My earliest memories of travel come from sitting in my grandma’s living room as she regaled us with slides and stories from her latest adventure. It was here, as a child, that I was first exposed to the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, my first African Safari and so many more incredible places that until then, I never knew existed, but now couldn’t wait to see for myself.
As I got older and began to set off on my own adventures around the world our roles slowly switched. Now I was the one with thousands of photos from my latest adventure and it was grandma who sat and listened excitedly to all the stories that went along with them.
As we would sit and talk about our shared love of seeing the world, she would say, “Travel gets into your blood. The more you do it, the more you want to.”
Well, thanks to my incredible grandma, I was lucky enough to be born with travel in my blood.
Her showing me that travel is the greatest education you can give yourself led to a deep wanderlust of my own.
While she did some traveling with her family, the majority of it she did after her husband died when she was 68. Instead of staying home, grandma decided now was the time to see the world. She began going on multiple trips a year, often with her favourite tour company, Horizon Tours. We would get a call from her announcing where she was going next and who she had convinced to go with her. When no one was available, she would simply book a tour and set off alone, making friends along the way.
Grandma always had a journal with her and each day she would make notes about where they went, what they saw, how far they traveled and so on, so by the end of the trip she would have a detailed itinerary of what they had done. As a business teacher all her life, she had mastered the art of taking simple yet detailed notes – apparently not a skill she passed on to me as I come home from trips with a large journal or two completely filled!
Grandma always loved writing poetry and by the end of every trip, she would have created a poem, an “Ode” to wherever they were and whoever their tour guide happened to be. On the final night of the trip, she would recite it to the other travelers – Evelyn McNaughton was definitely not a shy one!
She was also not someone to miss out on something simply because of her age. When she was on a trip to Antarctica, everyone had to jump from dingy to dingy to get from the ship to the land to see the penguins. Being in her 80s and having a bad knee, she couldn’t jump and instead had to lie down and roll from across the dingys in the middle of the ocean. When we asked her what would have happened if they’d come apart and she’d fallen into the freezing water, she simply replied, “Well, I guess I would have been cold and wet wouldn’t I?”
Her house was filled with souvenirs she had picked up from around the world. She had a large collection of spoons and pins and once she became a grandma she started a collection for us, too – Dolls. Every place she went she would bring each of her granddaughters home a doll dressed in the country’s traditional attire.
For over 20 years, my doll collection continued to grow with every country Grandma checked off her list, and what an incredible collection it is!
When she broke her hip before turning 90 and could no longer travel, Grandma had made it to 123 countries. Not many people can say they’ve seen that much of the world, let alone traveling to most of the countries after age 65.
Her final trip was to Iceland at the age of 88, and she ended her years of travel with a bang. Here, she survived a hurricane crashing into her hotel, smashing out all the windows and leaving her with another fantastic story to tell!
Along with showing all her slides to us, Grandma would also visit the nursing home to share her experiences. Always a huge supporter of education, Grandma loved to share what she’d learned about other countries and cultures with those in her community.
She was an incredibly strong, independent woman, who inspired me to follow in her footsteps and see the world.
I lost one of my biggest heroes a month ago today, but I know that wherever the path may lead, Grandma will always be along for the adventure.