Our names are John and Bev Martin. We sold our home in Florida to travel the world. We have five grown children and five grandchildren, with two on the way. Being able to retire early has been our dream.
We hail from two of the most beautiful states in our country, Arkansas and West Virginia. Every child should be as lucky as us to have been raised in small towns. We were fortunate to be in communities of people who were supportive of the youth in our areas. There were many opportunities to excel and succeed in our endeavors. And, we attribute many of our life choices to our positive experiences of growing up in this environment.
For me, I was raised in a small town in Arkansas in a very rural area. We lived on what we called a farm. My parents didn’t farm the land other than keeping some donkeys, clearing fence lines, maintaining clean orchards, and cutting wood. I had three siblings, and we were very close. Our parents didn’t allow us a television when we were young. They felt we would miss out on the fun and imagination we could have by being outdoors. They were so right! We played and had many expeditions on our 100 acres of land. There were creeks and brooks, wooded land with ancient cypress, hickory, and tall oaks. We played in an old barn with a hay loft, several orchards. Our friends were neighboring children we loved to play with. We took advantage of everything the farm had to offer.
The most important impact of this TV arrangement was that we were very well read. We read everything we could get our hands on. Our parents provided us books by letting us be members of book clubs where we received books in the mail, letting us buy books at school through the Scholastic programs, taking us to a library about 20 miles from our home, and buying books at yard sales.
Thanks to them, we had a home full of books to read. They also bought us encyclopedias and sets of books that included travel and culture. We spent hours reading them and looking at the beautiful pictures they contained. They let us subscribe to magazines that ranged from the children’s magazines, Highlights and Ranger Rick, to current event magazines like Newsweek and US News and World Report. They always had a subscription to National Geographic, the Arkansas Democrat/Gazette and the local paper, The Cabot Star Herald. We read it all, including every word on every cereal box on the breakfast table.
My favorite childhood memory is sitting around the wood burning stove listening to our parents read to us at night. They read us the best books, many of them classics that every child should read. My imagination lived vicariously through characters whose life’s were very different than mine. It was a fabulous experience and one I attribute to my desire to see the world. My parents raised me with the knowledge that I could be anything I wanted to be and do anything I set my mind to. They instilled in us a spirit of adventure, and we had a wonderful childhood.
Our family sport was golf, and I was given my first golf club at age five. My dad cut down a seven iron, probably a man’s club. I have swung a club ever since. My dad built a practice range at the farm. He had a set of 12 foot wide, gang mowers. We pulled them behind an old Willys Jeep or our International Harvester Scout. All of my siblings learned to drive by mowing. This enabled us the opportunity to practice and get better at our skills. My dad taught us to swing like Sam Snead, with a full, long swing. I’m eternally grateful for this opportunity to develop my game. I played golf in junior events and in high school.
In all of this fun, I never had the opportunity to travel outside of Arkansas (except a trip to Six Flags over Texas with a cousin) until I was in high school. I went on a trip with six other students and a teacher to Washington, D.C., on a program called Closeup.
The program was great and it fostered a love of politics. But, the biggest impact it had on me was that my high school government teacher took the seven of us down to the subway and taught us how to buy a subway ticket. He showed us the machine and taught us how to use the map on the wall. After a quick ride, he taught us how to change trains and what to do if we missed our stop, just get off at the next stop and backtrack. “My only rule is that wherever you go, you must be with someone,” he said. Then, he basically turned us loose and sent us out to discover the city. Between meetings with the program, we set off to discover museums and sites.
It was an incredible experience for a teenager from a small town in Arkansas. I learned a lot that week. It gave me the confidence that I would be able to achieve my dream of seeing the world and navigating big cities on my own. I think of Mr. Kennemer often when I am in a subway in a far away land. I think he would be proud to know that he changed my life that day. After that trip, there was little doubt that I would be okay going far from home for college.
It was in college that I learned about students who backpacked in Europe. One of my friends had returned from a summer abroad. He shared his pictures one night and told of the many places he visited, sleeping in hostels and the occasional park. I wanted so badly to do it too, but it wasn’t possible. There were other priorities, and I knew I needed to finish school and work. I vowed I would make sure my kids had that opportunity to travel, and I would make sure I did it as well one day.
