For most of us, the closest we get to becoming world travelers is to stream the Netflix series “Planet Earth” on our iPads. But for Jim and Gwen Hougo, it’s been a way of life for the last 17 years. Since retiring in 2001 they have brought their total travels to 48 United States and 97 countries.
Sound impossible? For some of us, it probably would be.
“I spent 30 years teaching in Canyon Country and got to work with some of the most wonderful families,” Gewn Hougo said. “I am still in touch with many of my former students through the wonders of Facebook. One of the things I most enjoy is sharing my travel adventures.”
They didn’t hit the road immediately after retiring, but postponed their first trip, as the attacks of 9/11 occurred just a month after they hung up their hats.
“My husband, who worked for Lockheed for 34 years, always had traveling on his ‘bucket list,’” she said. “(We) were scared about the future, as were most Americans. But eight months later we took off in our new motor home for four months to explore our beautiful country. I think we visited 26 states, 325 museums, and many national and state parks. Let me tell you, we have one incredibly beautiful country with wonderful people.”
But their travels haven’t stopped at the U.S. borders.
“Then I took my retirement trip for a month in Australia, and three weeks in New Zealand,” she said. “We discovered this whole world is full of beautiful places, fantastic people and wonderful adventures. My fellow Sulphur Springs teacher, Mrs. Burleigh, and her husband joined us for a fun time. We also stopped off for a week in Tahiti to break up the long plane ride.”
Their next adventure took them to South Africa for 42 days.
“We got a little, 18-foot motor home and in a tour with nine other couples explored this amazing country,” she said. “It was in 2002, so Nelson Mandela was stepping down and the country was struggling with the upcoming elections. … The inequality of white and black Africans made for great social confusion.
“The animals in Krueger National Park provided the safari experience and the modern and wealthy society gave us much to explore.”
The couple has racked up so many miles of exotic travels that it’s hard to make a distinction among favorites. “It depends on what you consider important,” Gwen Hougo said. “For history, nothing beats Egypt and China. For pure beauty, New Zealand and Tahiti are hard to beat.”
She also finds a lot of common features across the globe. “We do have beautiful memories of exciting adventures,” she said: “Every place in our incredible world has something special to share with a traveler with an open mind.”