March 22, 2010

Meet our Pal Kathy Kinney; Grandmother, World Traveler, Adventurer Extraordinaire. And a really nice person, to boot.


Kathy in Peru

In July Kathy Kinney will be enjoying her fourth Thomson Adventure, this time with three grandchildren ages 10, 11, and 12. Join them on our Costa Rica Multisport Adventure July 3 – 11

How did you find TFA? …. My husband and I have been blessed with nine wonderful, healthy, inquisitive grandchildren. In 2003 one of my former colleges sponsored a multi-generational trip to London, and we took two granddaughters for two weeks, having a wonderful time and discovering that with young people we experienced things that we had overlooked when traveling as regular tourists. In 2004, I wanted to take another trip, and I searched opportunities for travel with the Flying Longhorns, the Naval Academy, Stanford University, Mills College, and the Smithsonian. These are entities that have travel offices that support very good programs and who routinely send us brochures. My husband’s health was declining, and he decided that I would be the one taking the future trips, so I was thorough in my research of travel opportunities that would be of special interest to the next two grandchildren in line for trips with their grandmother. I found a trip that sounded fantastic that was sponsored by the Smithsonian. They were using a travel company that I had seen mentioned by the Stanford travel office, so I thought they would probably be very good. I chose a trip to Tanzania that included many of the national parks and offered a variety of accommodations from upscale to rustic, which had enormous appeal. I signed up through the Smithsonian, and there were about fifteen people registered. However, one family of 7 dropped out, and then another family decided to postpone their trip. This left only our small group of three. I was so disappointed, and the children were already completely hooked into the trip. The Smithsonian offered us the option to cancel the trip and get refunds for our deposits. Or, we could talk with the Thomson people to see how we could work out the travel without going through the Smithsonian. It turned out to be just a fantastic travel opportunity. I went with one eleven year old grandson and his ten year old girl cousin. We had a private tour with our own driver/guide who must have been the best guide in Africa. Thomson assured us that they never canceled a tour, even if there were only two people to go on it. This was the best trip I had ever had, so it is natural that whenever I look for family travel, I choose Thomson.I am looking forward to my fourth trip with Thomson Family Adventures this coming summer. (Costa Rica Multisport Adventure July 3 – 11)

Why do you like to travel? …. I grew up living in the same house in the same small town in Texas until I left to go away to college. My father worked all the time, and we did not travel except to drive a short distance to visit my grandparents. When I went away to college in California, I realized that there was a lot more to see than just Texas. Eventually I met my “Prince Charming” who was a midshipman cadet at the United States Naval Academy. We married shortly after his graduation, and launched a thirty-year military career. The navy was very good to us, and his career included two 6-month tours in Japan; two two-year tours in Hawaii; duty in Whidbey Island, Washington; Bellevue, Nebraska; Alameda, California; Monterey, California; Moffett Field, California; Corpus Christi, Texas; two tours to Pensacola, Florida; Milton, Florida; Foley, Alabama; Fairfax County, Virginia for the mandatory Washington, D.C. experience; and the best time of our lives was four years in Germany. From our base in Stuttgart, Germany we could travel all over the European Continent, and we were off on adventures every chance we got. Our children adapted so well, and they planned many of our trips. We lived almost like Gypsies. We definitely had the travel bug. I have now been to all seven continents, and I know that I will want to travel as long as I have breath to keep me going.

What was your first trip outside the USA? … Early in my married life my husbands navy flight squadron was ordered to deploy to Iwakuni, Japan. He flew seaplanes, and these planes do not land on aircraft carriers, so they are actually land-based. We decided that I would go to Iwakuni and set up housekeeping out in the Japanese economy. This was in 1958, and Japan had not yet recuperated from the devastation they experienced during the war years. The navy discouraged wives from following the squadrons, as their feeling was that wives would be a distraction from the duty for which the men were expected to perform. However, this was such a great experience for us. We did not get married to have me sitting somewhere in the continental U.S. while he was off in Southeast Asia. And this gave me an opportunity to travel all over Japan during our 6 months there. The following year, when the squadron again deployed to Japan, I took our new son and returned to Iwakuni. I discovered that living in other countries gives the traveler a whole new perspective about people and the ways they are alike or different from ourselves.

What is your favorite travel moment? … It would be very difficult to name one moment that was really greater than all the others. I believe that my most exciting trip was the one I took to Tanzania. There, the drive from the top of the ridge to the bottom of the valley in Ngorongoro and seeing all of the wildlife there was something that took my breath away. One night there we had a full moon. Benjamin and Kathleen and I sat out on our little deck that overlooked the canyon and watched that moon rise to light up the whole valley This was something I will never forget. Happily, I am reminded of this experience each month when we are blessed with another full moon. And I believe that the greatest thrill of that trip was when we were returning to the Thomson tented camp in the Serengeti after a very full day of animal viewing, and we came upon a pride of lions enjoying a feast. They had killed a large water buffalo, and we stopped very close to where they were enjoying the feast. The adult males ate first. Then the mothers, and then the cubs were allowed to eat till they were satisfied. We observed them for quite a long time. There was much more food than that group could devour. The next morning as we started our days experience, our guide drove us back to the spot where the lions had been feasting. There was not a single bone or piece of skin or anything left of that huge animal. The other animals came after the lions, and the birds also came to do the final cleanup. It was fascinating to observe how the food chain works to feed everyone. The lions walked right next to our jeep, close enough that we could have reached out to pet them. this was an amazing trip.

What is your favorite hobby and why. … It must be obvious to you by now that my favorite hobby is traveling to different parts of the world. Each time I get to a new place and experience a new culture I feel enriched and invigorated. There are so many National Heritage sites scattered around the globe, and I would like to see them all. Each one is unique and special in its own right. I also feel that watching my grandchildren is a special hobby. Observing them as they grow and learn from their travel experiences is exciting and rewarding to me. As each grandchild is different, I learn so much from watching their different reactions to the new situations that unfold through travel. Travel is such a great learning experience, and it is amazing to see the growth in the young people as they are introduced to new things, new people, new foods, new surroundings, new ways to approach things, new challenges. I will also say that traveling with my grandchildren has been a very positive bonding experience. I feel very close to each of my grands.

Anything else you want us to know about you? … You probably know more than you wanted to know already. Thanks, TFA