Everyone loves a photo contest. I saw the theme of this one for TownePlace Suites and it struck a chord with me. TownePlace Suites asked travelers to submit a photo and a caption that describes how a travel experience was a positive turning point in their lives. From stories of perseverance to tales about life-changing events, the entrants shared remarkable “travel turning points.” While I wasn’t eligible to enter, here’s the trip in my life that was a turning point for me. It was my first trip to Europe.
It was 1954, just at the end of the Christmas holidays. I was flying over to Europe to join my ship the U.S.S. Randolph, which was an aircraft carrier -- World War II vintage -- that was plowing the seas of the great Mediterranean. The interesting thing about this trip was the mode of transportation. I had been in the Navy for 6 months and just completed a supply course school in Athens, Georgia. I came home for Christmas and left from Washington on the Navy constellation airplane.
The seats were put in backwards, so when you crashed you had a better chance of surviving. They were losing about one constellation a month, and so that was nice to know that you might be protected when you crashed. On the way over, I was given the responsibility to guard the very special correspondence that was traveling between Washington and London. There were bags of mail, and I was given a .45 pistol strapped to my belt to guard this mail and make sure that it got all the way to London without anything happening to it.
So we landed in Gander, Newfoundland. There was a big storm in London, so we couldn’t get to London and spent a couple of days in Gander. I had to wait underneath the airplane until everybody was off, my gun in my holster, in freezing cold, and then take the bag of mail to the duty officer who put it underneath his desk. I was afraid I was going to lose it, but I didn’t. Two days later, we flew into Blackheath Airport in London, and it was then that I was finally able to turn the mail over to my receiving officer on the other end.
From London we traveled to Naples, Italy, and then from Naples back to Valencia, Spain where I joined the ship, which was in Port Valencia. On this first trip to Europe, I got to see it in a very different perspective than now traveling on an airplane, at least facing forward.
Take a look at the terrific winning entries in the TownePlace Suites' My Travel Turning Point photo contest.
I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.