visit this area in the Fall, but we went in late July and early August and it was fantastic. Visiting this area while it was warm, was essential for me. Walking around historic downtown Boston while sipping my favorite Starbucks latte was something I’ll never forget. Savoring lobster on the wharf and basking in the warm sun, reflecting off my face with the harbor birds flying around us was serene.

We were also able to enjoy Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, a resort on the coast of Maine, and a lighthouse near New Haven, CT. We were able to explore Providence, RI and pop into New Hampshire even. This was the summer trip of a lifetime—until my daughter moved to Alaska. 

My oldest got married to her high school sweetheart who promptly joined the Air Force.

He was stationed near Anchorage, Alaska and immediately following their honeymoon they moved about 4,000 miles away. The military shipped his car there, but not hers. So, after some deliberation we offered to drive it to her. One of my dad’s dreams was to drive the Alaska Highway. I was extremely curious and it sounded like the trip of a lifetime.

My wife and I drove her Chevy Spark nearly 6,000 miles over 9 days to deliver her first new car back to her. Let’s be honest, we just needed an excuse. 

Wait, you say, I thought it was only 4,000 miles?! Well, that is if you drive direct. We decided to drop in a couple of sites that we wanted to see along the way so we drove due west to San Francisco. A couple of unexpected spectacular sites along the way were the loneliest road in Nevada (google it) and driving by Lake Tahoe as we entered California.

We drove for 15 hours a day every day except for two. The day we explored San Francisco for 5 hours and the one time we took an entire day to explore Seattle. We camped overnight in the Redwood Forest which was both scary and fun! We arrived after dark, set up our tent and promptly went to sleep without the ability to see much. When we awoke and stepped out of our tent at 5 am, it was like we woke up in Jurassic Park. We took a short walk to the ocean from the campgrounds and when an early morning runner passed us on the trail from behind, I thought we were going to be eaten by a Velociraptor!

The drive had been rather boring until we got to Denver from Ohio, but it was so gorgeous after that, that we hardly noticed the long driving days. I should say I hardly noticed since I drove 90% of the trip! (91 hours to be exact) After visiting friends in Seattle and seeing the sights (most importantly, the first Starbucks) we spent three more 15-hour days driving to Anchorage.

I won’t go into it too much right now, but let’s just say it consisted of sleeping in sunlight after midnight, having our credit cards shut off, almost running out of gas, ignoring the billboard spray painted with “ladies, don’t hitchhike, there’s a killer on the loose,” dropping off our family sign in a rest area and enjoying some poutine and hot springs along our route. Alaska was quite gorgeous and unique as well. 

I don’t have time in this blog to get into our #25daysofloveandlattes for our 25th anniversary, but suffice it to say, we began our true love for nature, hiking, and the road. What started as a love for only Starbucks, blossomed into trying every local coffee shop we could find. (bonus points for uniqueness)

As with Spring Break and how the sun energized me, I can’t begin to express how these trips touch my deep emotions and set me up with renewed energy and excitement for the next school year. They have helped me to maintain our stable home in Ohio while allowing me some adventure and change from the ordinary.

How about you? How did you develop your love for travel? Have you been holding off? What holds you back from taking more trips? Where do you want to go?!

Read more about my life story in my memoir, NEVER SETTLED.

Available on Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble and just about any e-format you can find.

Published by Shawn D. Congleton

traveler, writer, lover of God, thinker, family dude, in no particular order

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