By Julie Wiessner
Twenty-seven-year-old Tabitha Stickel has visited the Great Wall and Xi’An, China, where the terra cotta warriors are found, Machu Picchu, Peru, Austria, Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, the Redwoods of northern California, Chaco Canyon, N.M., Big Ben and the Tower of London in England, and is planning her next trip to Easter Island, located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean.
Stickel has a travel wish list with hundreds of places she wants to visit before her time on earth is finished.
The starting point of this journey took place when she was six or seven years old while looking through her dad’s National Geographic magazines. She decided to make a list of places she wanted to go in the world from what she saw.
She asked her parents if she saved up enough money to go to China, would they let her. Her parents nodded and said, “Yes,” smiling as they added, “You can go as long as you save the money and pay for it yourself.”
Little did she know her travel wish list would set into motion a series of events which took her to Austria during spring break of her senior year in high school. Although not on her list to begin with, Austria was where her sister lived and it was the first time she traveled alone.
While in the seventh grade, Stickel met Chun Li, a Chinese girl who became Stickel’s best friend and eventual travel companion to The Great Wall and Xi’An, China, the first and second destinations on her list.
The summer after graduating from high school, 18-year-old Stickel saw those two places in China with Chun Li, who invited Stickel to stay with her and her family during her visit.
She visited other places in China, as well, and one place in particular stuck out in her mind. “We had gone into some remote mountain villages, where it was very rural and there were no TV’s or electricity,” she recalled. “I was the first white person the kids had ever seen; their jaws dropped open. They wanted to touch my hair.”
Her next destination was Machu Picchu, Peru, at age 19. She traveled through a study abroad program with the University of Rochester, New York. Stickel had just finished her freshman year in college there and also visited Big Ben and the Tower of London during that same summer.
During the winter of 2006, Stickel found herself in the Redwoods of California and by fall 2009, she visited Chaco Canyon, N.M. During the summer of 2012, she visited Prague, the largest city in the Czech Republic.
Every place she travels to, Stickel keeps a journey diary. She says, “I don’t write down everything or have a set time to write, but I like to write my impressions and thoughts down about some of the museums or spectacular places I’ve visited.”
On Aug. 1, however, Stickel is headed back to New York as she has been accepted at Columbia University and will be working on her master’s degree in Adult Education.
This world traveler has been a data specialist, an information services support technician and a learning assistant at Northland Pioneer College. She first came to northeast Arizona through an internship at the Petrified Forest in 2005.
Other places to visit on her list range from Ethiopia to Petra and Ancient Troy to Hadrian’s Wall.
She doesn’t go to destinations in the order they are written on her list. It’s whatever strikes her fancy at the time of choosing which determines where she goes next.
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By Julie Wiessner