Why I love to travel
There I was, a teen from a small town in New Jersey, reading Everest:The West Ridge by Thomas Hornbein and dreaming about standing on that summit in the Himalayas. At the time, the only brisk walking I was doing was carrying a fake rifle in my high school marching band.
Words are my travel inspiration
I came of age in the 1950s, and I was always a dreamer. My dreams were sparked by reading. Words were my travel inspiration……and still are. That inspiration eventually turned to action. All during my 20s and 30s I went on mostly solo trips to Europe, Asia, North and South America, North Africa, and the Middle East. When I returned, I found work that involved travel—first as a film programmer and producer at the Asia Society in New York City and then as a freelance filmmaker.
Now, at age 74, I look back and can understand some of what made me want to escape. Through the years I’ve met many women who, like me, yearned to take off and fly. Perhaps they, too, heard and read imaginative stories when they were young. Or they rebelled against expectations about how girls should be. Traveling the world—especially solo—was definitely considered to be out of bounds. And, like me, maybe they were also inspired to travel because of the pure beauty and emotion with which the best writers described their adventures.
Family tragedy also served my need to escape. Two of my brothers died of polio three years before I was born. I found out about their deaths years later, but the constant sadness in my home penetrated my soul. And, although I could not have put it into words then, I felt the urge to go.
Learning How to Look and Feel from Books by Women
“To the one who knows how to look and feel, every moment of this free wandering life is an enchantment.” Alexandra David-Neel (author of My Journey to Lhasa, 1927)
When I was younger, the travel books I read were mostly by or about women: Freya Stark, Martha Gellhorn, Rebecca West, Dervla Murphy, and always Jan Morris. I also read the classics—the Brontes, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and George Eliot. The heroines in many of these books were women under duress, challenged by lack of opportunity and society’s judgments. And not only did I admire the heroines, I also longed to visit where the novels took place. Later in my life I went to Haworth to wander the moors of the Brontes and to Hampshire in search of Jane Austen.
Inspiration by Men Who Wrote and Created Art
Of course, I loved the work of male poets and writers as well. I went to Ireland’s west coast to visit places in the poetry of William Butler Yeats, and I went to Corfu to visit where Lawrence Durrell once lived, among other pilgrimages. And I have long read books by Jan Morris, whose descriptions of the Himalayas and her journey with Sir Edmund Hillary to the top of the world thrilled me, as did her books about Venice, Trieste, and many other places in her long life of travel. Films also stirred my wandering—I went to Thailand to visit the Bridge over the River Kwai, I loved following the path of Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann in Roman Holiday, and I went to the island of Mull in Scotland to visit where Powell and Pressburger’s 1945 film I Know Where I’m Going took place, and more.
What it Takes to Become a Traveler
The late Irish writer Dervla Murphy, who decided she wanted to ride her bicycle to India when she was ten years old (and famously did in Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, 1965), once said of travelers,
“It doesn’t take courage. It takes curiosity.”
But I have come to disagree with her. I think that travel takes both curiosity and courage. Travelers have curiosity about the world and its places and people, but they also must be courageous to take that leap into the unknown. For me, that leap is always frightening and exhilarating. My own mother never approved of my travels, but perhaps she lived till 100 because she secretly wanted to know where I’d go next. And I ended up fulfilling her dreams when I finally married at 42 and had a child at 43. My daughter grew up to became both a traveler and the love of her grandmother’s life.
Your experiences—in diaries, journals, or stories—will let your grandchildren understand where life has taken you. I can’t think of a better way to show them the myriad possibilities in this challenging, diverse, and often beautiful world.
Looking Back in my Eighth Decade
I’ve been an armchair traveler for the past several years because of Covid and a bum knee which has just been repaired. But I’m ready to take that leap again, and have trips scheduled to Canada, India, and Greece. In my eighth decade I’m still fueled by dreams, but now I love to write about what I discover.
When I was younger, I traveled to take things in and to experience the wonders of the world. Now I try to give things out—my experiences, my inspirations, and my support. I believe that if you want to pass down a love of travel and hope in the world, it helps to read to your grandchildren. Your experiences—in diaries, journals, or stories—will let them understand where life has taken you. I can’t think of a better way to show them the myriad possibilities in this challenging, diverse, and often beautiful world.
About the author:
Barbara Winard earned a B.A.in English literature and an M.S. in Journalism, both from Boston University, and, later in life, an M.A. in Gerontology from the University of Southern California. All of these were useful in her 25-year career as Senior Editor for two online encyclopedias for Scholastic publishing, where she wrote and edited articles about fine and performing arts, literature, film, archeology, anthropology, and other subjects.
She began her solo travels in college, and during her 20s and 30s solo traveled to Europe, Asia, and North and South America. After returning from a 6-month trip to Asia, she wandered off the street and was hired by the Asia Society in New York City to produce films and print materials for adults and children about Asian culture. She also worked as a film programmer and traveled to film festivals around the world. Barbara got her start in film with New York City’s public television station, WNET/13 and was a freelance documentary writer and producer for ten years. A Jersey girl, Barbara and her husband moved from Jersey City to New Castle, Delaware, last year. She has been writing for Road Scholar, TravelAwaits.com and several other online magazines; her blog is thebabybloomer.blog.