Our first stop is California – to see family before we head out on the open road. We stopped in to see my Grandmother Evie in the Oakland Hills yesterday. There were lots of other relatives there to send us off – cousin Rachel and her wife Jenny, their son Oren, cousin Alexis, cousin Jacob and his fiancée Lea. Every one of them are seasoned travelers – they grew up in a family (my Uncle David and Aunt Patty) that spent an ex-pat year in Sri Lanka and another in Calcutta. Each has traveled extensively since (including several stints writing for “Let’s Go” travel guides).
We got lots of tips on places to go and I expect that we will meet up with Rachel, Jenny and Oren in Europe (they are going to be on the Croatian coast). The fact that everyone there had been bitten so hard by the travelers bug was no coincidence. Grandma Evie started the tradition many years before – she is the best traveled person I have ever met. Evie went to Russia when it was Communist and traveled overland by car (when that was near impossible) with my grandfather, Buck. They toured Red China, India, Europe (including the Communist Eastern Bloc). Even once Buck died Evie continued to travel –sometimes with her brother Ishi and sometimes on her own. She even went to China in her late 80’s. Some of my earliest memories are Buck and Evie telling stories of their travels and looking through the stamps in their many passports (they had to get special add-on pages in many of them to accommodate all the stamps).
I remember Evie telling me a story of her having a hard time at the German border crossing in the 70’s and she ended up saluting the border guard and saying “Heil Hiltler!”. He responded by saluting and saying “Heil, Vietnam!”. She certainly had Chutzpah!
Sitting amongst all those well traveled people I realize that Evie was really the reason why we all did it – that is the legacy she has given us. My family spent an ex-pat year in Scotland when I was 6 years old – and I know that Evie’s example was one of the big reasons why we did it (and she came and visited while we were there). Evie and Buck did not have a ton of money, but they saved for their travels and were not afraid to leave their jobs to see the world. I told Grandma that she really did start it all and she looked pleased.
The next few days will be seeing more family here in the Bay before we head to Hawaii. We will be staying on O’ahu (on the west shore for most of the time) for three weeks and then headed to Sydney. We already have places to stay lined up in Australia, including with an old work friend who has a couple extra rooms and on some farms a few hours north of Sydney. More about all of that in another post.