A monthly feature highlighting one of our distinctive clients …
Anush Dawidjan is a Globetrotter, and Prefers it That Way
Anush Dawidjan is a world traveler. Now retired and living in Miami, she saw much of the world while working for the federal government. Her assignments based her in places such as: Hythe, England; Germany; Niger, West Africa; Tokyo and Hong Kong.
How many countries have you visited?
292. But my goal is to get to 300.
Isn’t that more than the number of UN-approved countries?
Yes. That number is 193.
When did you get the travel bug?
I think I’ve always had it. I’m a first-generation American, so I wanted to see where my parents came from and that made me curious about the world. I remember saying it out loud when I was 6. A teacher asked the class what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said I wanted to be a woman of the world. The teacher had no clue what I was talking about, but my father had just died and I knew I wanted to grow up, at least. I didn’t take anything for granted and was proud to be American.
Where were your parents from?
My mother was born in the Ukraine and my father in Armenia. But they met and married in Munich during WWII.
Where were you born and raised?
At what age did you first travel overseas?
I went on a bicycle trip through Europe when I was in my teens.
Is it necessary to be wealthy to travel abroad?
No. I’ve always been thrifty and saved my money to travel since that’s what I’m drawn to. But people spend all kinds of money on all kinds of things they often don’t need. I never have and I’ve always been a planner.
Did you have a plan to see the world?
I did. When I finished graduate school I knew working for the federal government would give me security and that I could retire at 55. I wanted to see all 50 U.S. states first and then travel overseas. Working in human resources for the U.S. Army allowed me to travel around the U.S. for the job, and when I did I would always arrive a day early or stay an extra day to see the city. Sometimes I’d rent a car to see a site, like the Grand Canyon, for example. (100,000 civilians work for the US Army on bases around the world.)
It wasn’t long before I was ready to travel overseas but it was expensive. Since I’ve always been very thrifty, there is always money to travel. I spent my first 25 years without a car because I grew up using public transportation. Now I’m retired, so sometimes I’ll rent a car when public transportation exhausts me. One of the tips I always share with students I teach in a learning life class at UM, in addition to talking about the places I’ve traveled, I share tips on ways to always travel cheap. For instance, I can take a bus anywhere, including the airport, on my Golden Passport. I’ll stay in hostels or at a Motel 6 for $47 a night. I recently found a one-way ticket from Miami to San Francisco on Frontier Airlines for $53. You have to do the research to get the deals. I’m not sure if it’s still offered, but every January I used to see $99 airfares to England’s Heathrow Airport from New York or Washington, D.C. I grabbed that offer to spend two or three days in the UK every year.
Where have you not yet traveled?
There are three countries I have not yet visited: Yemen, but I hope to go in May; Socotra Island in Libya and Syria.
Do you have any favorite places?
I get that question a lot. It’s a hard one because I can’t choose just one. But places I really enjoyed include:
Bhutan, because it was such a spiritual place and the air was so clean. Men wear traditional dresses and everyone looks like royalty. Their official export is happiness.
Iran is amazing. Persian history is wonderful – it’s one of the world’s great civilizations. Iranians love Americans despite the embargo. They even have fake McDonald’s and fake KFC. All women must wear covering there.
Uzbekistan drew me back to Iran.
My least favorite place was Nauru. It’s ugly and the people are miserable. The government does nothing and there is no garbage pickup or removal. I went for 23 hours to satisfy my list of places seen.
Also, Tahiti, the main island in French Polynesia, was a letdown. It’s trashed, for the most part. Bora Bora and the lagoon there is spectacular.
If there is, I always carry peanut butter with me or I can buy it anywhere in the world.
It sounds like you’ve been everywhere. Is travel still exciting to you?
I still get excited when I board a plane. I do long to go somewhere else most of the time. Driving scares me but I trust airplanes completely.