By Cathy Stuehmeier
Longtime friend Tabitha Meador of Salem was bitten in her late teens by the travel bug. I promised not to tell her age, so I’ll keep that promise. To date Tabitha has been to 30 countries and 44 states, already traveling more than most people have or will in a lifetime. And it’s apparent she’s loved every minute of it. With a Spanish minor under her belt, she loves it all, but especially enjoys the Latin American culture and is very comfortable with her surroundings there.
Not only does this girl travel, but she travels alone most of the time. Tabitha was only 17 when she made her first trip to Spain all by herself. Her family gave her a choice. She could have her dream car, a 1966 Mustang Convertible, or a trip to Spain. I would have said make the car red, but not Tabitha. So off she went, enjoying every minute of her newfound freedom and love of travel.
The last trip she made piqued my interest. A country I have always been curious about is Cuba, for a number of reasons, Hemmingway being one, and of course, the politics. She planned her trip to Cuba for one and ended up with five other companions: Tabitha, friends John and Connie Cavaletto, Mardeth Fyke, and Lomar and Annette Whalen. After all, these five needed adult supervision, and Tabitha was willing.
The trip was amazing according to all, even though Cubans have an entirely different dialect. The trip entailed a lot of sightseeing with car tours around Havana. The cemetery plus shopping the sights and sounds alone were worth the trip.
Tabitha pointed out there’s a lot of curiosity about Cuba. The people love Americans and are super friendly. They want a relaxed relationship with the U.S., and with the Castro family no longer in power, it makes it easier. But Tabitha pointed out there’s still that Castro influence, with not a lot of private enterprise. But in the last few years, some own a home restaurant or they have a taxi. The children of Cuba don’t have cell phones. The adults use pay phones. You don’t see access to the Internet, but they are slowly coming along and are opening up to modern technology.
Tabitha made it clear — along with the rest of her travel companions — Cuba was amazing and they were sad to leave, because the people hate to see Americans leave.
I asked Tabitha where she got her love of travel. She smiled and lovingly said, “Dad was a truck driver and I was always with him. And Mom traveled while she was pregnant with me.”
So where’s the next trip? She quickly said, “New England.”
After spending an hour or so with this delightful young lady, I found myself wanting to go to places she’s been, among them Syria and Turkey, just 2 of the 30 countries she’s been to. So the next time you see her, wish her Happy Travels.
Pictured above: at left are Tabitha Meador, Meredith Fyke, Annette Whalen, Connie Cavaletto, John Cavaletto, and Lamar Whalen having dinner in Tampa before sailing out.