It’s Time to Pack Your Suitcase!

#JenniferWalkerTravel

I don’t know about you, but it’s been absolute torture being stuck at home, not traveling!  I’m sick of canceling and postponing trips for clients (and for my family).  Enough is enough.  These last three months haven’t been fun and, at times, I’ve sunk into an emotional funk.  When it gets bad, I force myself to step away from my desk for a few hours—either to read a book, pull weeds in the flower beds, or clean out cabinets and closets. 

One of my recent projects was to organize my son’s old school papers—report cards, awards and art projects.  I have a cabinet in my kitchen where I kept everything neatly organized up until about 1st grade, when I joined the travel industry full-time.  From that point onward, the most I did was to toss new items on top of the stack.  Everything from Derek’s baby book, up through the completion of his Freshman year of high school this Spring was piled in the cabinet.  It was a disaster. 

As with most expecting parents, I had a baby book to record Derek’s birth statistics, our hopes and dreams for his life, and memorable “First-time” experiences, such as first haircut and first time to eat solid foods.  While organizing the cabinet, I enjoyed flipping through the pages of the baby book, reminiscing about Derek’s early years.  Something that stood out to me was how much travel was already embedded as a theme in his life—many years before the idea of being a travel consultant, and owning a travel agency, ever crossed my mind! 

                Our hopes...”be more aware of how big and exciting the world is

                Our dreams…vacation in exciting places

                Our plans for the future...”lots of travel as a family

Memorable firsts:  First time in a swimming pool.  When Derek was two months old, we took him on his first trip to the indoor waterpark of the Wilderness Resort in the Wisconsin Dells.  I have pictures of him as an infant, posing on one of the kiddie loungers.  For years afterward, every time we visited the Wilderness Resort, we’d take a picture of Derek on one of those loungers to show how he’d grown.  First time on an airplane/first time in the ocean–Derek was six months old, and his first trip was to the Beaches Turks & Caicos resort.  I had to hold him up to get his passport photo taken.  At the time, he was registered as having orange hair and blue eyes.  If you’ve seen Derek lately, he has dark brown hair, hazel eyes, a deep voice, and he stands about 5’8”.   He’s now on his third passport and is my all-time favorite traveling companion, and my favorite trips are our Mom/Son trips where he decides where we’re going, and it’s just the two of us. 

Another thing I liked to record in Derek’s baby book was funny, little things he’d say.  I have pages covered in sticky notes, filled with humorous one-liners and while I could completely embarrass my son by sharing some potty-training related quotes that would give you a chuckle, I’ll stick with a travel-themed quote I found: “Before I go to Heaven, I need to pack my Spiderman suitcase.”  He was a little squirt when he told me that, and his Spiderman suitcase hauled Monster Trucks, Matchbox cars, coloring and activity books, electronic gaming devices and airplane snacks for many years.  If any carry-on bag was pulled aside for further inspection by TSA, it was Derek’s Spidey suitcase.

Flash forward to 2019…I was wrapping up my ninth year in the travel industry and decided to build a new website for my agency.  On the Home Page, the first photo you’ll see is of me and Derek, on top of Machu Picchu in Peru, South America—that trip turned out to be the first of our Mom/Son adventures.  In the About Me section of my website, you’ll see what I’m passionate about–my agency “Belief Statement,” if you will.  This same text was on my original website, built in 2014, and my passion remains unchanged to this day.   

“I want you to expand your horizons beyond the place you already know—to get out of your usual comfort zone.  I believe travel is important to our well-being, and it enriches our lives in ways that cannot be measured.  When people travel, they become more aware of the world around them and are better able to enjoy, understand and improve the world for future generations.”

I’m a firm believer that travel opens minds and that the younger you can get kids exploring the world, the better people they’ll grow up to be.  It’s through travel that kids learn how other kids their age live—what type of clothes and shoes they wear, what their houses are like, what they eat, and what they enjoy doing.  Throw a bunch of kids in a Kids’ Club at a resort, and you’ll be amazed at how much fun they’ll have playing together—even though they might not speak the same language.  Kids of all different colors, religions, and cultures find a way to play well with each other, to respect one another.  They don’t fear the unknown—they’re wired to seek out the unknown and learn more about it.  And if there is something that they feel they can or should be doing to improve a situation, be it to help other people who aren’t as fortunate as they are, or to help clean up the environment, kids will find creative ways to serve others, and they’ll beg the adults around them to assist them in their endeavors. 

Recently, my consortium created the following infographic, which I shared on Facebook.  I think it does a very nice job, summarizing just a few of the lessons that children (and adults) learn when they travel, supporting my theory that experiences are more important than objects.

The inquiring minds, eagerness, innocence, and oftentimes fearlessness of children amazes me.  Unlike children, as adults we tend to be more fearful of the unknown, and can be intolerant of anyone or anything that isn’t like us, rather than accepting and possibly admiring our differences.  Exploring beyond our borders, or our usual comfort zone, can help us to appreciate the beauty and value of other people and places. 

Though the current travel restrictions set in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus have made international travel more difficult, it is still possible to travel responsibly and safely to many destinations.  Soon, the entire world will re-open for exploration.  Though it’s tempting to stay close to home, somewhere within driving distance, it’s a great time to take advantage of fewer travelers on planes and in resorts.  Thinking about the great outdoors and wish to visit a national park?  Alaska is open!  Go visit Glacier National Park and Denali National Park.  You’ll quickly learn why Alaska is referred to as the “Great Land.”  Wanting to cruise?  Small-ship cruising is still available.  Love escorted tours?  Try a small-group tour to an exotic locale.  Eager to experience Hawaii without the crowds?  It’s possible! 

There are plenty of opportunities to get out and explore the world.  The challenge is in deciding where to go, and that’s where I can help.  From determining where you’ll feel safe to travel, to answering questions about safety protocols and new procedures for airlines and resorts, I’ll provide you with the support you’ll need.  Just like children, we adults learn a lot of valuable lessons through travel, and about ourselves.  Let me know when you’re ready to get out there again, to explore the world with the eagerness, open-mindedness, and fearlessness of a child. 

Until next time…

Jennifer

P.S.  This year’s Mom/Son trip to Iceland with Derek had to be cancelled due to US citizens not being allowed to enter the European Union, but we’ve gone to Plan B—Jamaica, July 7th-12th.  Be sure to follow our tropical adventure on my Facebook Business page where I’ll be sharing information on what it’s like to travel to an all-inclusive resort under Covid-19 safety protocols.

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