Interview with Gaelyn Olmsted
Gaelyn Olmsted works summers as a Park Ranger at Grand Canyon and travels further afield during winters. She’s always capturing the present for future memories of the past on her Geogypsytraveler blog.
When did you first start traveling?
As a child I used to wander off, in my 20s I began to explore the US in a Vega. Over the last 35+ years I’ve upgraded through several RVs making for comfortable travel across the States. And now I see the world as my playground.
What kind of travel do you prefer (e.g. luxury, budget, backpacking, train travel, etc.) – and has that changed over time?
When younger, backpacking and car-camping served me well. Now that my shoulders are shot, probably from carrying too much weight, I like to drive, stop to day hike, and sleep in a good bed. Doesn’t have to be 5 Star, just clean and preferably with my own room and toilet.
How do you like to travel – alone, with a spouse/partner, other family members, with friends or as part of a tour group?
If no one wants to go along, which seems most often, I go anyway and travel alone. That’s not to say I won’t travel with others. But some of my best friends wouldn’t make the best travel companions. It takes something special to make people work together doing anything in life.
Besides travel, what are your passions?
I love the planet Earth I’ve been blessed to live on. I try to share what I learn about the places I live, work and play believing that education leads the way to preservation.
Have your passions played a role in the choice of travel destination?
I’m a National Park junkie so like to visit parks wherever I travel. I learn so much about a place by how both the cultural and natural history are saved and shared.
Do you consider travel a necessity or a luxury? What are you prepared to sacrifice so you can travel?
For me travel is a necessity to expose myself to new learning opportunities. There is no sacrifice if you’re passionate about traveling. When I quit learning, I’m dead.
What are you prepared to pay extra for when you travel?
The expense of fuel when I travel by plane, train or automobile increases both my expenditures and carbon footprint. I try to support local businesses instead of corporations.
What has been the most fascinating destination you have visited from a cultural perspective?
Mexico woke me up to just how much we in the US have lost our sense of family and community. The people are so much richer than most of us even though they own less.
What place in the world surprised you? Was the experience better or worse than expected?
I try not to travel, or live, with expectations. That way I’m never disappointed. Yet I’m always surprised at how different other parts of the world are than where I grew up in the US.
Is there somewhere you return to year after year? Why?
I just returned from my second, and not last, journey in South Africa which has captured my spirit. But everywhere I’ve been so far tends to call for my return, to experience a place with new eyes.
Tell us where your top three travel experiences occurred and what made them stand out.
My first road trip across the US will always stand out. I learned to be free and live in the Now. And that made seeing lions roam freely right outside my car-cage during my first visit to Kruger National Park in South Africa an ultimate highlight. However, I enjoy highlights every day while working summers at Grand Canyon National Park where I’ve experienced the canyon hiking to its depths, rafting the Colorado River and just staring into its splendor from the rim.
Where in your own hometown do you encourage people to visit?
My hometown changes regularly and I try to explore wherever I am so I can share places I’ve enjoyed. Around my winter home in Yarnell, Arizona I recommend a walk in the chaparral covered mountains. During summers at Grand Canyon I can recommend more places than there’s space or time for here. Drop by my blog for several possibilities.
Final Question: Do you have a favorite movie (or song, television program, book) that inspires travel?
I rarely go to the movies and don’t own a TV. Yet books have inspired me to explore the world since childhood, even if only in my dreams. JRR Tolkien’s Hobbit and Trilogy encouraged me to explore beyond my own backdoor a long time ago.
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Photos courtesy of Gaelyn Olmsted
Being a National Park ranger was one of my dreams when I graduated from college. I wanted to work in Independence National Park in my hometown of Philadelphia. The rangers there do a wonderful job of bringing the colonial congress and the constitutional congress to life. Unfortunately, since 9/11, they have also had to perform some TSA type duties to protect the places so intertwined with the birth of our nation.
I too am a lover of the National Park system. We have visited quite a few but still have a long list. We love the Grand Canyon and we are fortunate to be able to say that we have taken the mule trip twice! Although initially terrifying, it is a fantastic experience and clearly we loved it enough to return years later to share the experience with our son.
This interview left me feeling uplifted. Because Gaelyn, packs up and goes regardless of whether others want to accompany her. That attitude gives us the freedom to travel wherever and whenever. That is one huge rig.