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Life’s a journey— full of destinations

Dee Arnaiz has literally seen the world

Created date

July 26th, 2011

This month, as many American s enjoy nearby beach vacations, world traveler Dee Arnaiz, who lives at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., will be wending her way through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa. Travel is a significant part of who I am, says Dee, who, last December, achieved her lifelong goal of setting foot in all seven continents when she traveled through the Drake Passage in Antarctica. It s like going to college. You are always learning and it s a lot of fun.

A seed takes root

Dee s love affair with international travel began in 1957 when she drove through Europe and visited relatives in Sweden. Determined to see as much of the world as possible, she planned a 1961 trip around the world that included destinations in Hawaii, Japan, Burma, Thailand, India, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, the Holy Land, Greece, Italy, and Portugal. As her travel log grew, so did Dee s desire to continue her adventures. In 1963, she accepted a position as a teacher and speech pathologist in the U.S. Department of Defense schools in Germany. It was during the Cold War, and traveling in Europe, most notably in the east, was very different much more difficult than it is today, she says. I wanted very much to visit Russia, but to do that I had to take a bus from Germany through Czechoslovakia and Poland before reaching Russia. While entering Czechoslovakia, Dee and her fellow travelers were required to get off the bus while guards went through the bus confiscating reading materials. It took us three hours to go through the border, she says. And when we arrived in Russia we were greeted by a guide who stayed with us throughout our entire trip.

History lessons

In addition to learning about the people and the cultures of her destinations, Dee s travels have also provided insight into historical events. One trip that was poignant to me was a Thanksgiving trip to Normandy, France, she says. We stayed at a small inn very close to Omaha Beach. While exploring the beach you could just envision all the young GIs landing there on D-Day attempting to climb the steep cliffs while the Germans were shooting down on them from their positions on the bunkers above. Other travels have provided Dee with the opportunity to do things very few people can claim they ve done. While visiting Cairo, Egypt, she climbed the Cheops pyramid dressed in thong shoes and a skirt. I was, and continue to be, afraid of heights so how I managed to climb is totally beyond me, she says. But I m glad I did it. As of 1980, it is illegal to climb the pyramids as people have been injured or have died attempting it. Dee has also traveled by ship down the Amazon River, walked on the Great Wall of China, and witnessed a Ganges River burial in India.

Welcome to the jungle

With so many remarkable experiences, Dee admits that it s difficult to pick a favorite, but her back-to-back 1988 and 1990 trips to Kenya via Cairo have a special place in her heart. There is nothing at all like the excitement of an African safari, she says. I enjoyed my trip in 1988 so much that I went back again with my sister and her husband. Seeing all the animals in their natural habitat is an amazing experience. In fact, it is her love of safari that inspires her upcoming return to Africa. This time my friend and frequent travel companion Donna O Rourke will experience safaris at small, private reserves. We can t wait.

Patience is a virtue

In the last ten years, Dee s travels have taken her to Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Finland, Norway, Alaska, China, Tibet, and Antarctica, most of which she s taken as excursions with Overseas Adventure Travel ( and Grand Circle Travel ( Through my travels I ve found that I like to be taken care of, she says. The travel companies help with that, and you really can t beat the price. Since retiring from a successful career in teaching and speech pathology, Dee, now a trained tax professional and enrolled agent, prepares tax returns to help fund her travels. When asked if she has any advice for anyone interested in adding to their own travel logs, Dee offers this sage wisdom: Be patient. You can never plan for every possible circumstance. I ve lost luggage and gotten sick, but I didn t let that stop me from enjoying my surroundings and learning everything I could. And eat what the locals eat if you don t, you ll miss out on so much!