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Going “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

How much traveling have you done? The love of travel was instilled in me at an early age.  Coming from a big family, and being the daughter of a minister, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we didn’t fly together as a family, or even stay in hotels.  Most summers, Daddy hooked up the station wagon to the pop up camper, which was later replaced by a travel trailer (fully equipped with air conditioning, a kitchen, and a bathroom), and we would generally head south to visit the Penry side of the family in Alabama.  Yet, each time, we always tried to take time to explore other places along the way.

Now, seven people in a station wagon (and sometimes our Boston Terrier, Pepper), pulling a trailer for days on end made for some interesting conversations and memories.  “How many more miles?” was a question asked probably dozens of times each trip.  Those memories are some of the happiest times of my life, but the places we visited, and people we met are just as important in forming who I have become as an adult.

The places we were able to visit were museums, Civil War battlefields, and places of historic interest.  Daddy tried to take different routes on our way to and from Alabama, so we were able to see a variety of things, and visit different states.  Even if we were just going on a weekend trip, they always tried to make sure we could learn something interesting about our country.  Some of the trips included Columbus Belmont State Park in Kentucky (this trip was a frequent get away when we lived in southeast Missouri, and always included driving our car/camper onto a fairy to cross the Mississippi River), most of the southern states, the Lincoln museum in Springfield, Illinois (on our way to Washington D.C.), New Orleans, the Saint Louis Arch, Disney World, Gettysburg, Williamsburg, etc.

Even if we weren’t pulling the trailer, and after my sisters left home, there were still excursions.  Once we drove to California and back, driving down the coast through Big Sur from San Francisco to LA.  Sometimes we would just take a quick day trip to learn about our local surroundings.  Each place not only taught us about the area, but also the people and their customs, beliefs, values…….

Because of all of this, I have a love of exploration and travel.  This morning, I read an article in the NY Times about expanding your world.  Some of the people I grew up with in my small hometown in Kansas talk about being afraid to go to Kansas City.  Why?  Because it’s busy?  Because of traffic? Sure, there is more crime, but when you think about the meth taking over small town America, you don’t really have an argument.  Why is it scary?  Go find out what makes KC so fascinating (besides the Royals and the Chiefs).  Find out the history of Union Station, the WWI Museum, Harry S Truman’s residence, etc.  It’s in your own backyard!

Throughout my life, I’ve been to about 40 states, Canada, and Mexico.  I’ve been on a Caribbean cruise.  I love to fly.  I’ve lived in 7 states.  I’ve even been to Graceland (twice….what says more about American pop culture than Elvis’ home)!  I married a man from New York City.  I love visiting there, and seeing the rich culture and diversity.

Exploring and learning about our country and the people who live here is not only a way to educate ourselves, but it’s also a way of understanding each other, and opening dialogue.  Today more than ever, it’s important to talk, listen, and learn from each other. Let’s stop being afraid to explore, and being afraid of what is out there.  Stop being afraid of and judging each other.  Learn to appreciate what our country was founded on……diversity and culture.  Learn to appreciate the forests, mountains, deserts, swamps, beaches, and prairies.  Learn to appreciate the history, and those who blazed the trails for the rest of us.  Learn to appreciate the advances in transportation and technology that make travel possible.  As upset as a lot of people are over the political climate and hate in the world, maybe if we get out there and try to understand each other better, we can bridge some of the gaps.

Being a Kansas girl, I will keep wandering and exploring “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  So if you’re reading this, why not get in your car and start exploring?  You never know.  You just might learn something!

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