Travel Fever: How to Get It and Pass It On
This photo of Kim was taken from her friend’s sailboat in Hawaii.
Kim Joiner’s zest for travel is contagious. The world, as the adage goes, is truly her oyster. At 56, this middle school drama teacher is setting the lofty goal of touching every continent before “[she’s] too old or it becomes unsafe.” And let me tell you folks she’s on her way.
Kim didn’t begin her passion for international travel until she was 40, but she’s made up a lot of ground since then. When she left her career in video and television broadcasting to pursue teaching, she needed to take five to seven prerequisites to teach in Kentucky. Instead of enrolling locally, she found a program through Murray State that allowed her to study in Costa Rica for the summer and earn the credits she needed to begin her new career.
Kim is with students in London, England in front of Globe Theater.
Kim is with a student and her mother in Scotland.
“It was my first foray into international travel. My husband at the time didn’t like to travel and my children were 16 and 18. I thought, ‘You know what? It is time —I can go!’ And I did. From that point on, I had the fever!” Kim says, eyes wide with fervor.
Since her first trip abroad, she has enjoyed two to three travel experiences each year. She’s seen 20 different countries and has schlepped 10 middle school travel groups across the world.
Showing Her Students the World
For a decade, Kim, an Excel Award winner and Kentucky teacher of the year nominee, has opened up the world to her students. Beginning in seventh grade, she stands in front of a map of the world and assigns her students the homework of looking at the globe and choosing one location they’d like to visit. In class, the students narrow their dream destinations down to eight. Kim then does the research about what tours are available for these regions, presents them to her classes, and they vote on two. Then, she pitches the two tours to the parents and allows them to have the final say (since they are the ones footing the bill). The trips are planned two years out, in order to allow for plenty of time to save the money.
Kim’s students have participated in a service learning project in Peru, toured the rich history of drama in London, Hollywood, and New York City, experienced the U.K., Paris, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. This year, Japan and Australia/New Zealand are on the table.
“Adults can get cynical and jaded about the world. Kids set me on fire with their enthusiasm for discovery. You can actually witness them broadening their horizons right in front of your eyes. It makes giving up part of my summer absolutely worth it.”
Kim sits on red rock in Waimea Canyon, Kauai Hawaii.
Hoisting the sail
Speaking of Kim’s summer…during the summer of 2018, you would only find Kim home for 12 whole days. As soon as school let out, she jumped on a plane with six students and three adult chaperones and headed to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England.
At the beginning of July, she was home for a week where she spent some quality time with her six grandsons and was then off again to Puerto Vallarta. There, she met her high school girlfriends for a week spent aboard a sailboat. One of her girlfriends is sailing around the world, so Kim decided to meet up and catch a bit of the action. In Mexico, they sailed to the Bay of Banderas and Punta Meada. The group traveled by paddle board to remote towns that were well off the tourist map, hiked the local townships, and sampled local cuisine and margaritas straight out of the locals’ homes. At the end of the sailing excursion, they treated themselves to a luxury hotel stay in Puerto Vallarta —complete with an infinity pool and a fish pedicure.
Chicago is Kim’s second home, so her final trip of the summer found her in Hawaii with her best friend from the Windy City. For his 40th birthday, the friends met up on the island of Kauai where they took turns celebrating birthdays. For the 40th, they hiked up to an epic precipice where they commenced to take out a backpack full of props and conduct a cliffside photoshoot. For Kim’s birthday, they took a helicopter ride over the mountain, despite the fact that she’s afraid of heights.
Kim arrived home on August 9th, just a few days before JCPS opened for the season, making the most of her teacher’s summer. “I was only home for 12 days this summer, but I ain’t mad about it!” she says with a laugh.
Kim is in a helicopter preparing to take a ride over Hanalei, Kauai Hawaii.
Taken from La Cruz Marina just north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
There are many places left on Kim’s bucket list: Vietnam, Bali, Thailand, Russia, and Antarctica (this last one is inspired by one of her grandsons —they’ve started an “Antarctica jar” to save for the trip). There is no doubt in my mind, after witnessing Kim’s passion for travel, that she won’t check off every single trip on her list.
“It took me a while to get over my empty nest when my kids left the house, but now? I’m just fine. I’m a free bird, so let me tell ya, I’m flyin’ high in the friendly skies!”
Kim’s travel advice (take it from a teacher):
- Don’t spend more than $2000 on a trip if you can avoid it. Kim networks with friends to share rooms and cost. In the summer of 2008 (she calls this her Eat, Pray Love tour of California), she spent the entire summer in California without paying for one single hotel room. She networked with her vast circle of friends and stayed in their places for free.
- Get a spa service wherever you go. Kim had a Turkish bath in Turkey, a cane sugar scrub in Hawaii, and a healing eucalyptus massage in Switzerland.
- Buy a few bottles of beer, candy, or local snacks for souvenirs. Instead of sharing loads of photos with her family when she returns home, she hosts a dinner of regional fare. That way, she doesn’t dominate the conversation; her family tastes the cuisine and asks questions about the trip.
- Don’t let fear hold you back. However, Kim cautions travelers to pay attention to the international security levels (she never travels to places with a 3 or higher level) and to always listen to your instincts.
- Use a travel agent. Kim says most people don’t realize travel agents are free, so use them. They will save time and frustration when you are trying to plan international travel.
- Use the buddy system. Kim gives this advice to her students, but heeds it as well. Since she is a single woman, she typically travels with a friend. She likes to travel with her guy friend so that they can provide each other with safety in certain areas of the world.
- Don’t be afraid to do some of the touristy things. A great balance between “touristy” and “off-the-beaten-path” will provide you with the best travel experience.