By Annette Martel and Kelly Hagen
Growing up, I remember a cartoon hanging up in my grandparents’ farmhouse that said, “Travel really broadens one.” It had a picture of a couple of people sitting at a counter, eating. The punchline was that travel not only broadens the mind, but presumably the waistline, as well.
I hate to bicker with a cartoon from my youth, but in my personal experience, staying at home is what really broadens the waistline.
My grandparents lived the typical North Dakota farmer life, working endless hours, for a less than stellar financial reward. However, they somehow found the funds to do some traveling, even going abroad in their retirement. Although that cartoon made me worry a bit about the side effects, it also inspired in me a desire to explore the world outside of my own backyard.
My travels started immediately after I graduated from high school, with trips to Los Angeles and Denver. During college, I spend every spring break travelling to faraway lands to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. My mind was broadened, as I witnessed how different (and how similar) poverty looks in different part of the country. My waistline stayed about the same, as I tried interesting food like alligator meat and crawdads. (Yuck!)
After that, I made it my goal to get to every nook and cranny of the United States, and although I certainly haven’t been everywhere, man, I can sing the Johnny Cash song without leaving out too many lyrics. Living in many different parts of the country certainly made this easier to get to the proverbial “everywhere.” What did I learn from all of this travel? We are indeed a diverse nation. Did you know that there are parts of the country where every kind of pop is called “Coke?”
“What kind of Coke would you like to drink with that?” Do you know how mad you sound when you say this, Texas?
Grad school introduced me to travel abroad as I spent part of my time studying the higher education system in Australia. My fellow travelers and I were immediately struck by how small the portions were at restaurants; however, we also realized that when we had finished our meals, we did not feel hungry. The most moving part of that trip was participating in “Sorry Day” events, which remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the indigenous population in Australia, in the hopes that such atrocities never happen again. I fell in love with the country, the landscapes, and the didgeridoo, but I decided to return to the U.S., nonetheless.
A few years later, I decided I needed to get to Europe. I was in much the same situation as my grandparents. Funds were short, but I decided to make it a priority, as well as figure out how to do it as inexpensively as possible. This trip is really responsible for where I am today. You see I threw three coins into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy, and within less than a year, I met and began dating my eventual husband, so at least two of the coins worked. I hope the other one did, too, because that means someday I will make it back to Italy with Kelly.
It could certainly be a while, however, until we get to travel abroad, or even much at all. Young children tend to keep you close to home, which can be a good thing. It helps you to make the most of the place you are in and find and celebrate that which makes your home unique.
I have not traveled as much as our sweet Annette has. I’ve lived in four places, and three of them were in North Dakota. When my contemporaries were escaping North Dakota straight out of high school or college, I stayed here. Why? Because I really enjoy this box I’ve surrounded myself in. Also, I hate most forms of transportation.
Travel requires transportation, and vehicles do the transporting. Unless you’re walking, or crawling, or doing some sort of dance that requires extensive movement from side to side, like a line dance or something.
I’d much rather be line dancing than flying, which is how most people travel.
Flying happens in the air. Very far way up in the air. So incredibly high in the air. I know; I’ve looked out the window while we’re up there, and almost immediately started crying. Last week, I was at the playground with our daughter, Kindergartner Neversleepsin (not her real name), holding her up on the monkey bars when I happened to notice an airplane up in the sky, way up there, really high, and I almost passed out.
What are we doing up there? Seriously?
Evidently you can travel at faster speeds when you’re 38,000 feet up in the sky. Or else distances are shorter up there. Maybe there’s vortexes or portals up that high. I’m not really sure.
I know you can get on a plane in Minneapolis, and step off of it three or four hours later and be just about anywhere in the U.S., including Florida, but I don’t know why you’d want to be in a place like Florida. Still, though, that’s pretty impressive when you can be in Los Angeles or Seattle or wherever in the time it takes to watch a “Hobbit” movie.
If you try to get somewhere in a car or on a bus or train or anything involving wheels, it takes forever. Have you ever tried to drive across Montana? We did, on our honeymoon, and that was pretty much the extent of it. We kept driving, and it kept being Montana, and eventually we just gave up and went home.
But at least we’re not ridiculously high up in the air. Gravity sees you up there, and it gets incredibly angry because you’re essentially spitting in its eye. Sitting in a chair, watching “Paul Blart Mall Cop 2,” sipping a tiny soda like nothing about this is weird and unnatural. That’s what turbulence is: Gravity hating your guts. You’re not supposed to be up there.
Anyway, I don’t really travel because I respect gravity too much. I am the gravity that has kept Annette anchored directly to N.D. soil, so you’re welcome, state. She’s pretty amazing, and we don’t want her wandering off.
But a fountain coin is now mandating that we go to Italy, which will probably involve flying a long time, right? If you’ll excuse me, I have some hyperventilating to do.
Columnists Annette Martel and Kelly Hagen are a married couple, living in Bismarck with their two children, and have never traveled abroad together, so Annette has yet to see how awful Kelly is at eating spaghetti. He makes such a mess of himself. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.