The average human being never leaves the continent they were born on. In fact, most never travel beyond their own country. My aunt has been to eight countries on four continents. She's crossed above the English Channel and below the Berlin Wall, tasted a glacier in Antarctica and toasted Bastille Day in Paris. And yet, she doesn't consider herself an adventurous person, asserting that she dislikes the “process of traveling”. Adventurous or not, Bethany has already experienced more of the world than many ever will.
She began her journeys in the summer of 1988, taking a trip to Europe with several other students after her high school graduation. At the time, Bethany had never traveled outside of the country, nor had she ever flown without an older relative present. She recalls the experience as “quite daunting” at the time. Aside from issues of safety and security, Bethany has often struggled with motion sickness, which has been a consistent obstacle to her travels. Luckily, she was able to make the excursion despite these issues. She first traveled to East Germany, living with a German family there for several days after passing through the infamous Checkpoint Charlie.
Despite being thousands of miles from home, Bethany was surprised at how familiar her surroundings felt. American cultural landmarks such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola were abundant everywhere she went in Europe, and it wasn't unusual to hear American music playing in shops and pubs. She was also fascinated by how easily she was able to make herself understood despite not sharing a language with many of the people she met. In fact, she believes that the language barrier enhanced her European experience. “It's amazing what you notice in your surroundings when you can't completely understand the language,” Bethany writes, “colors, smells, sounds. The voices begin to sound like melodic background music with strange rhythms. The words on signs are just shapes and letters.”
As the summer progressed, she visited several other European countries, living with various families along the way. Bethany explored castles in Cologne and Edinburgh, watched master craftsman create the Delft pottery of Holland, and prayed in the cathedral of Notre Dame. She was also able to view priceless masterpieces in London's Tate Gallery, Paris' Louvre Museum, and the historic Palace of Versailles. Having grown up in a relatively small town in suburban Virginia, Bethany cites this experience as crucial in broadening her cultural horizons and preparing her for the experience of living in diverse metropolitan cities.
After returning to the US, Bethany attended college near Washington, D.C., where she studied foreign languages and American social history between visits to the Smithsonian museums and the Library of Congress. Bethany then moved across the country to Seattle, where she has lived for the last 15 years. She has continued to travel extensively in that time, touring the the west coast from...