“What is your most memorable childhood travel memory?” That’s what I’ve asked over 50 travel bloggers and other travel addicts. These are their personal stories and photos.
Today, I interview Shara from SKJTravel.net!
What we'll cover in this article
- Hi Shara, do you remember the first time you went travelling?
- Did your parents travel much before you were born?
- What was your favourite holiday destination as a child, a teenager and an adult?
- Can you tell me what your memory is with this image?
- Can you remember a specific travel item/gadget you used to take on a trip as a child?
- Did the way you travelled as a child changed much when you grew up?
- Finally: What is your best tip for making a trip memorable?
Hi Shara, do you remember the first time you went travelling?
My earliest experiences of what I would consider travelling were backpacking with my family each summer. We got up in the dark before dawn and drove the family station wagon about 6 hours to my dad’s favourite wilderness area.
We started doing this when I was 5. At that age I had a little cloth backpack, which I can still envision clearly, and I carried the marshmallows and hot chocolate packets. I never liked starting out because it was usually cold and my boots always hurt my feet. But once we got underway, I always found things along the trail that peaked my curiosity and captivated me.
My first travel experience to another state that I remember was when I was in fourth grade and my parents took me to California to Disneyland. In those days flying was very different … people dressed up in nice clothes to fly, you got food and drinks and decks of playing cards, and kids got wing pins. When the airplane landed, everyone applauded for the pilot. This was all terribly exciting to me. And naturally, Disneyland rocked.
Did your parents travel much before you were born?
No. My parents were poor farm kids from Nebraska. My dad then did something extraordinary and quit farming, went to college (my grandpa had only a 3rd-grade education), got a PhD in chemical engineering, and became project manager at Rocketdyne, designing the rocket fuel that propelled the Saturn V rockets to the moon. After that, though, he took a different job and we moved to Colorado when I was 4.
He then began travelling overseas for work, and this thing above all others influenced my curiosity about the world as he came back with fantastic tales of far away lands I’d never even heard of, and his pockets full of trinkets for me. This was in the 1970s and ‘80s, while I was growing up.
Naturally, there were none of the technological gadgets we have now to help us plan and navigate our travels. He went to some Communist countries in which he was constantly monitored as a Westerner, and had some rather creepy tales of life in a time of intense suppression and propaganda.
What was your favourite holiday destination as a child, a teenager and an adult?
I really did love backpacking in the mountains as a kid, despite the perpetual drama of my feet being covered in blisters and the fact I hated all the food my parents packed to eat. I have lived in Colorado my entire life (for all intents and purposes). So even though the mountains were never novel, backpacking in deep and staying in a tent up there for several days in a row was still a total escape from my life at home down on the Front Range.
In my early teenage years, my unlikely favourite destination was my grandparents’ farm on the open plains of Nebraska. I was captivated by such a different lifestyle, though my friends at home would have considered it unbearably dull. My grandma was a great story-teller of their early lives farming during the Dust Bowl years and The War (i.e. WWII). I think I just gained a lot of perspective on life there.
When I was 16, I took my first trip overseas. I went with some other high school kids as part of a French language program to France and Switzerland. I lived with a host family for two weeks, and we travelled as a group sightseeing for another three weeks. Of all the pivotal points in my life, as time goes by and I focus my life more and more on international travel, I come back to this one event as perhaps the single most important of them all. After that, for the rest of my teenage years, I simply wanted to travel anywhere overseas.
I took some great trips with my family in the subsequent years. None of my extended family or friends had been to the places I went to as a teenager, and I relished telling tales about my exotic travels.
It’s the same as an adult. I don’t have a regular 9-5 job, so I don’t really have “holiday” in the traditional sense – I just travel whenever I want, which is essentially whenever I get enough money saved up to get on a plane again. And once I have visited a particular place, I seldom can talk myself into going back. There is too much more of the world to see to retrace my steps. So I guess I would say my favourite destination is somewhere I’ve never been.
Can you tell me what your memory is with this image?
“I loved sitting in meadows inspecting flowers and following my dad around the lakes as he fished, looking for pikas and marmots in the rocks. I think the deepest levels of my curiosity about the world and my long attention span were forged during these trips.”
Can you remember a specific travel item/gadget you used to take on a trip as a child?
I always took a small panda bear with me backpacking, only about 3 inches tall. It never left my pocket. But one fateful backpacking trip when I was about 10, my panda disappeared. I’ll never forget … Twin Lakes is where she went walkabout forever.
I remember being stymied trying to understand the topographical maps that my dad always used. I just couldn’t understand how all the squiggly lines told him where mountains and cliffs, valleys and meadows were. Nowadays, people navigate everything with electronic GPS units and Google maps and cell phone apps. I wonder if even adults these days can properly read a map. (I eventually cracked the topo code.) For the record, I have neither a GPS nor a cell phone. I think you could say I’m stubborn.
Did the way you travelled as a child changed much when you grew up?
All of my early trips abroad were for extended periods of time … between three and six weeks, which probably shaped my current preference for spending several weeks in one country.
My inherent curiosity about the world has never altered; I think what has changed is my mindset in terms of how I interact with that world. As a child, I was more of a detached observer. Now I want to know and engage with the world, its people and landscapes. That’s largely why I now focus on volunteering as the launch pad for a journey through any country.
My favourite way to travel is to kick off a vacation with a 2- to 4-week volunteering stint and then travel around independently afterward. (independent meaning not as part of a guided tour group, sometimes all by myself and sometimes with my husband, via car rental or public transport)
Finally: What is your best tip for making a trip memorable?
Do something(s) that nobody you know has done … visit a little-known sight, or do an adventure activity, or even something simple like try an unusual cuisine. You will always have something unique to relate to others. Particularly if you do something a little out of your comfort zone, you will always remember it.
If you want to read more of Shara’s stories, be sure to visit her website: SKJ Travel
This post is also available in: Dutch