Globetrotting to sixth continent

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NKU student preps for mission in Ecuador, study in Ireland

By Robert Villanueva

Learn more about Erin Kelley's travels on her guest blog, where she will post occasional entries when she has access to computer. To check out her blog, go to www.thenewsenterprise.com/farfromhome, and look for Guest Blog: Far From Home in Ecuador and Ireland.




RADCLIFF — At her Radcliff home in late May, Erin Kelley displayed items from her travels: a long wooden instrument known as a didgeridoo from Australia, a tin jewelry box with a dragon design from Japan, a flute from Costa Rica about the size of a plum that transforms to a pig, cow or owl depending how it is placed.

This summer Kelley, 20,  not only is studying in Ireland, but, by traveling to Ecuador, she will have been to six of the seven continents of the world.

“I’m excited because that’s where I want to work after college,” Kelley, an anthropology major at Northern Kentucky University, said of the South American country.

During her travels — which in part will be a mission trip — Kelley will visit Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and Napo province, which is in the Amazon rainforest. She did not have an itinerary before she left but was told to expect to do work on schools, churches and other buildings as part of a mission that includes about 30 people from high school age to adult.

“All my mission trips have revolved around kids,” Kelley said.

The first 10 days of her trip will consist of visiting with her boyfriend’s family in Quito. The 10 days following that will be mission work. Kelley left Wednesday for Ecuador and she will leave the South American country July 11.

After arriving back in Kentucky on July 12, she will leave for Cincinnati the following day to catch her plane for Ireland on July 14. She will be in Ireland through July 29.

Kelley started traveling just before she reached ninth grade. Since then the Radcliff resident has been to Romania, Hungary, New Zealand, Australia, Panama, Costa Rica, Canada, Cape Verde, England, Mexico and Japan among other places.

In 2003, Kelley made her first trip overseas to Romania. That trip, in some ways, foreshadowed her upcoming visit  to Ireland.

“The first time I went to Romania we actually flew over Ireland,” Kelley said. She said the pilot pointed out the country. “Ever since then I wanted to go.”

Kelley’s trip to Ireland will be for an NKU course titled “Legends & Leprechauns: Exploring Cultural Heritage with Children’s Literature.” For homework before she goes, Kelley has to read books of Irish fairy tales.

“The ones I’m reading are very old,” she said.

Funding for the trip is partially provided by NKU’s Study Abroad program. Along with the educational aspect of her visit, Kelley is excited at the prospect of visiting the country of her ancestry.

“I think me going is actually better,” she said. “Getting to see it, rather than reading it in a book.”

The two-week study trip begins in Dublin and ends in Galway, Kelley said. She is most excited about the possibility of seeing some Irish castles.

“I’m finally going to one of the places I’ve really wanted to go,” she said.

All her travels are a far cry from Kelley’s first trip away from home, recalled her mother, Diane. She remembered sending her daughter to 4-H camp when she was in sixth grade.

“She said, ‘Mom, I’m never going to leave home again,’” Diane said. “I said, ‘We’ll see how that goes.’”

About a month later, Kelley was ready to go to camp again, her mother said.

Kelley’s first trip to Romania, Diane said, “opened the door” to her travels.

“So we try to support her, and limit her,” Diane said, explaining not all opportunities for travel were taken through the years.

That first trip to Romania also changed Kelley’s eating habits, Before that trip she was an “extremely picky” eater, she said.

While in Romania, Kelley learned it was insulting to the host not to eat the food offered.

Although Kelley travels to do mission work and enhance her education, she admitted that getting to see the countries while she is working and studying was “the selfish part.” She also gets more out of her travels than meets the eye.

“Each place I go to has a different meaning for me,” Kelley said. “Each place I learn something different about myself.”

Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743.