Virtuoso Life November 2019 Real Traveler Stories: A Family of Global Citizens

Real Traveler Stories: A Family of Global Citizens

Sherri Kimmell with her husband and kids in Vietnam.
Sherri Kimmell with her husband and kids in Vietnam.
A love of adventure and an eye for the next destination keep Sherri Kimmell’s country count climbing.
When Sherri Kimmell, a writer and arbitrator from Atlanta, was considering where to take her father for his 80th birthday, she knew it had to be someplace he hadn’t visited – and therein lay the challenge. A lifelong traveler, he kept a “been there” list that stretched to 78 countries. (Sherri’s own list is nearly as impressive.) That’s when Virtuoso travel agency executive Martha Gaughen jumped in to light the candles on a celebratory father-daughter trip to Slovenia and Croatia – or “79” and “80,” as Sherri’s dad now calls them.

Dad is a competitive traveler. I’m at 59 countries, and he puts me to shame. Burkina Faso, Moldova, Ukraine, Honduras – he went before anybody else I knew. Like me, he’s in it for the adventure and the energy of seeing new places.
Sherri Kimmell with her sister and father in Slovenia.
Sherri Kimmell with her sister and father in Slovenia.
It’s a new experience traveling with family as an adult. My sister, who hasn’t traveled as much, joined our Slovenia and Croatia trip at the last minute, and the three of us had to relearn the others’ travel habits. Thankfully, Martha left nothing to chance. Drivers and guides showed up early, and we experienced ruins, waterfalls, and artists’ colonies without a hitch. Dad gave the greatest compliment the last night: “I don’t think I’ve ever had a trip like this.”

Most of my travel is with my husband, Wes, and our son, Avery, 21, and daughter, Lenox, 18. We started traveling internationally when Lenox was 4. I used to joke that the kids were better behaved when traveling than at home. I think that’s because of the organization. Everybody weighs in as the itinerary takes shape, so once it’s set, no one can complain. By now, everyone knows we will be getting up early and each person has to carry his or her own bag, so pack light!
Iceland’s Black Church at Budir.
Iceland’s Black Church at Budir.
Usually our trips are very active. We’re not museum or cathedral people. Travel is more memorable when we do slightly offbeat things: a mokoro ride in Botswana or a trek over a deserted peak in Iceland. In Vietnam over winter break last year, we did a food tour in Saigon by motorcycle sidecar. We watched the sights go by while everyone watched us. We felt like quite a spectacle.

One thing I bring on every trip are these ugly waterproof pants I bought on Amazon for $25. They don’t breathe, and they have a hideous elastic-drawstring waistband. Everyone in the family makes fun of me, but the second it rains in New Zealand or Alaska, I pop those puppies on and I’m ready to keep going.

We have this conversation a lot: What was the best trip ever? Everyone agrees Belize was unbeatable – three perfect days in the jungle and three more on the coast. Lenox loved staying at Mukul in Nicaragua. Avery would say anything in Africa. He loved it so much that next summer, he’s going to the border of South Africa and Botswana to train to be a safari guide.
Atop Cape Town’s Table Mountain on the family’s first trip to Africa.
Atop Cape Town’s Table Mountain on the family’s first trip to Africa.
In December, Avery and I are going to Malaysia, Thailand, and Laos for two weeks. We worked through three iterations of the itinerary with Martha. Can we add a food tour in Bangkok? We don’t need river rafting since we’ve done that before. Can we end in Laos? Editing our way to a seamless experience.

Martha knows us better than we know ourselves sometimes. We thought we’d like to take in a flamenco show in Seville, but she told us most of the shows are cheesy. Instead, she set us up with a lesson at a private apartment with some talented dancers. They didn’t speak much English, but they didn’t need to. We bonded over dance, and had an experience we will never forget.
Rovinj, Croatia.
Rovinj, Croatia.
In the Galápagos, a girl in our group had on purple Converse shoes and, as she bent in front of a blue-footed booby to take a picture, the bird started doing its mating dance. The bird thought she was the most beautiful blue-footed booby in the world, and we just laughed and laughed.

Start with shoes when packing. They’re always the problem. I get down to as few as I can and then plan my outfits accordingly.

Where next? Argentina for my friend’s 50th, then maybe Japan, India, or the Seychelles.

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