Some people have a desire to travel and explore the world. The feeling is called “wanderlust.”
Two Norwalk women have that innate wanderlust and have taken some amazing trips around the world with family and friends.
“I’ve always had that wanderlust,” Deb Ostrem says. “I always liked to get away. I never cried (as a child) when I went to camp. I liked being in different places.”
Ostrem’s parents took her few places as a child. Most trips were to the Wisconsin Dells or Grandma’s house. All of that changed in 1973 when a 19-year-old Ostrem took her first plane trip to Florida to see her brother graduate from the U.S. Navy.
A year later, she went to Europe for three weeks with a friend.
“Because we didn’t know what we were doing, we had quite an adventure,” Ostrem says.
The two flew into Luxembourg, not realizing there would be no train to Frankfurt, Germany, for several days. They met up with some other Americans who helped them get settled in the country and served as tour guides.
“We ended up seeing so much more than we had originally thought we would see,” Ostrem recalls, adding that Germany is also where she saw her first mountains.
She and her friend also visited Switzerland, Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Brussels, Belgium, while on the trip.
“That was my first taste of ‘This is fun,’ ” Ostrem says.
Micke Sevde, who was in Hawaii vacationing when interviewed for this article, says she always wanted to visit new places but wasn’t able to get serious about traveling until her children were grown and she retired.
“Everywhere you go, the world gets smaller for you,” she says. “I don’t care about your locale, terrain or the accent and sometimes, totally different languages — people are the same everywhere you go. You meet people who are really welcoming and want to help you. I think traveling reinforces that.
Travels take Norwalk women all over the globe
Ostrem has since traveled to 27 countries and 245 major cities throughout the world that includes trips to the Caribbean Islands, the Cayman Islands, France, England, Ireland and Hungary. She’s also been to 47 of the U.S. states — Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are still on the list. She takes about two large trips each year. Her refrigerator is covered with magnets from her travels.
“To me, it’s such a learning experience to see how other people live,” she says. “I think that’s one of the reasons why I really, really enjoy it.”
It wasn’t until her children were grown that Ostrem and her husband were able to travel as extensively, but the couple made sure to take their kids to as many places while growing up such as Disney World, Hawaii, Colorado and Arizona.
“Because I didn’t travel much when I was a kid, and I love it so much, and you can learn so much that I wanted to make sure my kids go on trips,” Ostrem says.
Ostrem’s two most recent trips include a trip to Ireland in October with good friend Sevde to see a singer who Sevde likes. The two have been on at least 20 trips since they began traveling together in 1996. And in November, the two flew to Budapest, Hungary, and did a Viking river cruise that went through Austria and Germany.
“Oh my gosh, we have so many stories,” Ostrem says of her travels with Sevde and other friends.
Her travel companions vary from trip to trip. Sometimes her husband goes, or they’ll go with a large group — they’re part of a group of 34 traveling to the Balkan countries in July. Other times it’s just her and Sevde.
And sometimes the two women travel with two other women — Cathie Elkin from Cumming and Linda Bright, also from Norwalk — in a group they refer to as the “Four Sisters Tour.” The group has been all across the United States together from Maine to California and has taken six trips to Europe together.
“We sort of plan what we want to do, but we let things happen, too, if we see something and think ‘That looks cool. Let’s check that out,’ ” Ostrem says of her travel style with her friends.
The women have lots of fun stories — many of which are inside jokes that only they would get — like the time they were on a London subway, got off on Bond Street, and Ostrem looked at a friend and said: “Bond. James Bond.”
Or the time she and Sevde got lost in London looking for a pub Sevde’s son had recommended to them.
“We didn’t know where we were going, but we just went because we go on these adventures,” she says.
The two women are very high energy. They like to get up and go, go, go and see as much as they can until they drop. Sevde says their husbands are both very understanding of their wives’ desires to travel and sometimes suggest they take the trips or do activities without them.
Sevde and her husband did quite a bit of traveling in North America while he was working. They took their daughters to Mexico and Hawaii when they were children and have done some traveling with them as adults.
Women learn how to find travel deals, the best ways to seek help when abroad
Ostrem still works full time, which is how she pays for her travels. Sevde retired about six years ago.
Both have learned where and how to find deals through the years.
Many times, they travel off season to get better deals. They use travel sites such as Expedia and Trip Advisor and book most travel and lodging through websites. On occasion, they’ll use a travel company.
They recommend doing research ahead of time and booking city tours early. The tours, Ostrem says, are a great way to see lots of different sites and attractions, and then make notes about what you want to return to later to see in more detail.
Also important is to make multiple copies of one’s passport. Ostrem leaves one with family and takes a second copy with her that she keeps separate from her passport in case it were to be lost or stolen.
Traveling all over the world has its ups and downs — security issues in different countries, language barriers, time changes and unknown foods. They always take peanut butter to go in case there is food they don’t want to eat.
The women have learned it’s always a good idea to ask for help, and that people are usually quite friendly to assist when in their homeland if the tourist is equally nice and even tries to speak the language.
“Sometimes the best thing you can do is stand there with a map and look pathetic,” Ostrem says.
“We have found that everywhere people are helpful and willing and would love to tell you about their home. If you’re friendly, they’re friendly,” she says.
The next trip is always on the horizon
Ostrem and Sevde’s next trip often starts over a glass of wine when the women and their husbands get together. Before the night ends, they’ve booked tickets for their next adventure.
“It’s always good to have your passport ready to go because you never know when you’ll have an opportunity to go somewhere,” Ostrem says.
Ostrem says it’s difficult to pick a favorite trip, though the one she and Sevde took to Paris, France, and London, England, was special. It was Christmastime, and London was beautifully decorated. She also liked being able to see the Eiffel Tower in person after seeing it in pictures and on television for years. She also enjoyed a cruise they took on the Danube River.
“It was such a relaxing kind of thing,” she says, talking about the hamlets, monasteries and mountains they viewed.
Sevde says she can’t pick a favorite trip.
“You can’t have a favorite place until you’ve seen them all, and I have a lot to go and hopefully the health to enjoy it,” she says.
Ostrem says she would really like to visit Australia and New Zealand. Sevde wants to visit the Galapagos Islands and swim with the turtles.
Sevde says she feels lucky to have been able to travel as much as she has, though the ability to do it came with time.
“When my girls say: ‘I want to live your life,’ I tell them the problem is you have to get old,” she says.