The summer after I was graduated from the University of Notre Dame, feeling rather brave I suppose, I moved temporarily (for 25 years) to the great state of Texas to do a year of volunteer work in Robstown. It was during that year that my boss, Fr. Marcos, and my coworker, Ann Marie, introduced me to the exquisite, captivating culture and country of Mexico. We took mostly border trips, going as far south as Saltillo, but I knew I wanted to see more.
In 1985, I went to Europe for the first time with my brother, Phil, for a two-week, 21-city (or so it felt) tour. After the tour, sibling relationship intact, Phil returned to the States, and I remained in Europe for an additional month, with a Youth Hostel card, an InterRail Pass, a few names and addresses, and a sense of adventure. While on my own, I spent several days with a gracious, lovely family in Andernach, Germany, and ventured through then Yugoslavia to search for my Croatian and Slovenian roots. While in Croatia, I found the town where my father’s father was born.
Several years later, graduate school behind me but no gainful employment on the horizon, I left for language school in Antigua, Guatemala. Ann Marie had told me that Guatemala was a very colorful country, and I decided I needed to see it. I was enchanted. My sojourn lasted for five glorious weeks. Although I’m hardly proficient in Spanish, I formed several priceless friendships. Ultimately, I left part of my heart in Guatemala; but I came back with part of my Latin American soul.
Back in Houston, I met a friend who would become my traveling companion for over seven years. With his keen photographer’s perspective, he introduced me to the richness of the interior of his native Mexico. Together we discovered the treasures of the United States: usually at the crack of dawn “because the light was best,” we explored many of the state parks in Texas and the national parks in the Northeast, West and Pacific Northwest. Our trips took us beyond the border, as far north as the majestic and awesome Canadian Rockies. We always went to the “end of the trail.”
During the last twelve years, I won a Club Med Vacation (for one) to Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico; relaxed on the beaches of Jamaica with a girlfriend; and went on a family cruise to the Bahamas. And perhaps most importantly, I have been the grateful recipient of your benefactor’s generosity during two of her summer trips to France. It’s just too bad that the grantee won’t get to take Peggy along on the journey. Not only is she a fascinating person, she’s also a terrific traveling companion. You already know that she has a great sense of adventure. She’ll do just about anything and talk to just about anyone. That’s probably why she has friends all over the world. In fact, on your next trip, if you run into someone really interesting, you might want to ask that person if s/he’s ever met her. Chances are, Peggy has had her/him over for dinner!