Every family has its stories. Ours all seem to center around travel. My grandparents courted while hiking in the High Sierra. My Great Grandfather got his pilots license in the 1950s and my teenage father soon followed suit. My Great Grandfather also decided the family should travel beyond California and after he paid for a family trip to Europe, my grandparents were hooked. From family camping trip through Europe to an early retirement that lead to a second career as photographers for missionaries around the world, my grandparents blazed a trail the rest of us have followed.
It is my Grandmother (now 103) to whom I owe the debt of teaching me to plan my travels, carefully balancing the pieces that are pre-arranged with the days that aren't so there is some adventure. A map and a plan but not a rigorous timetable. Early on she would send off letters to the hotels in places she knew she needed to book but others there would be a destination in mind and we would find B&Bs when travelling in Europe. Her round the world trips and her trips photographing for missions were different of course. More complex but looking at the pictures and hearing her stories there was always that sense that while the wider trip was structured, the details of the day and what might happen were often left to chance. How else would she have ended up on the back of a motorbike or taking off in a helicopter with bullets flying.
My grandparents took early retirement and turned their photographic hobby into a second career, taking pictures of mission projects and seeing the world. At last count, my grandmother had travelled to 104 countries. Slowly some of the 10,000 medium format black and white negatives in the basement will join this site along with the stories my grandparents wrote for us about their travels. Each negative I scan brings back memories of their house where images were displayed on a rotating basis on the walls. Memories of my grandmother standing behind me with her arms around me holding the camera so I could look down into the viewfinder of her Rolleiflex, with its upside down view of the world. My grandfather copying his slides in the California sun. My grandparents disappearing into the dark room for hours while we were visiting. Once we were old enough to be allowed in the dark room to help, my grandfather teaching me to dodge and burn the images he was developing, then moving the print from tray to tray of developing fluid and watching the magic image appear.
I don't know that my husband realized he was signing on for a life of being dragged from Alaska to Nepal, Wyoming to Uzbekistan, Paris to Tokyo, but he has been good humored about it and the boys have become engaged global citizens planning their own trips as teens. Whether any of us will ever match the record of 104 countries remains to be seen.
I'm glad I don't have to take hundreds of rolls of film with me when I travel but also be nostalgic for those days in the dark and watching magic happen.