Chosen best nonfiction book by Seven Sisters Book Awards and the gold medal winner of Wishing Shelf Book Awards, ‘Cruising the Mediterranean’ is a joyful exploration of some of Europe’s greatest cities. From Amsterdam’s Red Light District and Athens’ rickety Acropolis lift to Istanbul’s bustling Grand Bazaar, Al & Sunny Lockwood share delicious fun, playful adventure, and dazzling beauty. Their lively explorations prove it’s never too late to make a travel dream come true.
As I gingerly step into my seventh decade on planet Earth, I’m filled with dreams and ready for adventure.
When I was younger, I was eager to do it all — earn college degrees, travel widely, run a business, write books, try all sorts of exciting things. I felt a type of urgency, like if I didn’t do all this stuff right now, I’d never do it and I’d end up old and full of regrets.
Is that do-it-now urgency a typical aspect of youth? I think it may simply be part of a full and fulfilling life no matter what your age. We live in the now, don’t we. While we carry our past with us, and we look forward to tomorrow, the only time we really have is right now to do the things we long for.
In any event, I did all that I’d dreamed of doing. And more. I developed publications for universities, wrote for magazines and even worked as a newspaper editor for a while. I did some skydiving, produced a TV show called “Women Working” at Gill Cable in San Jose, California, and enjoyed interesting friends from California to Main.
Whenever I suffered a major disappointment such as a romantic breakup or a rejection from some publisher, I’d hop in my car (or on a train or airplane) and take a trip. I found travel a great way to relieve emotional pain. So every once in a while I’d be off to Hawaii or New Mexico, or Los Angeles. In a new place, discovering new things, I was totally freed from life’s bruises.
And after decades of being a happy single person pursuing adventures all my own, I fell in love with a gangly photographer wearing cowboy boots and a white Stetson. Al Lockwood was bright, funny, well-read, spiritual, artistic and fun.
We met long after college and careers. At the time, we were both living in the western foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
He’d retired from a career in engineering to photograph wildflowers growing along mountain trails and cliff-sides. I was, at the time, editor and part owner of a monthly community newspaper.
Al and I clicked. In less than a year we married. What a joyous surprise!
Equally surprising was the love we shared for travel. Shortly after meeting, we discovered that we’d both visited Prague (not on the most popular travel sites at the time). I’d gone there after the Velvet Revolution (which overturned the Communist government, and installed Essayist Vaclav Havel as Czechoslovakia’s president). I’d interviewed some of those who took part in the revolution, and had written articles about it all for magazines and newspapers. He’d gone with a group of photographers to explore Old Town and other historically significant areas of the city.
Although Al carries a digital camera, he’s quick to point out that he’s a film photographer. You know, that roll of plastic stuff that needs to be developed in a wet darkroom, then is used in an old-fashioned enlarger to make paper proof sheets and prints.
His photographs are stunning. Today, he focuses on black and white fine art photos. And he’s enamored with antique processes, so he now has a backyard darkroom where he develops film and makes albumen, salt, and Van Dyke prints, just like they did in the 1800s.
We bought a travel trailer and Al converted it to solar power. We drove that sweet little trailer up and down the west coast, visiting Death Valley, Joshua Tree State Park, dozens of Pacific ocean beaches, through the giant redwoods of Northern California and on up into Oregon and Washington. Everywhere we went, we took pictures and kept notes.
And then a serious car accident changed our lives. It happened on an ordinary evening in 2012. Just us in the car heading home after a day at the beach. We were simply sitting at a red-light when a driver paying more attention to her cell phone than to the road, slammed into us at more than 60 miles per hour. The crash totaled our car and hers. Although we were not seriously injured, we were banged up and spent much of the next few weeks at the doctor’s office or the pharmacist’s.
That crash woke us up to how fragile and temporary life is. You can be doing something as common as sitting at a red-light, and the next thing you know, you could be in the hospital. Or worse, in the morgue.
Because of that wreck, we decided to stop putting off things we planned to do “some day” and start doing them now, while we can. And most of the things we’d been putting off were travel-related.
Our first big trip was a cruise through the Panama Canal. As a retired engineer, Al had long dreamed of seeing in person the greatest engineering fete of the 20th century, the 50-mile stretch of water through Panama, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The trip was so unforgettable, we wrote a book about it: Cruising Panama’s Canal, savoring 5,000 nautical miles and 500,000 decadent calories.
Since that first travel memoir, we’ve written three others. Each is a daily description of our experiences in such places as Venice, Florence, Rome, Greece, Turkey and Barcelona.
We write mainly for “mature” readers. People like ourselves. People who may put off a dream trip because they’re busy with daily obligations. People who may be afraid to take a big trip (like a cruise to Europe) because they fear it’s too expensive, or they’re worried about being so far away from their doctor, or they think they’ll get lost or maybe even robbed.
Young people might put off travel, thinking they’ll do it when they’re older. But many older people are afraid to make a travel dream come true.
So, no matter what their age, we want to encourage our readers to step out of their everyday life for a week or two or three, and take a chance on excitement, enlightenment and fun.
We want folks to know that travel enhances health and enriches life.
Our dreams don’t diminish as we age. They may change. We may mellow. Al and I can no longer visit three galleries and a museum before lunch. And we often take a luxurious nap after lunch. But our gentler pace of travel has given us a deeper, fuller view of things than we had in earlier years.
However, we still feel that urgency to do it now. Because tomorrow is not promised to any of us. So … here’s hoping that you find a way to make your travel dreams come true.
And we’ll keep exploring our world and sharing what we find.