By Libby James
For anyone who has ever fantasized about turning their travel dreams into reality, Joyce Dickens’ book, Exotic to Mundane, should jump to the top of their reading list. When she was about to be 40 and her husband Daryle was a bit ahead of her, they made the decision to quit their jobs, sell their house and hit the road for a year.
It took 15 months of planning, saving money, arranging the sale of their house and cars, finding a home for their cat and deciding on an itinerary before they set off on April 1, 2013, from Fort Collins. During 14 months away, they visited 23 countries and 23 states in the U.S. Dickens’ book, released in April 2018, is the story of the first six months of their travels in Central America and Africa.
The book is filled with photos that make their experiences come alive, astute observations about the places they visited, modes of travel, food, sleeping accommodations, and the ease of making friends that they discovered as they went. Dickens writes candidly about things that went wrong, what they learned the hard way and experiences that were sometimes downright frightening.
The Dickens knew they loved to travel. They’d been out of the country several times, but at the rate they were going, they would “barely make a dent in our extensive travel lists even if we lived to be 100,” according to Joyce. They had to turn their dream of traveling more into some specific goals. Their wish lists included an African safari, Oktober Fest in Munich, learning to surf and getting away from the familiar and seeing the world.
“I was looking for the heightened sense of being alive that comes with breaking out of routines, doing things that aren’t comfortable and letting a little risk into your life,” Joyce explains in the introduction to her book. “I wanted to know what it was like to live in places and ways that I’d never thought about. I wanted to enlarge my worldview and my comfort zone. And I wanted to see elephants.”
She had been back home for a year when she began to satisfy her need to share their experiences and the lessons learned from their time on the road. She knew the journey had changed her, but she wasn’t sure how until she began to share her experiences on the page.
In Exotic to Mundane, Joyce takes the reader to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Botswana, and shares her learnings as she goes. “I was reminded of the thousands of things that I take for granted on a regular basis—that I can go to a doctor or hospital for care…that when I go to the store there will be food on the shelves; that when I turn on a faucet, there will be water I can drink…. The reality is that my temporary inconvenience is someone’s else’s way of life, not by choice, but by necessity. I believe this realization is an example of the crucial impact of travel on worldview….”
Richard Bolles, the author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, is also author of The Three Boxes of Life, in which he suggests that pursuing education first, then a career and finally retirement may not be the best way to live a life. Instead, he suggests alternating these three “boxes” by getting some education, working some and taking some time out several times through the course of a life.
Back home in Fort Collins, Joyce works as event director for the non-profit Realities for Children and is at work on a second book describing later experiences in their travels. Daryle is self-employed in social media. Joyce is looking forward to a European trip with her mother this summer. The Dickens have developed an extensive website: learningtotravel.com, where they share more travel stories and tips on how you can take your own dream vacation. Meanwhile, the book is now among the top 100 travel-writing releases on Amazon.