Giving the gift of travel — readers weigh in

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 62 of the February 2013 issue.

Once in a while, it’s appropriate for me to allow our readers to share their thoughts and experiences regarding topics I have explored in this column. Such is the case regarding the subject of my December 2012 column, “Giving the Gift of Travel.”

The responses of two readers seem particularly worthy of sharing. While these examples involve grandchildren, hopefully they will inspire others in giving the gift of travel both within and outside their own families.


Randy — Wow! I am with you. My husband and I have taken our 10 grandchildren, one at a time, to Europe when they each were about 17 or 18. We are not rich, but it was worth every sacrifice to see them experience a foreign culture for the first time. They came back more mature and just better off for it. The only drawback — they want to travel all over the world all the time.

My oldest granddaughter was a freshman at Stanford on a scholarship when she was invited, as a representative of today’s Stanford students, to accompany faculty and alumni on a trip to Israel. She made friends with everyone, helping all the alumni with bags and volunteering to get wheelchairs or assist in any way.

Well, they kept grabbing her to go on these (very expensive) trips, and she ended up going everywhere.

She also was given $3,000 by Stanford to use for anything — a hobby or travel or study — by a particular date. A month before the due date, she hurriedly signed up for a Chilean fjords kayaking trip. There, she met a Swiss teacher on sabbatical, and the next year they were married.

She has her master’s from the University of Basel and is getting her Ph.D at the University of British Columbia.

The grandchildren have now all been to so many countries!



Randy, thank you for the insightful column which you write every month in ITN. I wanted to respond to your article on “the gift of travel.” I have printed below the results of the gifts of travel that my husband of 46 years and I have given our grandchildren.

I had a love of travel even as a child. The adventure of discovering far-flung cultures has always intrigued me.

My husband and I met in Korea after we graduated from college. After we were married, we discovered that each of our grandmothers had taken us on a memorable trip at about age 12. My grandmother took me on a train from Ohio to visit Washington, DC. My husband’s grandmother took him from Virginia to New York City.

We could not afford the time or money to take our own children on very many trips, so we decided to take each of our grandchildren on a travel adventure when each reached age 12. We have taken five of these trips, completing the last in summer 2012 as our youngest grandchild reached 12.

Even though we began this tradition to enlighten them, we, ourselves, have benefited so much more. Seeing new lands and cultures through their eyes is exciting.

We found that 12 is an ideal age for children to travel at. They can manage their own luggage and revel in the independence of being their own person without parents or siblings. And they have not reached the age of teens, when traveling with grandparents is not “cool.”

We took our oldest grandson on a Star Clippers sailing ship in the Caribbean and had many adventures exploring each island. Grenada was his favorite, but a highlight was meeting and having “tea” every afternoon on board ship with a retired schoolteacher. Then we explored Cape Canaveral, learning USA space history.

Our next-oldest grandsons are twins. Although the temptation was to take them together, we opted to take each separately, which made for a very busy summer for us! One went on a windjammer sailing ship (Schooner Heritage) off the coast of Maine for a week, then took a week-long family photography workshop at Maine Media College. He has some fabulous photos of the trip!

The other twin flew with us to Stockholm, where we explored the city along with a Swedish foreign-exchange student who had lived in my home as a teen. Then we sailed with Princess Cruises to the Baltic. Our grandson enjoyed playing chess on board with a Bulgarian teen and experienced the ship with a Russian boy. He stood in front of Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg and just twirled around and around with the beauty of it all.

When it was the turn of our oldest granddaughter, she wanted to see Greece, so we decided to take a Mediterranean cruise with Holland America Line and also explore Rome. She loved the Greek island of Corfu and kept a wonderful journal of the trip.

Our youngest granddaughter opted for colder climes. We flew to London and spent a few days enjoying the city before the Olympics madness, then sailed with Celebrity Cruises to Iceland, the Faroe Islands and along the Norwegian coast. Her favorite purchase was a reindeer skin, which now covers her bed.

Each child is unique, so each travel adventure was unique and unforgettable.

Each grandchild helped to choose their own adventure. We suggested several places to visit and then let them explore, online, the possibilities. This gave each a sense of belonging to their individual trip.

Being on a cruise meant not hauling luggage around as much, and it allowed us to spend quality time with our grandchild. On board, we did not encourage them to participate in the children’s activities; rather, my husband and I planned our own private excursions at each port.

In each case, we paid for the whole trip and just asked each parent to give the child some spending money, which we changed into foreign currency for them. We also made sure to have signed and notarized consent forms from the parents for emergency and medical purposes.

Although each child met other children, just exploring each country and place with us was a joyous bonding experience — and opened their eyes to the world. They each loved anticipating “their” trip and voyage and could not wait to travel to the other places that their siblings and cousins had gone to. The trips have started the whole family looking at the world in a different way.

The trips have also opened up the eyes of friends of ours, as they, too, have taken their grandchildren on adventure trips. Traveling with grandchildren is exciting for everyone!

JUDI PURCELL, Pensacola Beach, FL

Keck's Beyond the Garden Wall

❝Provisioning the gift of foreign travel to the young
is an exercise in consciousness raising, 
rather a sensory-awareness supervitamin, 
and, for the chosen, shall alter the path of a life ❞
— Randy boxing his soap