For John, he also grew up in a small town that afforded him many opportunities for success. He was a good athlete and a great student. His parents were involved in his life. He had many friends in the neighborhood who played endless games until it was too dark to see outside. He has two siblings that were seven and eight years older than him. Watching their lives made a positive impact on his life.
Early on, his family hosted several foreign exchange students from Mexico and Brazil. These students were a welcome addition to his family, and they have stayed close family friends since that time. John knew they were special people, and they always treated him with kindness. He grew up learning that not everyone was just like him, and he learned to appreciate people’s differences.
While in high school, his sister went to Colombia as a foreign exchange student. During her stay in Medellin, John’s mother took him out of 5th grade for a month, and they visited her. He flew in an airplane for the first time. They stayed at the home of the host family and had an incredible experience.
While he didn’t speak Spanish, he still went to school with the local children. He remembers exploring the city, even though Medellin was considered a dangerous place at that time. A visit to the Coltejer, one of the tallest buildings in South America, was a highlight. He believes he learned more in one month of travel than he learned in the whole year of school in America. Being able to see the place his sister was living was very important. It put her letters she mailed home into perspective. He attributes this experience as his beginnings of his love of geography. His siblings both studied abroad in Spain while in college. They both traveled extensively, telling their tales to a young, impressionable John.
His brother became his Spanish teacher in high school. John was able to travel with him and other students to Spain, Portugal, and Mexico. Being able to visit the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, the aqueduct and castle in Segovia, Spain, and the Teotihuacán pyramids near Mexico City was fascinating for the aspiring engineer he was to become. It gave him a desire to see the world and learn more about it.
John began running in his early teens. His high school football coach told him he would never be a good runner because of his size. He quit the football team, anyway, and began a lifelong love of running. I suppose his football coach saw potential in his football abilities, as he had a successful run in the Punt, Pass, and Kick football program as a young boy. Throughout high school he continued to play basketball, but added cross country and track to his schedule. His team set a school record for the two mile relay that held for 25+ years.
He went on to run for West Virginia University on the cross country team and track team. He says his biggest success in the program was SURVIVAL! After college, he continued to run road races, competing in 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons, and marathons. His favorite event these days is 5K’s. Being an engineer, he has continued to log his miles and estimates that he has run over 60,000 miles in his lifetime. That’s 2.3 times around the world! He hopes to compete as we travel and meet fellow runners as he goes.
Before retirement, John began his career working for Alcoa as an engineer. Later, he became a leader in operations. This required him to travel to Europe, Canada, South America, the Middle East, and Australia. When he traveled, he always sought to experience each place with wonder. Learning about the history and culture of a location intrigued him.
While we have traveled to forty-nine countries over the years, our plan during retirement is to travel full time. We don’t just want to make quick trips, but ones that feel like an adventure. Our goal for the next ten years is to travel everywhere, while keeping our safety in the forefront.
Because of the Coronavirus in 2020, we cancelled our plans to visit Europe in the summer of 2020. Instead, we decided to stay close to home. We bought an Airstream camper and began an adventure to see all the National Parks in the lower forty-eight states. We, also, had a few more states to visit in order to finish seeing all fifty.
In the fall of 2021, we plan to began to travel abroad, starting in Central America. We have plans to visit Panama City, Panama, where we will attend language school for a month. Then, through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and then finally a month in Colombia. We will then return to see those grand-babies and take off for another trip to Greece, Italy, the Balkan States, and some Eastern European countries.
Our plan is to stay mostly in Airbnb’s, while we have Annie, our dog, with us. When we can, we will travel by train, and we will probably rent a car from time to time. In cities, we are looking forward to being on foot, navigating public transportation as much as possible.
At this point in our lives, we want to travel the road, rails, seas, and air. We want to be on the move. One day, maybe, we will go back to our favorite places and chill out. At this time, there is so much to see.
Our desire is to travel very light, only taking the minimum of what we will need. While we are interested in group travel, we like traveling alone, planning out our own adventures. We love learning history, though, so we might jump into a tour from time to time to delve into the knowledge a guide has to offer, especially if doing so with friends.
We hope you enjoy our YouTube adventures. We love getting messages on our channel, through Instagram, or here. Knowing that there are people who draw inspiration from us and where we go, inspire us too. We hope you will continue asking yourself, “Are you living your best life?”
John & Bev