Do you have your bucket list started? You know, the list of things you want to do and the places you want to go? At the age of 73, Marilyn Fenn has a good start on her bucket list. She has already visited the seven continents, all 50 states and has more countries lined up to go. Not bad for a girl originally from South Dakota.
Not all of Marilyn’s younger years were spent in the Dakotas. Twelve of her lower grades were in Los Angeles Public Schools. When she left, it was to study at Pacific Lutheran University and be with her husband, David Fenn. They lived for seven years in Eatonville – he as a teacher and she as a public health nurse.
Marilyn remembered what life on the farm was like, so when her husband bought the family farm in Curtis, it was no surprise to her. They still live in the same home.
Marilyn has always had wanderlust, something she inherited from her family. Her father remodeled and sold houses, so when her father screwed light bulbs in the sockets and attached plates to the electrical outlets, they knew it was time to pack up and leave.
One thing the family always had around their house was copies of National Geographic and other travel magazines. As she read, Marilyn thought, “Someday, I’m going there.” She even made her husband promise that they wouldn’t have children until she had traveled.
In 1973 Marilyn and her husband went on a six-week vacation to Europe. “We had a car and a tent and traveled from mid-Norway to the boot of Italy. I’d definitely recommend it,” she said. “After that, we started our family.”
For twenty years, Marilyn was the school nurse at Chehalis School District. Traveling was pushed to the back of her mind for a while. Then as she neared retirement, she thought about the 21 missions sprinkled along the spine of California. She rented a car and visited the missions with her eldest daughter. “That was the first bucket list I finished,” she said.
For her second bucket list, Marilyn took her other daughter and her three-year-old granddaughter because they had never seen Florida, Louisiana or Mississippi. That completed another bucket list with all fifty states checked off.
“Travel with your children or a brother or sister,” Marilyn advises other travelers. She never went on a big trip with her oldest brother, which she now regrets because his poor health makes it difficult to travel. Her father went to China with her and walked five miles in driving rain to see the Forbidden City. “It’s all how you look at it,” Marilyn says.
Marilyn finally decided she couldn’t wait any longer for her husband to travel the way she likes traveling. “I just do what I need to do and signed up for Macho Picchu, came back and went to the Falkland Islands. If you have a chance to travel with a family member, do it.”
The one thing that temporarily ended the travel trade was the pandemic. “COVID-19 canceled four trips that I had planned,” Marilyn said. “One was postponed until next year – a trip to Germany to see the Passion Play that is performed in Bavaria every ten years. The Passion Play has a history that goes back at least 300 years.”
Marilyn plans to go to England in September and continue with the trip afterward. “The whole COVID-19 thing has been devastating to travel,” Marilyn says. Travel overseas virtually stopped and many switched to destinations inside the states.
Finding a rental car has been difficult too. “You can hardly rent a car anywhere,” Marilyn says. She and a couple of girlfriends could rent a car and find places to stay in Utah, but Moab was the hardest place. “That has not stopped being a busy place for the last 18 months,” Marilyn says.
National and State Parks have seen an increase in visitors since the onset of COVID-19, however. They have the advantage of being less expensive and closer to home.
Marilyn took a side trip to the Manned Space Center with her grandson Cole to learn more about the space program. “It’s amazing what men and women can do when they put their minds together,” she said of that accomplishment.
Marilyn has been checking off places she has seen and things she has done since she was a girl. Not only has she visited all 21 of the California missions, traveled through all 50 states and gone to all seven continents, but she has also taken several Amazon trips, traveled most of Europe. She also went to Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Galapagos, Antarctica, Easter Island, Angkor Wat, the list goes and on.
Sometimes she traveled alone, sometimes she traveled with a family member, and other times she traveled with a traveling companion named Andrea, a friend she shares many things in common with.
“If you’re always going to wait for the perfect time to go, you’ll never go,” said Marilyn’s brother Ken. “Don’t wait.”