The Traveling Itch

I’ve been away from home for a few weeks, traveling first to Europe and then, more recently, to Michigan. The blog was one of the things that fell by the wayside during that time.

But now I’m back, and it occured to me that this would be an appropriate place to comment on Elly Peterson’s love of travel.

One day in the 1950s, Peterson was reading the paper and said to her husband, Pete, “I can’t understand a word of this. How can you possibly understand Thailand and Hong Kong and Egypt when they are just faraway names on a map. A person ought to go there and see them.”

“Let’s go,” Pete replied.

“Let’s go?” she screamed. “How can you take a trip like that with a job and a house and a truckload of animals and. . . .”

“You’re always talking about going, let’s go,” Pete responded. The rest will take care of itself.”

And so it did. The Petersons set off on a trip that took them 40,000 miles, to 20 countries by air, boat, traing, automobile, rickshaw and pedicab. They chronicled the trip in a little booklet they sent to their friends that Christmas. It concluded: “We took this trip because we wanted to know better the peoples of the world–and we came home, with a bundle of wonderful memories and the firm belief that People Really ARE Nicer Than Anybody Else!”

Elly Peterson regularly traveled overseas after that, often with her older sister, and often in November, right after the end of an election cycle when she undoubtedly was in need of a vacation. In the late 1960s and mid-1970s, she was part of delegations of women who traveled to the Mideast, the Soviet Union and China. These trips helped her forge relationships with prominent women in foreign countries, and closer friendships with the women with whom she traveled.

Late in life, she recalled that she had always dreamed of owning a home in England or France, places where she had served in the American Red Cross during World War II. But when retirement time came, she discovered that her husband didn’t want any part of it. Now he wanted her to make some concessions to the lifestyle he wanted to live, and so they divided their time between homes in Hawaii and Charlotte, Michigan, where he could continue to enjoy games of golf and hunting trips.

When she could no longer travel herself, Peterson remained an armchair traveler, and loved to hear the details of trips that her younger friends and relatives had made. She retained that zest for adventure, and curiosity about the rest of the world for all of her life.

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