Confessions of a (non)seasoned traveler

My husband had traveled a bit before I met him. Not much, mind you, but he’d visited Colorado, and a couple other states. Me? I was 18, and fresh out of high-school the summer we met. The farthest my parents had taken us was to visit my grandparents in Stacyville, IA.  There was no such thing as a family vacation; no trips, no camping, no movies, not even eating out.

On our first date, David mentioned his dream of going to Alaska someday, and he often talked about traveling “when the kids were older.”  Like my parents before me, we didn’t have the money, time, or energy for family vacations or trips. I couldn’t imagine traveling, even if we had. Our last three children were terrors in the car, screaming and arching their backs in the car seats all the way to Dubuque, less than one hour away. The few day-trips we took, to a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, inevitably involved a strategic coupon shopping trip or a visit to a thrift store on the same day. I just didn’t see the point of going out of town without hunting down good deals that might make us some money on eBay or in the huge garage sales I’d hold twice a year.

Why do you always have to be doing something? Why can’t you just relax?”

That was a frequent lament from the husband who made it clear he’d prefer his wife would sit and watch television with him, or cuddle next to him in bed on lazy Saturday afternoons instead of heading to her desk to crank out another essay.

Of all my regrets, and there are many, two of the biggest are that we never got the chance to travel together and I never learned how to just live in the moment. I should have watched television and taken naps with him. Should have made a trip, or two, happen. When our youngest turned eight and David hit that five-year cancer survivor mark, I asked what he wanted to do to celebrate. We drove to Boone, IA and rode the train, before visiting his family in Perry.

david and mary

We stayed at the Hotel Pattee, where David went bowling in the basement with his children. That trip made us look forward to doing more things that other people take for granted; traveling, going to a concert, riding on an airplane.

In a cruel twist of fate, it wasn’t until my husband died that I have been able to experience any of those things.  But until now, all the traveling has been related to public speaking and my work as a writer. In the first two years after his death, I attended two out of state writing conferences, and drove all over Iowa to conduct couponing and writing workshops. I got on my first airplane. Then I got on another one for a trip to Dallas to speak at a Compassionate Friends conference. The last plane trip was shared by my youngest daughter, when a documentary film producer flew us to CT. Traveling for work made sense, and I could foresee doing more of it.

And while many of my siblings have traveled and shared their photos on Facebook, it was the photo that my daughter Emily took in September 2014 that started making me look at traveling in a different way.


I see Jesus in this picture. God’s creation.

I’ve never seen a mountain, the ocean, or a Redwood tree, never touched the sand of a beach, or picked up a seashell.

“In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95:4-5

For nearly three years I’ve talked about two things; getting certified as a grief counselor, and visiting my sister Joan and her husband Dave in Florida. What was I waiting for? The sun, stars, and moon to align?  Winning the lottery? Perfect timing?


That time is now. Instead of dreaming about becoming certified or traveling, it’s time to do- to explore the world, in all its glory.

Two weeks ago, I signed up for my first course towards certification, a class I started today when the textbook arrived.  Yesterday, I bought round trip tickets for three to Florida from Allegiant airlines.

Now, comes the confession, and one I am not proud of. Within minutes of obtaining the tickets, I was online, searching for writer’s groups or book clubs in the Sebring, FL area who would welcome an author/speaker visiting from Iowa. Within minutes. I could fit in a workshop while I was there, I reasoned.

Until I heard his voice.

“Why do you always have to be doing something? Why can’t you just relax?”

I shut off the computer, and began planning just what I would do.

Fly in an airplane with my two daughters. See the ocean. Pick up a seashell. Drink gallons of coffee with Joan and Dave. Walk the beach with my daughters. Have a picnic. Or two. In Florida. Visit local sites. Go to a Florida bookstore and thrift shop and maybe pick up a few things to mail to my house. Not things to sell, but to enjoy. Stay up late and talk to my sister, maybe drink a glass of wine. Write a letter on the beach. Maybe pick an orange off a tree. Relax.

For the first time in my life, at age 57, I will travel purely for the enjoyment of traveling. I will just “be,” and enjoy God’s creation in everything I see and touch.

If you ask my three-year-old granddaughter Amy where her brother Jacob (who died when she was four months old) is, she says “Playing on the beach with Jesus.”

Maybe, I’ll see Jesus.


4 thoughts on “Confessions of a (non)seasoned traveler

  1. Cathy Corkery says:

    Oh Mary. I’m crying. That was just wonderful. And I’m so pleased for you to be traveling to FL! Yeah! Look at you go!

    Love you girlfriend!

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Kathleen S says:

    Your story sounds similar to mine. My husband Dave grew up on a farm & his family never traveled. My dad believed travel was educational and most of his family was in Oregon so we traveled there and other places. But in the early years of our marriage we were too poor to travel and Dave didn’t have any interest in it. Late in our marriage and Dave’s life we started to travel & he found he liked it. So we were planning to do lots more traveling, especially after retirement. However, Dave didn’t make it to retirement. He died at 56 – ten years ago January 10th. There were lots of other things we were going to do “someday”. I was going to quilt. His death taught me not to put things off because someday might not come. I started quilting and I’ve started traveling. I didn’t want to travel alone & wondered where I would find someone to travel with. God has been good to provide me with some travel buddies (although I could use more if you’re interested). This summer my daughter and I will go on a tour of Austria, Switzerland & Germany – a dream for both of us. I’m also planning to hike the Grand Canyon with a group of women from my church. Probably the biggest reason I love travel is because I connect with God in his glorious creation and when I experience other cultures. So you go girl! Travel as much as possible even if it’s just here in the Midwest. There are lots of amazing places within a day’s drive of Eastern Iowa.

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