By Rene A. Rosencrantz, Community Staff Writer
Swartz Creek, The Swartz Creek News
Printed in The Flint Journal, Flint, Michigan
Sunday, November 24, 2002
Clayton Twp. - Gary Goodenough, 61, had never been to Europe before he spent
two months backpacking across the continent last summer.
The dream of a lifetime started when Goodenough, a General Motors retiree,
accompanied his daughter and son-in-law to Ukraine to adopt a baby.
"I was the nanny on the trip. While they were going through the adoption
process, I watched my 4-year-old grandson, Parker, for them," Goodenough
Hayden, 2, his new grandson, was the first awe-inspiring sight Goodenough
was to see in a trip full of them.
At an orphanage in Kiev, the family met little Hayden and made arrangements
to bring him home.
"From Ukraine, we went on to Warsaw, Poland," Goodenough said. "We were
staying at a hotel there and we were supposed to separate the next day. I
was so enjoying my time with them, I started thinking I might just want to
Unwilling to abandon his dream, though, Goodenough decided he was on a
timetable of his own creation - and if at any point he wanted to go home, he
Twelve countries later, he's glad he decided to embark on the adventure that
sent him carrying a 46-pound backpack across eastern Europe.
"The train system in Europe is fantastic, and I took that from location to
location," he said. "I wasn't really backpacking in the sense that I was
hiking, but everything I had with me fit in my pack, which was bursting its
seams toward the end of my trip."
Staying in hostels, people's homes and even a barn in Switzerland gave
Goodenough a perspective a typical tourist might miss.
"Being there and staying among the people there, I felt like I was a
temporary European, and I had a different outlook on everything," he said.
"It was interesting to see how our culture compares with that of other
Conservative in the conservation sense of the word, Goodenough said,
Europeans are very resourceful and frugal, walking and biking most places.
When they do drive, their cars are so small they might fit in the flatbed of
an American pickup truck.
Socially, however, open-mindedness is the mantra, especially in countries
such as Holland where the streets of Amsterdam were enough to make
"They have a little different attitudes about things there," he said. "Their
red light district is right there for everyone to see - it's as normal as
the mall. You see people walking around with their kids. It's definitely
different. It makes you appreciate America more."
Goodenough came to rely on the kindness of strangers, often staying at the
homes of the people he met, greatly reducing his lodging costs.
"Free enterprise is just beginning in some of these countries, and people
are looking at ways to make extra money," he said. "People ask me if I was
afraid, but I never really was. They don't have the same kind of crime like
we have here. I felt safe."
Friendly strangers aren't always the best drivers. Goodenough learned this
lesson when he hitched a ride with a couple from Germany.
"He ran a stop sign and there was a semi-truck coming," he said. "I yelled
to stop, and next thing I knew we were hit and the front of the car was
Fortunately, no one was hurt."
Although she was in touch with Gary every other day, his wife of 42 years,
Karen Goodenough, didn't hear the semi-truck story until he arrived home.
"I wasn't really worried about him," she said. "I heard from him and from
people who had met him. People would send me pictures of him over e-mail."
Karen admits she's not as adventurous as Gary, but said she'd like to
accompany him on the next trip to Europe. He'd like to travel to countries
he missed, such as France and Scotland.
Unable to pick a favorite country, Goodenough has no trouble settling on the
highlight of his trip, which came at its beginning.
"The best moment was when we picked up that little guy (Hayden) from the
orphanage," he said.
Rene Rosencrantz covers weekly news and features.
She can be reached at (810) 766-6331 or email@example.com.
Flint Journal. Used with permission