Inspiration for Travel
Noma Nazish writes in Forbes, “Five Reasons Why Travel Is Good for Your Mental Health”, reduce stress, reinvent yourself, happiness and satisfaction, mental resilience, and to enhance creativity. All true! I enjoy writing about people, events, food, activities, landscapes, ecology, and history of the places I visit. I strive to illuminate concerns and issues in a positive way. The subjects of my writing are as diverse as my travels. There is so much to write about, far away and right here at home in South Carolina.
I’ve learned not to try to force the topics; they have to come naturally. According to Karen Petit, gifted writer of children’ books, “it’s my muse, the person or force that is the source of my inspiration”. That’s where the topics originate. It seems that the more you write, the more your muse talks. So far, I’ve visited over 35 countries, 20 since I retired in 2015. There are many more places on my agenda and many more stories to come! There are difficulties in traveling, that’s true, the administrivia of getting there and unforeseen disruptions, but to me the difficulties are part of the journey, part of learning.
My love of travel started when I was a child. Every year, my hardworking parents took us to the beaches along the sunny shores of South Carolina and Florida and to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. After my first year of college, my parents sacrificed even more to send me to summer school in Europe. The trip was led by my history professor, Dr. Joel Cleland at Lander University. Dr. Cleland, accompanied by his wife Abbey, and two small children, took a small group of students from Lander on a summer school experience in Dijon, France. That’s what I loved about Lander, always eager to provide students’ first hand experiences and to make every student feel welcome. I could not have gotten a better education or experience. In this case, we headed to“The Centre International d’Etudes d’études Françaises (CIEF) at the University of Burgundy. This program allows “students at all proficiency levels to immerse themselves in French language classes” and invites students from all over the world! It’s an understatement to say how illuminating this experience was for an 18 year old girl from Ninety Six, S.C. There I was, sitting in a classroom with students from Iran, Morocco, and many other places, a smorgasbord of people from around the world! In addition to the French class taught by a professor at the University of Burgundy, Dr. Cleland taught a history class that required our impressions as we traveled, a great way to learn! While we were in Europe, we also traveled to England, Germany, and Switzerland. That’s probably why I always want to take the added excursions now. The whole experience was a life changing event. It introduced me to the world and I was hooked! I’m indebted to my parents Margaret and James Alexander and Dr. Joel Cleland for that extraordinary experience.
My Sister and Brother-in-Law, Elaine and Paul Gentry inspired me to travel, especially adventure travel. They allowed me to tag along on some action packed adventures hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and canoeing some of South Carolina’s beautiful rivers. Because of them, I got certified in scuba diving. My Brother-in Law writes in his journal, “Marie ‘had a fit’ when she found out we were taking scuba lessons and had to do it too!” I hope they forgive me for interrupting their lives at every turn! We went on amazing scuba trips to the Devil’s Eye Spring System, Jinnie Springs, and Blue Hole all part of the Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Florida. It was in these beautiful springs where I was certified for basic scuba under the National Association of Scuba Diving Schools (NASDS) now merged with Scuba Schools International. Later at Lake Jocassee in South Carolina, I did an open-water night dive for the advanced scuba diving certificate. Whew, doing the test in mountainous underwater terrain at night was pretty nerve racking! More trips included the Bahamas aboard a small liveaboard dive boat called the Impossible Dream. This was back in the 70’s when you seldom saw anyone but yourselves out there. I did a night dive there too and have a vivid memory of seeing moray eels that night after I got up enough nerve to let go of the dinghy and descend to the bottom. There are many stories to tell from that trip!
My Brother, Jimmy Alexander, loved adventure too. He taught me how to water ski and ride a motorcycle. He gave me interesting pets, a boa constrictor and a squirrel monkey named Sheila, who had a baby that we name Squeaky. There must have been a competition for the exotic between my Brother and Sister because she and Paul had reptiles and other creatures too, iguanas, snakes, monkeys, etc. School kids used to tour their yard. I’m so grateful to my somewhat quirky family for giving me so much. They gave me a sense of wonder, a desire for adventure, and a never satisfied thirst for learning.