TRAVEL THE WORLD: SET FOOT ON ALL SEVEN CONTINENTS. This was the goal set in 2015 by Wheaton College Travel. Since 2015, the program has visited Asia and Australia. In October 2017, President Philip ’88 and Mrs. Lisa Ryken ’88 will lead a group through Italy to experience natural, artistic, historic, and culinary wonders. Wheaton will travel to Greece and South Africa in 2018, completing travel to four continents by the end of year four.
First traveling to Oberammergau, Germany, in 1990, Wheaton College Travel has taken 41 trips to countries from the Mediterranean to the Holy Land, Australia, New Zealand, China, Central Europe, and more. The idea for the program was first developed in 1988 by former Vice President for Alumni Relations Marilee Melvin ’72 as a means of engaging alumni and allowing travelers to enjoy a level of quality, learning, and camaraderie unparalleled by any other travel experience. Director of Alumni and Parent Programs Karen Kennedy Gehl ‘89 manages the Wheaton College Travel program, housed in the Alumni and Parent Engagement Office.
Whether we are young or old, single, or married with children, Wheaton College Travel programs can feed the restless traveler in each of us—at least according to the testimonies of several global travelers we spoke with this year.
Phil ’63 and Betty Becker Fogle R.N. ’64 don’t let age or health keep them from living fully. This past October, Phil, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and Vietnam veteran, jumped in a tethered free fall from the 192-meter level of Auckland’s 328-meter-high Sky Tower, ziplined through the rainforest, and climbed on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge girder on Wheaton’s New Zealand and Australia trip.
Six years earlier, in 2010, Phil and Betty traveled to China with Wheaton. Neither had been before, and they saw the trip as an opportunity to “expand their horizons” with their beloved alma mater.
They were not disappointed. From the crowded streets of Shanghai to the rolling staircases of the Great Wall, the Fogles toured ancient and modern wonders. Above all, Phil says they will never forget a worship experience with Chinese believers in Beijing. He was overwhelmed to see masses of believers waiting to get into church, describing the sight as “heartrending.”
“We think of how difficult it is in America to ‘entice’ people to attend church,” Phil says. “Over there, there was one-way traffic going in and out of the building because of the mass of worshipers.”
Phil and Betty have enjoyed being able to “leave the driving” to the Wheaton Travel guides and hope to travel with Wheaton again in the future.
GREECE AND TURKEY
In 2012, Per Christensson ’02 experienced a voyage aboard the Sea Cloud II, a majestic ship with billowing sails that carried Wheaton Travel participants to Athens and Corinth in Greece. Having studied the book of Acts the year before, Per was excited to walk through the places Paul had once walked.
One of the youngest travelers and the only solo traveler in a group of families, couples, and friends, Per felt the trip was “even better than imagined because of the people.”
Among many friends made on the trip were the Rykens, who often travel with Wheaton.
Per’s favorite part of the trip was visiting Santorini, an island in the Aegean Sea with towns situated on cliffs overlooking a vast underwater caldera—or, volcanic crater—which was formed after a devastating eruption in the 16th century b.c.
“It gave me a greater appreciation for the majesty of God,” he says. “Just think: God became man, a tiny speck on this earth, when he is infinitely greater than all of this.”
Today, Per still finds himself sharing this personal revelation with friends who ask about his various expeditions.
Per describes the trip as “a refreshing time,” and was surprised to feel rejuvenated mentally and physically upon returning home—a rare feeling as a frequent traveler.
David Weston and his late wife, Peggy Dyrness Weston ’56, traveled with Wheaton to Israel in 2009 and to Greece in 2011. Following their 2011 trip, David and Peggy were looking forward to traveling with Wheaton to Italy in 2013 with their children: Anne ’91, M.A. ’01; Margrethe ’95; and Peter ’03. When Peggy lost her battle with breast cancer in 2012, the Westons almost canceled their trip. Ultimately, they decided to “stick with the plan” to honor and remember their mother’s commitment to family and love for travel.
Peter says that David ’75 and Elizabeth Iliadou Sparks, co-leaders of the Italy trip, were “unique and dynamic,” noting: “It’s unusual to find a tour guide, or a couple for that matter, so well versed in history, theology, and culture.”
