I dream of traveling around the world someday. Traveling may seem like an unattainable dream at the moment, but that will change. Traveling is easier than it seems as told in these stories which have stuck with me.
Cherie Henningsen, for example, teaches psychology and sociology. Throughout her adult life, she’s flown to several different places for work and leisure. In class, she incorporates her experiences from traveling into her lectures, adding depth to them.
"Growing up in poverty, I wasn't able to explore what was outside the state I was born and raised in—Illinois" -- Cherie Henningsen.
Joining the military, at age 20, was the first stepping stone to a lifetime of extraordinary experiences that await her. “I have been to GTMO Bay, Cuba which were the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen,” Henningsen shared. Henningsen found time to adventure throughout the US Naval base territory and the nearby south seas in between her military work. “For the first time in my whole life, I experienced something so much more than I even knew existed,” Henningsen explained. Except, she could not immerse herself in the island’s culture since she was there on a private mission deployment with the US government. “My goal is to return, as a civilian, someday,” Henningsen reminisces.
Henningsen traveled to countless places for numerous reasons from work to serving communities. During Henningsen’s time as a soldier, she went to Kuwait, Qatar, and Iraq. There, Henningsen took on the mission of learning the culture of the locals. “I was learning about culture to understand the why. The why for certain ceremonial celebrations, the why for social gatherings or discriminatory actions, the why for etiquette and ritual, etc.,” Henningsen explains.
From bike riding in Amsterdam to partaking in familial dinner in Honduras, Henningsen has been to many parts of the world—seeing the good and the bad that lurks everywhere. Henningsen explained that the ability to learn about, explore, and experience culture, "whether for personal travel, service, or military missions, will continue to be some of the best things I have ever done."
Everyone starts their journey differently. Some people find work as they travel, and some travel and find work while exploring their destinations. Kent Greenwood, a professor of world history, western civilization, modern Asian history, psychology, and sociology was the latter. Greenwood started his journey after college, and by that time, most of his classmates had studied abroad and boasted many stories.
Greenwood spent ten years outside the US. “I saw a surfboard and an apartment in Taiwan, and… that’s that,” Greenwood explained. While outside of the US, Greenwood spent the majority of his time in Taiwan. Between teaching English to people of all ages, he would visit other locations like Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, and Cambodia.
Greenwood explains that one of the coolest things he did was stay at Angkor Wat with some monks for a few days. Greenwood even built homes to combat homelessness in Cambodia. Greenwood brought smiles with the foreign candies he gave to the kids in the communities while “I watched their faces light up as the glow-in-the-dark frisbee flew.”
Eventually, Greenwood returned home—married. Since then, he has taken his sons back and forth to visit his wife in Taiwan who is currently finishing her degree. “So I’ve never had
culture shock,” he says, “but I’ve had reverse culture shock.”
Greenwood rarely missed American aspects of life while exploring Asia; however, he found himself missing Asian aspects back in America. As of now, Greenwood and his wife plan on settling down around here when she finishes school and can begin teaching Mandarin at North Scott.
Traveling may seem impossible to achieve. Greenwood’s advice? “Just go.”
Similarly, Sean Chapman, an English professor at North Scott, started his travels later in his life. Together with his wife, Kirsten, they lived in the Greek city of Athens for a year. There, Chapman honed his writing skills working as an editor—later becoming a writer himself. Kirsten, on the other hand, attended school on a scholarship. The two were able to live, work, and enjoy their time in Athens.
The Chapman/Day couple made the most of their time and continued to embark on several trips afterward. In addition to the Athens trip, the ChapDays have been to Istanbul, Italy, Denmark, France, Jamaica, England, and Scotland. They leave for Greece and a teaching trip with Augustana students on Saturday, June 4th.
“Don't let language be a barrier, and don't let money be a barrier” -- Sean Chapman.
He advises to “travel light, don’t carry much money, and be open to random adventures.”
Steffan Nass, a man of many careers, primarily traveled for work. He’s been an FBI agent, a pastor, a math teacher, and is currently the world religions teacher at North Scott. Working in antiterrorism, he has spent time working in the Middle East; however, his most memorable trip was his first trip overseas to Montenegro.
Two things he remembers vividly are the reality of damage caused by war and the quality of the Montenegrin facilities. The area Nass visited was still ravaged by war—fifteen years after the conflict ended. “Large craters and damaged buildings were ever-present.”
Meanwhile, the inside of the “facilities were lacking—North Scott’s chemistry lab was larger and better equipped than their national police lab” -- Steffan Nass.
Living in the US, it becomes easy to take for granted the blessings of the abundant resources we share here. It’s only when you see the world with your own eyes that this reality is realized. And that is an important aspect of traveling—seeing the reality that others live in.
Now, this was a long read, but the importance of traveling is something that shouldn’t be simplified too much. Traveling is truly life-changing, and the stories of these few give just a hint of how much there is to see. Whether for work, relaxation, or spontaneous fun, traveling adds to your life and makes for great stories to tell. I encourage you to go out and ask someone about their travels.