Many people say they want to travel when they retire. Globe-trotter Ginny Thigpen says, “Do it today.” This retired college professor from Gallatin, Tennessee, has visited six of the seven continents and has Antarctica on her schedule for ’08 or ’09.
On a trip to Greece with her husband, Walter Thigpen (Knoxville ’59), who died in 1997, Ginny recalls encountering an elderly woman at the foot of the hill at Delphi, home of the Temple of Apollo. The lady wasn’t able to make the climb; her husband had gone on without her.
“I realized we should travel to the places we wanted to see now without waiting until the house was paid for, or we retired, or the kids were grown, or the grandkids were grown–any number of reasons people have for postponing travel,” Thigpen (Knoxville ’63, ’70) says.
“I vowed as a widow that I was not going to let the grass grow under my feet. I want to travel to places now that I think might present more physical difficulties as I get older. A trip to Machu Picchu was really a challenge, as were the Galapagos. I want to go to Angkor Wat and to the Egyptian pyramids while I can still enjoy them.”
Thigpen usually travels with friends and says she’s a “cheap” traveler–“you can do more trips that way!”
She headed the Communications Department at Volunteer State Community College until 2004, and she chairs the Sumner County Election Commission. Her first international trip came while she was a UT student. “My dad was a UT professor, and we traveled extensively in the U.S. in the summers. My first trip to Europe was in nineteen sixty-one with the UT Singers.” Her husband-to-be was on the trip too, and their relationship blossomed at Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-on-Avon.
She says her children, Dr. Michael Thigpen (Knoxville ’91) and Kyle Thigpen, a Middle Tennessee State grad, inherited the travel gene. “Michael works for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and travels regularly to Switzerland and to several African countries.” Kyle traveled with his mom to China and also went to Afghanistan as a photographer for Nashville’s NBC Channel 4. Ginny Thigpen’s most recent trip was to Portugal, Spain, and France with a group of six women.
Travel is certainly a pleasure but also a learning experience, she says. “The world is the greatest classroom a person could enter. My philosophy is simple: Do it today. “When I get really old and unable to be adventurous, I’ll take bus trips around this beautiful country we live in. I truly believe the U.S. has as much or more to offer in the way of beautiful scenery and lively, varied cultures than almost anywhere else in the world.”