The Italian excursion took the Westons through the Tuscan countryside, Roman chapels, and architectural structures of Pisa. For Anne, her fondest memory is singing hymns in the catacombs and seeing how their worship attracted tourists.
“To be surrounded with beauty and art, great food and drink, and the joys of a foreign culture—to be removed from the demands of daily life—was a much-needed change of pace,” she says. Anne adds that the love, care, kindness, and generosity of fellow travelers made the trip all the more enjoyable.
Peter was most affected by being in the presence of geographic, artistic, and religious monuments that directly influence aspects of the world we live in today. He hopes to travel again with Wheaton and introduce his wife, Hannah Holder Weston ’02, to the program.
Want to travel with Wheaton?
AUSTRIA AND THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Dr. Bill Bates is one of Wheaton Travel’s “biggest fans,” according to Karen Gehl. Though Bill is not an alumnus, he loves Wheaton for its place in the lives of his late wife, Dr. Carol Henry Bates ’65, and son, Stephen ’04.
To Bill, Wheaton Travel is unique in its Christian camaraderie and the interesting tours it offers. He has gone on four trips with Wheaton Travel, but as a professional musician and professor emeritus of organ at the University of South Carolina, was especially drawn to the musical focus of the Musical Splendors: Austria and Czech Republic tour in 2015. The tour included visits to The Sound of Music filming sites, historic cathedrals, and the homes of classical legends Mozart and Beethoven.
Bill’s favorite part of the trip? “Everything!” He was excited to see the home of Mozart in Salzburg and Beethoven’s lock of hair in Vienna, to hear a famous 19th century opera at the Volksoper in Vienna, and to visit architectural marvels and hear a lecture on the music of Dvořák in Prague. Dr. David Nelson, the tour guide for this trip, also arranged for the group to attend a rehearsal of the world-renowned Vienna Philharmonic in the Musikverein.
Mother-daughter pair Elna Fisher Coley ’57 and Karen ’89 have traveled together since 2010 when, in a rare instance, the two teachers found themselves free from work obligations as Elna entered retirement and Karen was on summer break. Four years later, Elna and Karen embarked on their first trip with Whea-ton Travel.
“We saw the brochure on the Greece tour in 2014 and we knew we would enjoy it,” said Elna.
And they did—so much, in fact, that when the Israel trip was announced for 2016, they signed up immediately.
For Elna, the highlight of the Israel trip was when the group sang hymns in the historic chapels of the Holy Lands.
“It was like the hearty voices in chapel at Wheaton used to be,” she says, noting that being surrounded by Wheaton con-nections made her and her daughter feel as if there were no strangers. For Elna and Karen, the unified sense of worship found on Wheaton tours is what makes the pro-gram so unique. More so, Karen says their shared experience has added “richness” to her relationship with her mother.
AUSTRALIA / NEW ZEALAND
With Australia and New Zealand as top destinations on her bucket list, Dr. Jennifer Good ’85 found she couldn’t refuse the offer to travel (again) with Wheaton. She toured Greece and Turkey in 2012 and was excited to get to know more like-minded travelers while exploring Oceania’s dramatic landscapes.
As excited as she was for the trip, Jennifer was nervous when she had to meet her roommate, another solo traveler.
“It was like getting your freshman roommate,” she says.
Quickly, though, the two grew close. In fact, the group itself consisted of several single travelers, all of whom grew closer over the two-week expedition.
“I would encourage anyone not to let their lack of a travel partner stand in their way,” Jennifer says.
The highlights of her trip to Australia and New Zealand included snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunrise, seeing the clear night sky in the Outback, and boating through the Milford Sound. Group members also went to the top of the Sky Tower, the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere. Jennifer was excited to make new friends on the trip, and looks forward to traveling again with Wheaton in the future.
Want to travel with Wheaton? Join President Philip '88 and Mrs. Lisa Ryken '88 in October 2017 as they lead a group through Italy, or travel to Greece in June 2018 or South Africa in October 2018. To learn more and to book your trip, visit the Alumni Travel website or call 630.752.5047.