Traveling around the world has been an exhilarating experience for Edgar and Rena Davis. Visiting six continents and more than 30 countries taught the Michigan couple a lot about people, world history and culture.
The Davises, who has been retired for 16 years, have a nontraditional approach to retirement. While some grandparents spend their time babysitting and gardening, the Davises spend much of their time jet-setting to foreign countries, far away from their Grand Rapids home. Their travels have taken them to Israel, South Africa, China, Russia, Chile, Egypt, Germany, Turkey, Argentina and most of the Caribbean Islands, to name a few. They typically take at least three major trips every year, the longest of which was a 35-day cruise.
“Traveling like this is not anything we planned to do. I never fathomed going overseas,” said Rena, who says she is far from the adventurer type. “We started with domestic trips to New York and Vegas. Then we ended up going farther and taking trips that averaged two or three weeks at a time.”
Rena, a retired elementary teacher and reading consultant, said they grew tired of visiting the Caribbean and wanted to see new countries.
“We had already been to the Bahamas, St. Croix and Aruba. And I had always wanted to travel on the Queen Mary,” said Edgar about the historic ocean liner built in the 1930s. “So we cruised from New York to London on our first European trip.”
Ironically, the couple was set to leave for their first major trip right after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
“We left just three days after 9/11 and amazingly we weren’t afraid to travel,” said Rena, recalling various ways that the New York attacks delayed their traveling plans. “We took a Holland America cruise to the Mediterranean and thank God everything worked out with no incidents.”
Needless to say, years of circling the globe has turned the charming couple into travel professionals. On average, they hit three to five countries on each of their guided tours. The Davises recalled many valuable lessons they have learned along the way. But here are five insightful lessons that may help on your next voyage.
Tip #1: Guided Tours are a Treasure
The Davises suggest opting for guided tours whenever possible. They find that seasoned and trained guides have been critical elements to their many smooth and safe international trips.
“I prefer using a tour agency and guide because they already know the highlights worth seeing in each city,” Rena said with confidence. “We found that when we talk to couples traveling independently, they have fewer privileges and end up with less awareness about the area.”
“I can’t tell how reassuring it has been with tour guides making our travel schedules; all we do is wake up and review our posted schedule.
“When you’re in a new country and can’t speak the language, it’s really valuable to have someone answer our questions and help us get around,” Rena said. “They’ve treated us so well. They make sure we have everything we need.”
Tip #2: Get Your Chores Done Before You Go
On average, the Davises go for two weeks at a time and sometimes travel stretches to three weeks. With that much time away, they try to work ahead to get everything done around the house.
“We stop our mail usually by going to the post office to submit a temporary hold,” said Rena, who tries to split the list of tasks with her husband. “We always come back to a large mass of mail. But we feel good about knowing our mail is secure.”
The Davises always ask their neighbors or kids to keep an eye on their house as an extra security measure. Always designate a point of contact for your house before leaving for an extended period of time, Rena advises.
“We try to make a list of everything we have, including taking care of bills in advance and arranging snowplowing services when the weather is bad,” she said.
Tip #3: Remember to Pack Light
Don’t bring too much on your trip, the Davises advised, since lengthy trips often require you to move from hotel to hotel as well as on and off of cruise ships while traveling. Less luggage has helped them maneuver with ease.
“I think a lot of people make the mistake of overpacking. Having a lot to wear isn’t really that important,” said Rena. “All you need is a basic wardrobe and a good coat. You’ll typically have access to a washer and dryer and that has been very helpful for me.”
Rena Recommends researching the climate and current weather of your prospective destination so you can be prepared without overdoing it.
Tip #4: Be Open-Minded to Learning
Edgar recommends that you have a willingness and open mind to learn when you travel. The couple view their rich and plentiful international experiences like education.
“We learned so much when we visited the prison cell that President Mandela stayed in and visited his former home,” he said recalling one of his favorite trips to South Africa. “We soaked up every fact and tour.”
To that point, the Davises take every opportunity to get immersed in everyday life to see how locals live.
“In China, we actually visited a family and ate with them at their modest farmhouse. Spending time with the people really helped us get more out of our visit,” he said. “All of the things I read about these places has been much more amazing than I had imagined.”
Tip #5: Don’t Let Hang-Ups Hold You Back
Rena urges travelers to not let the fear of unfamiliar destinations keep you from traveling the world.
“Sometimes I think people worry about the costs associated with traveling. But in reality, people spend the same amount of money on other things like boats and bigger houses,” she said. “I really think that people who never go anywhere really miss out on gaining wonderful experiences.”
She said that a big takeaway from their travels has been that people everywhere have many commonalities despite their different cultural or racial origins.
“Meeting wonderful people has been one of the most enjoyable things about traveling,” Edgar said. “Sharing experiences with people has helped us learn more about our host countries.”
The Davises say that the expenses of their their globe-trotting adventures has been money well spent.
“We don’t regret all of the time and money we’ve invested in traveling over the years,” he said. “We couldn’t have learned as much as we have without taking a leap of faith.”
If you’d like to share some tips you’ve gained while traveling internationally, please leave your comments below.
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