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Sherry Thomas – Baker City – Part 1 of 2

Sherry talked with us about travel and family. Part 1 is about how she caught the travel bug and a glimpse of her adventures. In Part 2, she talks about family connections and complications.

“I was born in Seattle and adopted at birth. My adoptive dad worked as a pilot delivering airplanes for the Allies during the Second World War. He’d go from Miami to South America and over to Africa. Sometimes they had to figure out their own way back. They might stop in India or West Africa and they’d make their way back to Europe and then to the United States. I grew up with these two elephant sculptures on my mantle and I was fascinated by them. My dad picked them up in Africa. I would ask him stories about his travels because there were a lot of things happening at that time. It made me curious about traveling.

In Red Square, Moscow

I had a friend that I had known in Omaha, Nebraska when we were five to nine years old and our fathers flew together. She had moved to Australia and we were in touch through the Internet. It was the beginning of email and I just thought this was so exotic. I was in my mid 50s by then. She told me about this trip she was going to take in Africa for 43 weeks! I knew that she had lived in Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon and that she was married to somebody who worked for the Australian embassies overseas. So I decided to meet her in Egypt. Her group had traveled on an overland truck and looking at all their travel pictures I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! I’ve got to come back and do this.’

The next year I went from Morocco down to Cape Town. And then I was sick with malaria. Malaria is 100% curable, but I was not tolerating the medicine so I ended up in a hospital in Namibia for a week. The next year I went back to Cape Town and traveled up to Cairo. At that point I was hooked on traveling. I met people in the villages and towns and also on the overland truck. At one point we were 11 nationalities and every border crossing was different because every nationality was treated differently depending on their arrangements with the country we were in. Traveling that way was fascinating. You’re on a truck and you sit on benches in the back of the truck. There’s a roof and sides, but you just roll the sides up and down, they don’t have windows that open and close. Sometimes you’re really really cold and you wear a lot of blankets Other times its really really hot and you roll up all the sides to cool off. It’s a really unique way to travel. All the way around West Africa we camped. We took turns cooking and were given about $1.50 a day per person which allowed us to make meals with our cook groups. You would go into the markets to buy the food and that was always interesting. Then you’d cook and serve the other people.

Traveling by truck in Africa

I used to make fun of people that counted countries. There are a lot of country counters out there who keep track of where they’ve been. Sometimes they say you have to spend the night in the country to count it. Sometimes you have to eat a meal. Sometimes you have to be there for a week. You know, there’s all these different ways to get to 100 countries and I made fun of them. Until one day I started counting my own countries. I had traveled all the way around Africa and then all the way around South America and now I’ve got 114 countries.

For me, traveling has been very eye opening. I think one of the mistakes I made before I started doing overland truck travel was trying to talk other people into going on trips with me. Just because you like to have lunch with somebody or you like to go on a walk with them, doesn’t mean you’ll travel well together. Emergencies can happen when you’re in the middle of nowhere and not everybody’s gonna make lemonade out of lemons. I learned not to try and talk people into doing trips that are not a good fit for them.”

Bungee jumping in Uganda