Updated: Apr 4, 2022
(for Part 1, click here)
We did eventually take a different track for a few years, at least in financial matters. Andy was recruited to take over a prestigious woods manufacturing program at a high school in Oregon—a perfect combination, it seemed, of his woodworking skills and passion for working with teens.
Soon after landing in Oregon, with one of our kids still living at home with us, I also accepted a teaching job at the same high school. Teaching high school was how I had started my adult life and it was a welcome challenge to move back into that world. Even though teaching in the United States does not pay particularly well when compared with other professions that require ongoing advanced education, it pays quite well when there are two people doing it—particularly two people like us, who were accustomed to just barely scraping by.
For the first time in our lives, our bank accounts were doing fairly well, at least in comparison to how they had done for the two decades prior. We were not wealthy by American standards, but we weren’t struggling, either. After seven years of teaching, our finances were just north of stable. That was a nice change.
Monetary “success,” however, was never one of our goals. For us, it was merely a tool to advance us toward our true passion in life, something we had always dreamed of and sometimes even had the opportunity to do—though rarely ever on our own terms: travel.
Travel was always our thing. I was raised on it. I had extended family spread all over the United States and Canada, so the annual family vacation was always a long, classic road trip—a CB radio crackling in the front for the adults and endless miles of silent scenery for us kids in the back. License plate counting; games of I-spy, tic-tac-toe and dots; the continual quest for the perfect pillow position for napping; pumping our fists at 18-wheelers with air horns; staggering on stiff legs toward gas station restrooms—the road trips themselves were generally boring and rarely fun, but they were the price to pay for precious time with cousins and grandparents in faraway places. Funny how childhood tedium can turn into sincere love, if given enough years.
While road trips were primarily reserved for summer or sometimes Christmas break, my parents also added to my wanderlust with frequent winter evening excursions to the local university, where we would attend travelogue programs—travel films or slideshows created by individuals who would narrate the event in person and even entertain questions. The crowds were quiet and subdued and I don’t recall ever seeing many other children there, but to me, these travelogues were spectacular events. I would sit spellbound, feasting on the scenes and tales of travel in places I’d never been, both within the United States and abroad.
These big screen picture shows were the perfect complement to one of my other childhood loves—National Geographic magazines. For me, they were windows into the world beyond my simple childhood—unlimited, uncensored, and free. I was a reader early in life, so I devoured the articles as much as the photos. To this day, the mere feel of that square spine with the yellow border can tempt me to set aside the regularly scheduled programming of my life so I can disappear into new lands for a few hours.
(for Part 5, click here)