My first travels were not exactly ones I designed; rather, they were designed by Uncle Sam as WWII surrounded us. At 17 I started in the Air Corps Reserve in a college training course at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. From there it was a series of training assignments so I thankfully stayed Stateside during the war, but right after the war I troop-shipped to France.
My next sea adventure was from San Francisco to Pusan, once again an all -expense-paid tour, but another troop ship nightmare. I thought that would cure any sea-craving, but later years proved me wrong.
My work experience centered around banking and that career made for several location changes from Illinois to Michigan to New York and back to Michigan, ending my mottled career as President of First National Bank of Brevard in Merritt Island, Florida. When that bank was sold I had a real career-ending stint as President of Marine Merchant Bank & Trust Co. in Saipan, in the Trust Territory of the Pacific. A wonderful year there was followed by five years with Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, working on the solution of the S&L crisis. That involved weekly travel to various U.S. spots in Birmingham, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Hollywood - Florida that is.
When I retired I found a niche as a volunteer banking consultant for developing nations, and I was able to work in really novel places. First was in Cluj-Napoca, Romania working with a new private bank; next, Petrozavodsk, Russia teaching Russian bank examiners; followed by two months in Warsaw with wife Donna, enjoying the wonderful music of the Mozart Festival. When I went next to the Russian Far East I wound up working along the entire Pacific coast, from Vladivostok in the south to Magadan in the north. Great people, not such great living. And other cities: Kisinau, Moldova; Shanghai; Bishkek, Krgyzstan; Amman, Jordan; and three weeks in Iraq in 2005. My last job was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2006. These were all memorable trips and I certainly learned more than I taught!
In 2006 I had turned 80 and Donna and I decided to renew a fascination with travel on cruises. So far we have been on 106 cruises, many of which were in the Caribbean but we ventured forth on many others in Europe, Asia, South America and even North Russia. It still is our favorite form of travel.
Not surprisingly, all my travel has brought home the simple fact that I live in the greatest country in the world, and every time I go through immigration on my way home and the officer says, “Welcome Home, Mr. Willett!" I realize it all over again.