The Journey

People always ask how I get to travel to so many places and have so many adventures. Truly I don’t travel that much….I am limited mostly by vacation time.  But I do my best to use what I have and I want to spend my precious days off well, and I do try to plan my life so that it is good. Yes, I just go for good. I don’t need spectacular, but when I look back on my days I like to smile. And often quiet and solitude and home and books make me smile. But so do travel and adventure.

I do like things a bit greater than ordinary. I am drawn to the things in life that bond us, but also to the things that make us different. I love doing things I have never done before, love going to new places and experiencing new cultures, and meeting unique people. That is the joy of travel to me.

When I moved back to Statesville as an adult, my goal was to be closer to my family. Not having children, my nieces and nephews (and godchildren and children of friends) fulfill that role in my life. I spent a lot of time with my three youngest nieces and it was during one of those times I made “the deal.” When they graduated from high school I would take them anywhere in the US they wanted to go (later amended to include Cartibbean cruises, since they are equivalent budget choices.)  When they graduated from a four-year college, I would take them anywhere in the world.
So yeah….maybe I didn’t think about the cost enough when I made that deal, but so far it has worked out. The boys have all chosen the cash payout instead…..which is nowhere near the cost of a trip, but has been fine with them. I took my niece Spenser to New York City, where I discovered she had inherited my love (and her mom and nana’s) for Broadway shows. We planned to see one….I think we saw three. Maggie and Taylor opted for cruises.

But now it is time for the first college trip. Maggie graduated from my alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, on Mother’s Day. We decided she was around 8th grade when we made the travel deal, and from that very first day she said she wanted to go to Japan. So we’re off to Japan!
Definitely an expensive trip, but I had been warned years in advance! I set a mental budget. Budget is key for me planning any trip. It’s why I can travel. I can do without in other areas of my life, but I value travel and life experiences and that is where I invest my money. I don’t resent living life on a budget…and when I say budget, I don’t have one that is written. I know what I make and make choices to live  so I can do the things I want to do. I hate debt and try to avoid it except for my car and my house. If I were to do it all over, I probably wouldn’t have assumed debt for either of those either.

Some of my most fun times in life have even when I have been the poorest. When I lived in Greensboro in my 20s, my group of single friends had a standing Friday night $3 “date” night. Not really dates since the whole crowd of us went out together and paid our own way (unless someone didn’t even gave the $3…it happened…in which case we would cover them. We were a generous group.) So $2 would be spent at Yum Yums….the local hot dog and ice cream shop. You could get 2 of 3 items (not sure who came up with that “rule”…..possibly our available funds) – a hot dog, an ice cream cone, or a Coke. Most of us chose the hot dog and the ice cream cone and drink water. Afterwards we would hit the $1 movie. During those years we had the choice of two theaters. Since we seldom saw full priced movies, they were all new to us.

So anyway, I share this because it’s important in understanding what I want my nieces and nephews to learn. I want them to be relaxed about travel. I admit I am probably too relaxed. I do dumb things all the time because I am not paying attention to the details. We haven’t even made out of Canada (we had a long layover in Canada) and I have already gotten off at the wrong stop on the subway and caused us to spend about 45 minutes somewhat lost in the rain. We finally found our way….and I noticed I had misread the stop where the directions told us to get off. We asked several people along the way and had finally gotten to the right place (some told us wrong. Luckily we asked someone else a block down.)  Finalky a guy checked on his phone and got us on course.

Then I had asked a guy at the bus stop what the bus fare was and collected the money we would need from some change we had gotten. When I got on the bus, I found out they did not take paper bills. The bus driver waved us in and said. “It’s raining, don’t worry about it!” 

We get to the hotel and found that I had made the reservations for the wrong night. Yeah, once again not thinking things through well and tine zones and flight times and such get confusing. (I need people to check my work!) The guy at the hotel was great, but since I booked with Expedia I had to get them to change the reservation. Two phone numbers later I get a real chatty agent (chatty not being desirable at the moment) who told me since it was last the cancellation time I would probably have to pay for another night. She called the hotel, and seemed shocked my buddy Ian (the hotel guy) told her he was willing to forego the penalty and just charge me the regular rate and cancel the other reservation. The rate ended up being almost $2 less….so I saved money with this debacle.  Though it was not worth having to o listen to Chatty Cathy. Though Ian and I bonded through eye rolls.

One more point about hotels….we don’t stay at the Hilton or anything American if we can help it. Part of life in other countries is seeing what their hotels are like. Last night in Vancouver we had no elevator, no air conditioning, and we shared a bathroom with others on our hall. But it was quiet, serviceable, and had a certain charm. And it was in budget…so we have more money to spend on more important travel things.

I’m the same way about restaurants. I typically want local restaurants, and try to avoid any chain I could eat in at home. Maggie is happiest eating at places she knows, and eating a limited variety of food. I used to be like that…..I hope she becomes a bit more adventurous as she has some great culinary experiences.

This morning I made Maggie walk 30 minutes, mostly uphill, to get to the train station. We did stop on the way for a delicious breakfast at a really nice local restaurant. I made sure she knew how to spot a subway station, how to purchase the tickets, and how to know what train to get on. She figured it all out.

So now we sit at the gate at the airport, Maggie eating a Subway sandwich because you never know what airplane food will be, and not being n adventurous eater Japan scares her. I, of course, look forward to it. We’ll get to Tokyo around 5 p.m, on Friday, their time. We will have to get all of our luggage by train to where we are staying for the first 3-night stint.,..someone’s apartment we rented on Airbnb. After we find the apartment, the instructions for getting the key seem to be not be level of geocaching (boxes and codes and safes and more codes.)  I’ll let you know how that goes!


  1. I'm so thankful my children have you for an aunt. They have been blessed on both sides by family members who genuinely care about them. This is a once in a life time adventure for Maggie and I'm so glad she gets to share it with you.Thank you for everything, Sherrill


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