I was born with wanderlust. My parents were public educators, and every summer we would pack up the station wagon and head somewhere…usually out west to camp in the national parks. We also would spend a week or two at a music workshop at a university so that my dad, who was a choral director, could accompany his students who were attending. As such, I spent summers visiting Penn State, Ohio State, Bowling Green University, and Texas Women’s University. I think that as much as it was inevitable that I would become a teacher given that both of my parents were, I think spending those formative years at universities predestined me to teach at the college level. Fortunately, teaching at the college level in 2013 comes with some wonderful benefits, including the ability to teach virtually while seeing the world.
Growing up we could never afford to go to Europe, but we did visit most of the “lower 48” and I learned much about the culture of our nation. Once I determined I had a keen interest in politics, I began an interest in all things international. My graduate school experience involved many trips to Central and South America, less as a tourist and more as an observer of the religious, cultural, and political experiences these places provided. I was especially enchanted with Nicaragua. However, it was getting held up at gunpoint by over-zealous security guards in the Lima, Peru airport in 1996 that I began to consider the wisdom of adventure travel with a young family at home.
In 1999, my university began using an early version of eCollege to teach some of its General Education courses. I jumped at the opportunity to begin teaching online. By 2000, I was teaching American Government every term online. By 2002, I was becoming adept at teaching while cruising, while camping, and even while visiting the US Virgin Islands. Owning a laptop, finding free wifi abundantly, or having an air card were just not widely possible. I was creative. At the Maho Bay Camps on St. John’s, USVI, I used their “computer lab” that guests could use. This was really a large closet where they crammed 4 or 5 computers. When camping in Florida, I would leave during the hottest part of the day to find public libraries. While on a cruise, I would use the newly created business centers. (Can you believe that the Disney Cruise Line used to have an “unlimited wifi” option? Yeah, that didn’t last long!) My favorite experience was camping at Ft. Wilderness in Disney World and taking the boats that carried guests from the campground to the other resorts or to the Magic Kingdom. I would go to the Contemporary Hotel and pay to use their business center, and loved the ride over and back as part of my “work day”.
Eventually I was busy enough online that I bought a laptop, bought the aircard, and enjoyed greater access to free wifi. By 2010, my husband and I were planning our first trip to Europe. After saving for a long time, we decided the summer of 2010 was the time. The boys were going to be at summer camp, we were going to be adventuring around Scotland, England, and Western Europe. LOTS of planning went into that trip. Not only were we on a budget, not only did we want to set out on our own away from the typical tourist attractions (well, many of them, anyway), but I had to be able to get online — every day and sometimes multiple times per day. TripAdvisor and Rick Steves’ website became my best friends for designing our tip that would enable us to reach our travel goals, our budget goals, and for me to maintain my rigorous attention to detail in my online classes (hint: it involves dongles!). Yes, it can be done! Yes, it is hard work! Yes, it also wonderful. I will share my experiences with you in coming posts.