First published in the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Lafayette, Indiana, July 25. 1976
By KATHY MATTER Staff Writer
Colleen McGuire, 22, is spending the summer following her junior year at Indiana University as a crew boss for corn de-tasselers in Benton County’s lush cornfields.
Previously, she has picked grapes in Italy and experienced the communal lifestyle of an Israeli kibbutz only five miles from the Lebanese border.
Tom McGuire, 20, her brother, is spending the summer after his sophomore year at I.U. building grain bins.
Previously, he has known the thrill of hiking to a tiny mountain village in Mexico and having crowds gather around him because he was the first American to
Unusual experiences for two people who grew up in the small town of Oxford?
But maybe not.
Traveling is education. Life is education. “If you don’t go out, life won’t come to you,” Colleen says.
“Traveling helps you find yourself,” she continues. “A good self image is the most important thing in the world, and Tommy and I found it by traveling.”
In 1974, Colleen set off by herself for a year, with money she had saved since childhood, to spend a year hitchhiking from Dublin to Cairo.
Tom, intrigued by Mexico after a brush with it on a trip around the U.S., decided to load up his backpack and set off for four months by himself in Mexico.
And although he admits it sounds corny, Tom says that his experiences in Mexico sparked an interest in his college studies that pulled him from warning slips to the dean’s list.
Now teaming up, the two McGuires plan to hit the road again at the end of August, traveling through Mexico to South America, and across the Atlantic to Africa.
“People’s first reaction when they hear about us is that we’re irresponsible and dropouts from society. We’re not,” Tom says.
“We’re not vagabonds. We keep clean and try not to look scruffy because that’s important for our own self image,” Colleen says.
Of course, any kind of traveling costs money, but they have saved for it, and believe they can live on about $3 a day by hitchhiking, camping out (they’re taking sleeping bags) and buying and fixing their own food.
And if they bypass resort cities in favor of poor out-of-the-way villages, and ruins and cross-country trips on llamas, it’s because that’s the country they want to see.
“The main thing I want to do is just talk with people,” says Colleen, which shouldn’t be too hard since both she and her brother speak Spanish fluently (she also speaks Portuguese and French).
Over Christmas we went to Mexico for three weeks, and while we were there we talked and made friends with at least 40 people,” Tom said. “It’s something we never would have done here.”
On previous travels, both have found people to be friendly and willing to share their homes and a portion of their lives with them.
You have to approach travel with the right attitude and be friendly yourself, Colleen believes, and says that no one has ever been really mean to her.
“We just don’t think about anything bad happening,” says Tom. “If you think about something bad happening, it probably will.”
They plan to travel through Mexico and the Yucatan, poking into Inca and Mayan ruins, heading south to Peru and Brazil, and up the Amazon River on a boat to the Atlantic coast.
From there it will be a trip on a banana boat, or another cheap transportation, to Africa where they are to meet an African friend made at college who will be their host as they explore Africa for six months.
“From there we’ll be gone as long as it takes us to get back to Oxford,” says Tom.
Probably he and Colleen will split at that point. If money holds out, Tom would like to go the rest of the way around the world, coming back to the U.S. across the Pacific Ocean. Colleen would like to return to the kibbutz in Israel where she lived for several months on a past sojourn.
But they plan to come back. “I want to finish my education. That’s very important to me,” says Tom, who’s majoring in Latin-American anthropology and Spanish. Colleen agrees, and adds simply, “This is my home,”
Wandering children can be hard on parents, and Colleen and Tom say they have had nothing but support from theirs. “My influence to travel was my mother,” Colleen says. “When I was in fifth grade and was the only girl carrier of the Journal & Courier in Oxford, she was the one who encouraged me to go on, so that I could save my money to travel some day.”
I just wish I could pick up all of Benton County and put them in Egypt for one day,” she says, “They would just die. Here you can earn $3 an hour working the cornfields. There they work over eight hours a day just to make 50 cents.”
“Traveling really opens your eyes. When I came, back to the United States, I took a good hard look at everything we have here — TVs, cars, bathrooms that flush — we just don’t realize how fantastic this country is,” she says.
“The best way to appreciate it is to leave and come back”, Tom adds in agreement.
“I love this country,” Colleen says, “and I couldn’t say that when I first left.”
This doesn’t mean they were never scared. Both admit to being very apprehensive before they first took off on their own, but it was something both wanted to do bad enough to overcome the fear.
“Every day, something happens,” says Colleen of traveling, “even if you’re just sitting someplace by yourself. It’s new because you’ve never been there before.”
“And when you’re on your own, nobody knows you who are and you have to learn to survive, to think and make decisions on your own. You learn whom to trust and whom not to trust,” she says.
Besides jeans and T-shirts and necessities like soap that they will stuff into their small backpacks, and sleeping bags, the only other thing the twosome plans to take are books — books to write in and books to read.
“I want to read classics. If I’m sitting on a beach I can read,” says Colleen, “while I can’t during my breaks in the cornfields.”
“I want to bring a blank book and fill it myself,” says Tom.
Tentative plans call for them to take about six months to travel through Mexico and the Yucatan, poking Inca’ and Mayan ruins, heading south to Peru and Brazil, and up the Amazon River on a boat to the Atlantic coast.
From there it will be a trip on a banana boat, or other cheap transportation, to Africa where they to meet an African friend made at college who will their host as they explore Africa for six months.