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Kitti Baker: Turning Accidents into Adventures

Although Kitti has lived on the Grand Strand for over 50 years, her first taste of adventuring abroad was at a very young age. Her time spent living in Germany from age ten to twelve put her on the trajectory of loving to travel. Adventuring keeps her feeling alive and connected to the world.

Like many situations in life, sometimes things don’t go as planned, but with the right perspective, taking on the unexpected is simply part of the fun of the experience. Her most recent trip was a 6-week European excursion and was originally planned with several friends along the way.

At the start of the journey, two of her local friends were supposed to fly across the pond with her. They knew one couldn’t make it early on, but then her best friend, Lana, found out she had covid the night before the flight. Kitti landed in England by herself but was prepared to meet up with friends from Manchester whom she’d met through past travels. You guessed it – they also ended up not being able to join at the time, but fortunately, Kitti was able to acquire their accommodations. She enjoyed her incredibly unique room located above a lively pub where she never felt alone and was quite entertained.

To kickstart their time in England, the group planned to attend High Tea at The Savoy. Although Kitti set out on this adventure solo, she was surprised by her exhilarating experience. She had been to tea before, but this was High Tea in a stunning glass-domed atrium radiating with natural light and sociable warmth. On her way out, she enjoyed a glass of champagne on the terrace and just so happened to catch a glimpse of an African King and his entourage.

The next day was the grand coronation. As Kitti made her way to Westminster Abby to see the crowning of the king, the trumpets sounded, and the rain came down pouring. “I was fine being alone, but I was not comfortable being drenched. I had to come back and get dried off.” She laughed as she continued, “I can’t believe I made it all the way to London for this royal ceremony, just to watch all the festivities on TV, like the majority of the world.”

After England, she took a train to Paris to stay in a familiar neighborhood where an artist friend of hers joined in on some French fun for a few days. Once she left, Lana was finally able to join post-quarantine. Kitti rented a car, as she always does, and the notorious pair explored more of France. “We went to Dijon where we tried more mustard than I ever cared to taste,” She laughed, “but now I’ll never go back to plain yellow mustard.” Next was Switzerland where they were greeted by the cows and their bells and tried a restaurant with the most magnificent fondu. Two days and two pounds of cheese later, they turned in the car and jumped on a train to Italy.

To add to the happy accidents, they got off at the wrong train stop and ended up in Turin. Ironically, Kitti had always wanted to see this city, so they made a day out of it before hopping back on the train. Once they landed in Milan, they (of course) picked up a car to continue their Italian journey through Lake Comp, Venice, Luca, Cinque Terre, and Cortona.

When Lana left, Kitti resumed her unaccompanied portion of her trip in Rome where she participated in one of her favorite activities abroad – a cooking class. She was able to describe in detail everything about the people she met from all over the world as well as the culinary creations they enjoyed. She learned to make her own pasta, fried zucchini, a blend of fresh dip, and every kind of limoncello you can imagine. Each phenomenal dish was paired with an alcoholic beverage from prosecco to smooth wines, and for dessert, a Vin Santo wine to dip the biscotti in – the perfect ending to a long, Italian meal.

After four days in Rome, another friend, Victoria, came to wander with Kitti for the rest of her European trip. They went to Florence, Sorrento, Capri, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, and Cortona. After they picked olives and went through the process of making their own olive oil, they headed back to Rome to complete their travels.

When it was time to leave, the friend boarded her plane, however, Kitti accidentally got left and didn’t make her flight back. She simply returned to the hotel where she met new people and planned her new route. She was unable to go straight home so she flew into Dallas for a few days and visited with family over Mexican food, margaritas, and games. And when she finally made it home, she too tested positive for covid, but her sickness hit just in time to rest. What’s a good adventure story without a comical ending?

As you can see, Kitti truly doesn’t let anything get in the way of her making the best out of every adventure. She explained, “Travels are exceptionally known for taking a wrong turn, but when something happens, you have a choice of how to react and that depends on your attitude…and the company you share these moments with.” That’s why Lana is her best friend and travel partner – they love to share everything and genuinely enjoy turning their mishaps into another adventure together. The duo has experienced many enticing expeditions, a fair share of risks, and endless laughs – so much so that they could write a book. In fact, they’ve already concocted a title, “Two Old Broad’s Abroad!”

When I asked Kitti if she thinks of her explorations as vacations, she smiled and replied, “No, it’s certainly not a vacation. It’s an experience! Traveling can be a lot of work, but it’s exciting and always worth it. I view my normal retirement while living at the beach and visiting my mountain home as my vacation time. When I’m not relaxing, reading a book, and spending time with loved ones, I’m planning a trip!”

As someone who has been to Europe fifteen times and traveled all her life, Kitti enjoys planning trips for herself and others. She specifically arranges the beginning and the end but intentionally leaves room in the middle for a little spontaneity. One aspect she enjoys abroad is getting her hair done. She explained, “I don’t care how they cut it, color it, or style it…I just like having hairdressers in different places.” When she travels with others, she asks them what’s something they really want to do, and she makes sure to work it into the schedule.

Next on her out-of-the-country bucket list is Dubai in November with her friends from England. She also has a few pockets of America she still hasn’t seen yet and is hoping to discover soon. She is arranging a three-week sightseeing road trip with one of her favorite journey buddies, her granddaughter, Katie, who has certainly been passed the travel bug.

Kitti has learned how to be pretty thrifty when needed. She understands that she doesn’t need to stay in a 5-star hotel to have a good time. She finds it important to prioritize spending money on actual experiences. She also prefers to drive instead of taking a guided tour where she is with the same group the whole time and can only get on and off the bus when told so. Driving herself allows for random stops on the side of the road and meeting people in unexpected places which are the little special moments she lives for.

“Life is not meant to be boring. I will not go for boring.” Kitti exclaimed, “Travel is the best way to connect with others around the world and experience their cultures. I’ve learned a great deal of new respect for others’ values, lifestyles, and histories as well as their art, food, and wine, of course! I’ve made countless friends along my way and the best insight I’ve gained is realizing how much more we are alike than we are different.” Kitti’s collections of memories have gifted her with valuable knowledge and an ever-evolving perspective.

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