Yesterday, Dean Cedric Rucker, sat down with me in his office and allowed me to bombard him with questions about his travels. Yes, by the way, you read that correctly. DEAN Rucker, as in Dean of Student Life here at the University of Mary Washington.
Words cannot correctly express the enthusiasm and passion Dean Rucker spoke to me with. He apologized multiple times for “going off on side stories” and all I could keep thinking was “No! Please go on, I love it!”. There are people that travel just for the sake of saying they’ve gone somewhere, and there are people who travel due to their thirst for knowledge. You can guess which category Dean Rucker fell under. I was able to sit down with him for about 45 minutes, and here’s what I got out of him.
1. Countries Visited: 100. Century club!
2. Of all the places you’ve been to, which would you choose as your favorite?
Comparing countries is like comparing apples and oranges; you simply can’t do it. You can’t compare Iceland to New Zealand, or England to Argentina. There is no comparison. I’ve had the good fortune of being able to visit many different nations in my life. Growing up in Richmond, VA, I couldn’t have even begun to imagine the things I’ve done today. I just didn’t think they were possible. Traveling the world like I have is the definition of a Liberal Arts education. Engaging the world, learning a little bit about this, a little bit about that, it truly broadens your perception. Each place I’ve visited has offered me different things, and therefore, cannot be compared.
3. What is your next destination?
I’ve got a few trips plan. I’ll spend this Thanksgiving in Colombia, and during spring break, I’ll be visiting Bali, Indonesia. I also think I have a Finland/Scandinavia trip brewing. It’s exciting!
4. You are the Dean of a University. How on earth do you find the time to travel like you do?
One of the best parts about working with a university is that we’re on an academic calendar, and that means we have breaks and holidays. I utilize this “free” time. And the best part is, we have breaks when a lot of other nations don’t. For example, Thanksgiving! One break I don’t utilize is Summer. During the Summer, everything is MUCH more expensive. Plane tickets, hotels, food, etc. That being said, winter break is one of my favorite times to travel, especially to the southern hemisphere! Because, there, it is summer! I go when it’s affordable. I make the schedule work.
5. How do you finance these trips? How can you afford it?
My first priority is traveling. I budget everything I do in order to have money for my travels. There are different types of travelers out there. I don’t understand why people need to stay in five-star hotels. All I need is a place to sleep, shower, and brush my teeth. That’s it. I rarely spend any time there, so why should I pay high prices for something I won’t use.
Another thing is that a lot of people try to stay as close as they can to the city centre. Why? Public transportation is cheap and walking through the neighborhoods around the city is one of the best ways to see the “real” life of someone from that country. And I stick out as somebody different. People want to talk to me! People actually stop me on the street and talk to me. It sounds ridiculous, but I’ve received countless number of free meals because people want to talk to me, ask me questions, or just work on their english with me.
6. When/where did the wanderlust begin? What made you have the urge that you do?
My first major trip was to Argentina in the early 1980’s. Prior to that, I had been to the typical American destinations, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, etc. When I arrived in Argentina, it’s safe to say I was confused. The people, the culture, the food, it was all different to me. But that confusion quickly turned into curiosity. It encouraged me to look for answers, to figure out why something was done the way it was. Why don’t we [Americans] do that?
Growing up, my parents did something that only the best parents do; they bought me the full series of World Book Encyclopedias. And I sat there, and I read each and every one of them front to back. At the time, I did’t realize the possibilities that were out there. I couldn’t fathom that, one day, I could visit these places that I was reading about.
7. Do you have a goal for all of your travels? Are you looking for something?
Education. Education, knowledge, and enlightenment. I have the strongest urge to know more. You can watch as many shows as you’d like on National Geographic, Discovery, Travel Channel, but nothing beats actually being there. Experiencing it yourself. Seeing it with your own eyes.
We, as modern day citizens of the world, think we know SO much. But when I visited a museum in Naples, and I saw that we are still using the same tools as the romans invented centuries ago, it makes you think twice. They were the pioneers, they were the chief engineers. Not us.
8. Give us the best travel story you can think of.
In high school and throughout college, I studied Russian as a language. One day, my junior year of high school, I was having a difficult time with the reading. Something in side me snapped and I sharked back at my professor. I screamed at her “I’ll never use this! I’ll never go to Russia. This is stupid.” Yadayadayada. She, calmly, said to me “You never know. You never where life will take you.”
I remember the first time I was standing in Red Square, tears were flowing down my face because I remember that moment. She said “you never know” and she was right, I never knew that I would be able to visit Moscow. Remember, that day in high school was at the height of the Cold War. Back then, going to Russia was unheard of. Yet, here I am, decades later, standing in the middle of Moscow.
Dean Rucker was a joy to interview. He encourages me to keep blogging, keep traveling, and keep learning. I hope I conveyed his passion as much as I could, because it truly is inspiring.