Travelers travel for a number of different reasons. It might be for work purposes, vacation, visiting extended family or just fulfilling a need that can’t be explained. Going beyond our comfort zone is a pretty amazing and exciting experience and the thrill of exploring a new destination is different each time. We searched Gainesville for people who feel the need to hop on a plane and see the world; here are their stories!

LAUREN AND MIKE MASEM

Lauren and Mike Masem first got the travel bug after they went on a Mediterranean cruise. Since then, according to Lauren, they have visited all seven continents and have accomplished this before their mid-thirties.

Lauren shared that her favorite thing about travel is exploring new places and being immersed in new culture. She said traveling is about “trying new foods, visiting historical sites along with breathtaking scenery and making a new adventure in each destination.”

Although they love to travel new places, Lauren and Mike have returned to a few places more than one time because of how much they loved each visit. It’s “absolutely the journey,” she said, “Even if you travel to the same location more than once, each visit can be a different journey and experience.”

Traveling is an experience of new culture. When thinking back on her past experiences, Lauren said she and her husband were most surprised by how much they were able to learn about other cultures and gained more perspective on how they live. “We’ve visited rich cities, third world countries and everything in between. Seeing how others live and interact has broadened our outlook on the world and given us appreciation for the comfort of our lives in America,” she said.

Of all the places that Lauren and Mike have visited, her recent trip to Antarctica is at the top of their list. She shared that they had beautiful, bright sunny weather and saw wildlife. “There was something magical and different about Antarctica and knowing we were in such a remote, untouched part of the world.”

JOY RIDDLE AND RUDY STANKOWITZ

Joy Riddle shared that she has a story or reason for each place that she’s traveled to. She and her husband, Rudy, decided that a few years ago, they were going to make seeing the world a priority. Now, several times a year, these travelers hop on a flight and prepare for a new adventure, she said.

Joy said that her favorite thing about travel is the fact that it changes her. Each time she travels her perspective is broadened and she is changed in some way. “Travel isn’t just about the trip,” she said. The journey is what’s important. She and her husband chose a location based on what they want to experience, like when they researched and made the trip to see the Arora Borealis, she said.

A big part of every trip is the learning experience that comes with it. Joy said that she and Rudy spend as much time
as possible “off the beaten path,” this helps them experience the culture in an immersive way. “It has been interesting to learn about the ways that locals in other countries perceive Americans,” she said.

Joy shared that she loves every place that she has ever visited as a traveler, and loves each one for a different reason. “Of all the places I have traveled, NYC is still my favorite city in the world,” she said.

JOHN FREEMAN

John Freeman is a professor at the University of Florida. Part of his job entails boarding a plane to Berlin for two weeks over the summer to teach students as part of the study abroad program at the university; he’s been doing this since 2005, he said. The trips originally began as solely Berlin, but then he began to sometimes add personal trips to explore the world a little more.

John shared that adding the personal trip to his Berlin summer abroad has allowed him to visit Gainesville friends in Prague, see a former student in London and even visit his daughter during an exchange program in Dublin and his son who was an English teaching assistant in France.

Although he has traveled many times, his greatest travel experience is Berlin because of its always changing and evolving nature, he said. “My interest in photography was sparked there and I graduated from Berlin American High School. While my course activities remain constant each year, I always arrange to do at least one new adventure, solo, during the two weeks. I love the freedom of great transportation in Berlin and the city has a spirit of acceptance to all.”

Although it may be a challenge sometimes with the language differences, John said that he enjoys experiencing the different visual view of everything, like the people, architecture and food. He said he has also learned that people tend to be more open overseas, and that they are more tolerant than Americans.

John said that when he leaves home he often thinks about the size of the world we live in. Sometimes he takes a moment and allows himself to feel like the small grain of sand on a beach, this allows him to soak in everything that he can see. “I’ve always had a quest for excellence,” he said. “And experiencing it.”

BY RENEE CASTRO
PHOTOS COURTESY OF JOY RIDDLE, LAUREN MASEM AND JOHN FREEMAN