Bon Voyage, Alice

Who do you want to be when you grow up? Every now and then I consider this question. And, honestly, I’d mostly rather just not grow up, but I know that’s not entirely realistic. I look around at the people in my life, those who I admire and respect and love. Those who have had experiences like the ones I want to have. I listen their stories. And, in Alice’s case, they were fantastic stories.

On her 90th birthday; still as vivacious as ever.
Alice Hartsuyker: 13 Feb 1924 – 13 March 2015

One of her favorites is a tale from Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world. The story varies a bit each time it is recounted but the gist of it is that Alice and a number of other women were in Turkey as part of a dance troupe 30ish years ago. The journey began in Istanbul before making their way up the coast of the Black Sea to perform with and learn from the women of the villages along the way. The hotel in Istanbul was adjacent to the US Consulate and that presented a risk to solo American women visitors. Apparently getting into an elevator alone was an invitation to be taken captive by others seeking a visa to enter the USA. They would be taken to the roof where the US Consulate could see them being held hostage and negotiations would begin for their release in exchange for passage to the US. I have no idea if this was just a rumor spread amongst the women on the trip or real. Either way it is one of many great stories she told. Just a few weeks ago as I made my way to a conference in Istanbul she reminded me of this story and it brought a smile to my face. I would have loved for her to join me in Istanbul on that trip to see how it has changed since she was there.

There was a trip to Western China in the early 1980s, again with a dance group. Very few westerners were headed to China at that time and even fewer into the west of that country. Her stories about their struggles to get food or figure out accommodations were spectacular in many ways. I’ve had a few “interesting” adventures in my travels and I tell fun stories but her stories always left me wanting more.

She traveled the world. Whether by ship or plane or some other means she was seemingly always on the go. We are planning our own trip to Japan in a few weeks and Alice was able to chime in with advice based on her experiences there some years prior:

I must tell you about my experience at Kamakura. It was a clear and sunny fall day. I was alone and welcomed the tranquility and beauty. Suddenly, from the far end of the square, a class of pre-teen girls in school uniform erupted, shrieking a la Beatlemania and running towards me. I looked over my shoulder to see what or who caused this. Surprise! I was their target. The first girl to reach me touched me and all the other girls sighed. They were studying English and the teacher would give them extra credit if they talked to a foreigner, got her name and address and a picture. Cameras snapped furiously and then they thanked me and left. I never got back the serenity but did get a lovely photo of the Buddha.

Suffice it to say, I cannot imagine that we will not spend a decent chunk of time there next month on our visit.

On her 90th birthday last February she reminded everyone – her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and the odd interloper like me who just happened to get lucky and marry in to the family – that it was not her 90th birthday; it was merely the 51st anniversary of her 39th birthday. It is cliché and silly, but she lived her life that way. Her body may have aged over the years but her approach to life stayed nearly constant. She was fearless and creative and full of laughter and love and spunk. And she will most certainly be missed.

Bon Voyage, Alice.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. My condolences on your family’s loss. It sounds like she lived life on her own terms, filled with adventure. Godspeed.

  2. This entry put a smile on my face and warmed my heart. My sincere condolences to your family.

  3. At the end of the day, the one with the best stories wins. Alice goes out a winner — and thank you, Seth, for sharing a very small part of the adventures of a grand lady. A bientot, Alice…

  4. How fortunate you were to have Alice in your life: an amazing & interesting woman. Sincere condolences to your family, Seth. Vaya con Dios, Alice!

  5. What a lovely tribute to a beloved Grandmother, Seth. It is clear that she was a special part of your life. My condolences to you and your family.

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