Have They Discovered A Travel Gene Yet?

Africa Caribbean Cruising Travel

Yesterday Daniel talked about his experience with travel and now today it’s my turn.

I grew up differently from most kids. I was born in Portland, Oregon in 1970, an only child to two adventurous parents. My dad, a German native living in the US on a green card, had grand ideas for his family. I don’t think I was originally in his master plan, but fortunately, Mom had other ideas. My mom, the supportive, smart, and loving person that she is, helped to orchestrate all the amazing plans that my dad cooked up. They were quite a duo and well known in sailing circles in the Pacific Northwest where we lived.

Baby Tanya, ten years old, sailing in Resurrection Bay, Alaska

We lived in Portland for the first ten years of my life, commuting to Tacoma every weekend and holidays to go sailing. Our lives revolved around the sailing: racing, cruising, socializing with other sailors….we were always on the boat, and I really knew no other way of life. I had pint sized sailing gloves, my own kid-sized rain gear, and I was at home in my sleeping bag and down jacket. I had a bag of toys for the boat and my stuffed animals were my playmates. It was my childhood and I happily tagged along wherever my parents went. I couldn’t have a pet dog or cat like other kids because we traveled so frequently, so after much cajoling, my parents allowed me to get a pet rat – Happy was his name. He traveled with us to and fro in the car and on the boat. He went on all the races with us and was my four legged companion for a few years until he died, and Sunny, his predecessor joined us. It was not a usual childhood, but it was an interesting one and I loved it.

Dandy, Baltic 42

People often ask me…were you lonely as an only child? No, not really. I amused myself easily, played with the other ‘yachtie’ kids, and talked with my parent’s friends. As a child, I was always surrounded by adults, which I think has played a huge roll in how I am today. My tenth birthday – my ‘Decade Party’ – was all adults, but I didn’t think any different about it. While other kids were riding bikes and playing their new Atari, I was spending my weekends and summers sailing Puget Sound, Alaska, Hawaii, and beyond.

We owned many different sailboats while I was growing up, I think my mom counted 13 different ones, but Dandy was my favorite. She was a Baltic 42 and handled beautiful. We bonded over the Pacific Ocean on my first blue water trip and she will always hold a special place in my heart.

Me with my mom in Maui after a trans Pacific yacht race circa 1986

When I was ten, my parents had had enough of the commute and we moved from Portland to a suburb of Seattle called Federal Way, so we could be closer to the action. My parents opened a sail loft in Seattle, and now we were full timers: sailing for work and pleasure. My dad taught sailing school in Alaska in the summertime so I started spending alternate summers in Seward, Alaska. The other summers were spent in Hawaii enjoying some R&R after the Transpacific Races they would do.

Baby Adult Tanya, 20 years old, somewhere 500 miles southeast of Hawaii.

My dad’s dream was to take off and sail and one year they did just that. I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along on the first leg from Hawaii to Kiritimati, better known as Christmas Island, a small atoll at latitude 1 degree North. The trip was about a thousand miles and it was my first real offshore experience. My dad and I shared the night watch – always a nightshifter, I guess – and I have vivid memories of that time. The ocean was always moving, almost as though it was a living creature. The stars are so bright they are almost blinding and on calm nights they would reflect onto the ocean to make you feel as though you were piloting a ship in outer space. It was a scary, eye opening, and wondrous experience that to this day, shapes who I am.

Tabuaeran Island, latitude 3N

After college, I decided that maybe being a flight attendant would be a good idea. It seemed to fit my personality, and heck! Why not? I interviewed with Delta Airlines and six weeks later, I was in their flight attendant program in Atlanta. It was a grand adventure, sometimes good, sometimes bad, lots of times hilarious, and I was surrounded by good people, many of whom I am still friends with today.

My dear friend, Nancy, and I on the tarmac at Atlanta Hartsfield Int’l Airport

I flew for Delta for four years, married, and moved to the Sacramento area where commuting was too difficult so I started the next phase of my life: being mom to two kids.

Gotta love those old fashioned print photos! 1992, i’m top right

Fast forward a few years… my parents completed their Pacific journey, sold the boat, and my dad moved to Costa Rica to run a fishing lodge there. Though my children weren’t raised on a sailboat, they were raised traveling.

Zancudo, Costa Rica

We spent summers and holidays in Costa Rica and this was their playground. No TV, no internet – back then it was only dial up – and in Zancudo that was pretty much non-existent, anyway. We were happy when the power stayed on! When you ask my children, now adults, about their childhood, they will surely mention summers spent at Opa’s house in Costa Rica.

Christmas is lovely in Costa Rica!

We spent as much time as we could there. It was a basic and very simple lifestyle, free of many of the things that encumber us in this country. Needs there are simple: food, water, shelter, and a buck or two. My kids made friends down there that they visited every summer. They didn’t speak the same language, but somehow still managed to play and communicate and have fun in the process.

Decorating for Christmas!

Christmas in Zancudo is a low key event. You might see a few strings of lights on a house, maybe a plastic Christmas tree or two on a porch here and there. That’s about it. I wish it was more like that here. One year we brought a small tree we’d cut in Butte Meadows, wrapped tightly in newspaper, in hopes it’d make it through customs safely at the other end. We got lucky. It was the only pine tree on the beach that year, maybe ever.

Opa’s house in Zancudo

Things are different in Zancudo. The fruit seller comes once a week. If you want to buy fruit from him, you hang out the sign with his name on it and he will stop and show you his wares. If you forget to put your sign out that day, you might have to wait another week! One year the kids painted a new ‘Willy’ sign for Opa’s house.

Kids waiting for the fruit truck to come.

Opa’s house was the place where my children began to learn what would be important to them as adults: traveling for new experiences, enjoyment of the simple things, laughing together, the excitement of exploring, how little we really need, using their imaginations instead of always relying on technology, and believing that anything they could dream, they can do.

Time to go – wah.

We all loved being there and the time was never long enough. Leaving was always difficult and it seemed the time between visits too long. But the memories made and the time spent there are immeasurable.

Dad always had a sense of humor!

Not all good things last forever. My dad passed away in 2009 after a long fight with colon cancer. I love this photo of him – he remained full of life and spirit and humor to the end. I feel happy and grateful that he was able to impart his exquisite spirit with my children and give them memories and values that they will hold onto throughout their lives.

Though our time in Costa Rica has come to an end, we still have magical adventures with my mom! The four of us travel together at least once a year and it’s a famous time filled with fun and laughter.

Skogafoss, Iceland
Cape Town, South Africa
Caribbean cruise

So now my kids are 23 and 21. David is a professional welder and adulting away. Mary will graduate college in May and head for the Peace Corp for 27 months. Does travel shape who we are? Absolutely.

Did you grow up traveling? Did you raise your children as travelers? Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe to our blog! Thank you for reading!


I'm an only child who grew up on a sailboat, a lover of adventure, a mom, wife, an RN, and a friend of all dogs.


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