By Bob Hoelscher
Published May 01, 2017
People I encounter seem to be intrigued that I get to travel for a living and see the world, then frequently comment on what a great life that must be. I always tell them that it’s like any other job — it has both good days and bad, many of the latter involving airport and flying hassles, and that even enduring the occasional lousy cruise can try one’s patience.
Nevertheless, after spending much of the last 47 years on the road, I’ve managed to visit about 110 countries and territories on all seven continents, made 44 trips to Europe, explored all 417 units administered by our National Park Service, taken 105 cruises and stayed in a multitude of hotels and motels, over 100 in each of several particularly busy years alone. However, many fond memories have led me back time and again to places and experiences that have emerged as personal favorites.
Here are a few of my favorite things that I’m pleased to share with our readers:
Alaska Tidal Glaciers: As many of these massive rivers of ice that I’ve seen over the years, I’m still fascinated by them. It’s hard to imagine that it’s taken the chunks calving from the face of the largest glaciers about a million years to reach the water.
Baseball: This wonderful 19th-century game is notable for not being fast and furious, allowing excitement to build gradually and the fan to take a break from the hustle and bustle of 21st-century life. There’s no clock to beat, so “it’s not over ’til it’s over,” as noted by Yogi Berra. It’s also no wonder that I live by the ballpark on Homerun Road.
Classical Music: Most folks who aren’t into the classics have no idea how much repertoire is out there — thousands and thousands of great works. My travels have allowed me to indulge my musical passion by attending over 2,100 symphony concerts by some 250 different orchestras across North America and Europe.
Critters: Since I’m away too much to have a pet at home, I make do handsomely by viewing and photographing Mother Nature’s incredible creatures, both large and small.
Fall Foliage: As a color photographer, I find that nothing enhances already scenic vistas more than the addition of brilliant autumn hues.
Flowers: Speaking of photography and colors, the immense variety of floral subjects worldwide is astounding, as proven by the thousands of shots I’ve taken.
Friends: How could any of us cope with life’s challenges without the help of good friends? I’m not listing mine for fear of omitting someone, but I will mention my best friend of about 43 years, fellow journalist “Gig” Gwin, who has been to every country in the world. We frequently travel together, and we’re now working on getting a radio show.
Giant Forests: I’m a sucker for hikes amidst groves of big trees. Although we have many fine examples in the Pacific Northwest, the forests of coastal redwoods and giant sequoias of California are unsurpassed.
Mount Rainier: This magnificent, 14,410-foot dormant volcano is not only my favorite mountain but the centerpiece of a truly inspiring national park that also features splendid glaciers, forests, waterfalls, wildflowers, lakes and even a rain forest.
The Night Sky: Head outdoors and find a very dark place with no ambient lighting, and you, too, will be awestruck by the incredible splendor of the universe.
Southwest and Alaska Airlines: I much prefer the customer service of these two carriers that treat passengers as human beings rather than self-loading freight, which is all too common on many other airlines.
Trans-Oceanic Cruises: I particularly appreciate the numerous “at sea” days available while crossing the Atlantic or Pacific; they allow plenty of time to relax, read and get work done and to enjoy the shipboard facilities and (usually) good food.
Waterfalls: I’ve seen hundreds, but each one is different, beautiful and photogenic.