by Rebecca Bricker on August 2, 2014

There comes a point in your life when you sense that time is marching on. When I turned 50, I started asking myself, If not now, when?

I set off for Provence that summer in search of a lavender field that I had seen in a calendar. The caption had identified the area where the photo had been taken. I bought a good road map and, even without GPS, I found the exact spot, high on a plateau of France’s Luberon region. The scene in real life was even more beautiful than the photo.

When my son graduated from high school four years later, I sold our home of 22 years and headed to Italy. I was exhausted from the stress of the house sale and purging and packing up the stuff-of-life I had accumulated. But I felt exhilarated by my weightlessness and a sense of adventure.

On that trip to Italy in 2008, I re-traced steps I had taken there as a 20-year-old student on spring break in the mid-1970s. I had been on a year-abroad program at the University of Edinburgh and had saved up for a month-long tour of Europe. Seeing Europe on $10-a-day (that Frommer’s book was a student’s travel bible back then) was a life-changing experience. And it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I knew I probably would never again sleep on a chaise on the rooftop of a youth hostel in Athens. But I’ll never forget the experience of waking up to see the Acropolis in the pink light of dawn.

During my visit to Florence in 2008, I searched for places I had visited as a student and found the market where I had purchased a leather handbag – which I still have all these years later. I also found Vivoli, the gelato shop where we treated ourselves on our $10-a-day budget. (Their gelato was cheaper then. A super-size cup now costs €10 – $13.50!!)








I’ve had a serious case of wanderlust ever since I was a teenager. When I was 16, I waited tables at a steakhouse in Naperville, Illinois, to save up for a ski trip to the French Alps. Never mind that I didn’t know how to ski. I just wanted to go to France. My waitress tips took me to London the next year on a theater tour sponsored by my high school. I think the whole package was about $400. I served a lot of steak dinners to pay for that, but I’ll never forget seeing Westminster Abbey for the first time or celebrating New Year’s Eve in Trafalgar Square. I was 17 years old, with my whole life ahead of me and so many places I wanted to see.

My yearning to see the world came from growing up in small towns. I appreciate now the childhood I had, but then I was like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. I wanted to plaster stickers of Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Majal on a suitcase battered from my travels. I was 10 years old before I had ever seen a photo in a book of a place I had been to. It was a photo of the clock on the Marshall Field building, on State Street in Chicago. I’ve seen that, I thought, looking at my geography book in fifth grade. I still get that thrill when I see pictures of places I’ve visited and know exactly where the photo was taken.

When my father passed away a few months ago, I went to Naperville for his memorial service. In his apartment, there was a painting above the sofa that I knew I couldn’t part with. It’s titled Dawn Departure by Charles Vickery. A white-haired man in nautical attire and a little girl look out at a ship at sea.

“Go off and see the world,” my dad would often say to me.

The Taj Mahal is still on my list.



Karen Mills August 3, 2014 at 1:37 am

Great article Rebecca! It’s true, as one of my favorite songs says “The more I travel, the more I want to see!” Once that bug bites you, it’s a lifetime disease of wanderlust! But in a very good way!

Rebecca Bricker August 3, 2014 at 2:07 am

So true, Karen. I’m inspired by women I know who are in their 70s, even 80s, who continue to travel. They may change their way of traveling by taking group tours or cruises. But their yearning hasn’t died. I think you and I will be like that! :)

Thom August 3, 2014 at 4:34 am

That trip to London was my first trip overseas, out of the country really (if you don’t count a quick trip over the border into Mexico for my father could buy cheap booze). I was so excited to stand in Trafalgar, with you, and noticing that we were surrounded by the world. A Dutch couple on one side, and an assorted personal U.N. all around. It awakened a desire in me to experience the new and the unknown.
It has been a joy to travel and see things beyond the pages; and Joan and I are in deep planning for our next bucket list destination, Istanbul. Thanks for being at the beginning, and for continuing to fan the embers of adventure with your example and stories.

Rebecca Bricker August 3, 2014 at 4:41 am

You bring tears to my eyes, remembering that New Year’s Eve as we watched Big Ben ring in 1972! So happy to share our travel stories at this stage of life. I’ve not yet been to Instanbul. I want a full report. I know you’ll post wonderful photos that will transport me. xo :)

carol August 3, 2014 at 10:22 am

Recalling my father’s own dream to bring his family back to New Zealand where he was stationed in the war… I recall being a 12 year old, flying on a plane for almost a day… and travelling around that beautiful island… realizing there was a huge world out there, beyond our poverty… now in my 60’s I am reorienting once again, after my first “exploration” in Mexico, buying a small house in a foreign land – I now know deep in my heart that many things ARE possible if the Soul is willing. Italy has been calling me all my life. I hope to embrace her very soon. Thank you for sharing your dream with us!

Rebecca Bricker August 3, 2014 at 11:24 am

Signora Italia is waiting for you! I’m looking forward to sharing our dream, in person!

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