Travel: Smiles, not just miles

  • Published
  • By Dr. Robert W. Allen
  • 62nd Airlift Wing historian

In the military world, travel is an essential part of our life.  We go TDY [temporary duty] or deploy to temporary destinations and we go PCS [permanent change of station] to more permanent sites.  Even at home base, we commute to and from work to reach places important to us.  Considering the congested traffic and almost endless road maintenance around here, it might make a short commute seem like a long trip.

Why bother with voluntary travel in light of crowded highways, poor airline customer service, cranky children, strange food, and the challenge of packing just what you need?

Because, in spite of it all, travel usually ends up being a fun adventure that allows us to disconnect from our regular life.  For example, the LA Times reported in 2013 that travel significantly reduced stress in 89 percent of respondents in a study. In addition, our knowledge of the world increases, our perspective widens and lifetime memories are created when we leave our home town/base routine.

Enough generalities; perhaps a few of my own travel experiences may inspire you, or at least be useful examples:      


1. Stress Relief: During the Vietnam War, we were allowed to take leave (usually a few days near the middle of our one-year combat tour) for R & R [Rest & Recreation], which allowed us to unwind and then return stronger to combat.  It helped both me (after Japan R & R) and my father (after Hawaii R & R with my mother) perform our duties more effectively and with less PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] later.

2. Lifetime Memories: My family was stationed in England during my children’s teen years.  We made many fun trips around the UK and Europe, and for years after we left England my children were proud of living overseas and even chose careers that involved travel (one in the U.S. State Department, the other married an active duty person).  Having become seasoned travelers, my son and daughter were later more comfortable living several years overseas as adults.

3. Perspective/Adaptability: Going to places like the Polynesian Cultural Center (Hawaii) or Leavenworth (Washington) gives you a gentle introduction to other cultures that can ease getting used to overseas assignments at bases such as Hickam [Air Force Base, Hawaii] or Ramstein [Air Base, Germany] respectively.  Having lived, worked or traveled in dozens of places, I am more adaptable to many cultures and can order a beer in several languages.  I can also better judge the environment of news or stories in the media (newspaper, TV, movie); for example, having visited East Berlin “back in the day” made “Bridge of Spies” more interesting and “real” for me. 

4. Food: The latter reminds me that trying foreign dishes at a festival (i.e. Washington State Fair) or an ethnic restaurant is an alternative way to “travel” that is convenient and fun.

Thank you for reading this far!  The words for “thank you” are among the most important that you should know in any language.  Keep these handy for your own travel: gracias (Spanish), merci beaucoup (French), danke schoen (German), grazie (Italian), arigato (Japanese), shukran (Arabic) and kamsahamnida (Korean).

Godspeed on your next journey!