By Daniel Connell
Well, maybe I should say ‘newer traveler’ instead of ‘non-traveler.’
Growing up, my idea of traveling was going on a road trip somewhere in the state. I always had this desire to explore foreign countries but I grew older and three kids later, the likelihood of this happening just seemed far from the reality I was living. The few travels I was able to take in my life were things like cross country road trips from Oklahoma to California or driving to visit friends in Washington State, so I got used to moving from place to place this way. Driving is enjoyable to me. The idea of taking a trip away from the states seemed like a far away notion in more ways than one.
I always have dreamed of traveling, though. Rock climbing was a passion for me. When I was younger, I collected climbing magazines and made binders with lists of places in the United States where I wanted to travel and climb. I always had these ideas that I would drive all over the country and do all this rock climbing, but I never did it. My interest in competitive mountain bike racing took me to a few places while I was in the military, but again, it was limited. I could never truly grasp the idea of making room in my crazy, obligated life to to go abroad. Volunteering for deployment was fruitless! I spent six years of active duty in the military and never left the State of Oklahoma. It was a long six years!
And then I met my beautiful wife, Tanya. She intrigued me! She had done crazy stuff! She sailed all over the Pacific Ocean with her parents when she was a child and young adult, who does that? She hiked the John Muir Trail with her 16 year old daughter; she had worked as a flight attendant. She was doing the things I had only fleeting thoughts about. Tanya has always encouraged me to think bigger and reach for the things I’ve always dreamed of doing; she has made me believe that I’m worth it and that I can do whatever I want. The world is big and the possibilities are endless! I need only believe that I can make them real.
One day she asked me….’If you could go anywhere in the world, what country would you go to?’ I’d wanted to visit Germany since I was a young boy so of course, I answered, ‘Germany.’ Eight months later, we were sitting together in a gluwein stand in the middle of the Munich Christmas Market with snow falling softly around us, twinkle lights everywhere, and festive music playing – it was like a fairy tale. With Tanya, the possibilities are endless. Which is scary.
Ten years ago sitting around the break room at work, I would hear people talking about going to Hawaii or Mexico or anywhere, really, and it seemed so unreachable for me. I thought to myself, I’ll never get to go to those places! All I have is work and so many responsibilities. Yet, here we are…getting ready to go on our second Caribbean cruise to see new islands and use the scuba certification I got on my first cruise! Yes I did it! Tanya’s encouragement to spread my wings makes me nervous because I always think in terms of what I want versus what I’m used to having; what I can do versus what I can’t do. I’m learning that preconceived notions sometimes need a little remodeling.
Yosemite. I lived in California for half my life and always, always, always wanted to go to Yosemite – I never went. I graduated high school, got married, left the state, and joined the military. But even 16 years later after my military time was over and I had started my second career as a registered nurse, my family life had changed and I was moving back to California, I didn’t stop to see the Valley on my drive through. Yosemite has always been number one on my list of things I wanted to see, but I just never did it. Why? Just stuck in old patterns, I guess. And then finally, I went to Yosemite with Tanya. We’ve been many times, actually, fall, winter, spring, and summer. And the most beautiful thing? Three years after we met, we were married in Yosemite Valley in the shadow of Half Dome at dawn. Ahhhh. How’s that for a dream come true?
So… I find the real challenge of being married to someone who enjoys travel so much, is that traveling has never been something I prioritized. I’m not used to that. I always think of my ‘have tos’ more than my ‘want tos.’ Tanya will say to me, ‘Oh no! We only have one big trip on the calendar this year and that makes me nervous!’ My thinking is quite the opposite. My whole adult life, I’ve been conditioned to work so when I have time off, I think, ‘Oh man, I better get to work!’ This thought process is slowly shifting, thank goodness.
I have to change; I am changing. I have to keep my mind open to Tanya’s suggestions while moderating her sometimes exuberant ideas and throwing in some thoughts and ideas of my own. I need to stop thinking, ‘How much is this going to cost?’ and start thinking….’Wow. That will be amazing What if we think about doing this, too?’ Tanya has traveled globally and the bulk of my travel has been relatively locally, so we are a nice blend of experiences. She tends to plan big, while I like to throw in little side trips and ideas along the way meanwhile keeping things realistic and do-able. It’s a good mix! Wife says….you can’t keep it realistic all the time or you’ll never grow out of your comfort zone! I know, reality and fun are not necessarily always team mates.
#Vanlife…that’s next on our list. This is one that I’ve spearheaded, and I’ve really enjoyed doing all the research. She loves the idea of being able to bring our dogs with us more often! Together, we’ve made it a goal to hit all the National Parks. She finally talked me into buying the national park passport after our tenth visit to some random park. You know what? I think we can do it together. I know we can.
“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”J.R.R Tolkien
One of my favorite quotes is this one by Tolkien. When I got my first passport a few years ago, I made a leather cover with this quote stamped on the outside. I am enjoying this new way of thinking. I feel fulfilled and happy. I am ready for more. Are you?