The plotline of The Amish Nanny, the second book in The Women of Lancaster County series that I co-authored with Mindy Starns Clark, includes a trip to Switzerland, where the Amish originated. Our protagonist, Ada, travels to Europe by ship and then inland by train, but she returns home by airplane. We thought it was quite daring to have her fly—and in the story we had her bishop grant her permission to do so.
A couple of years after the novel came out, I met my friend Marietta Couch who grew up Amish. There are many, many things that have drawn me to Marietta (that’s a whole ’nother post!), but one of the things that fascinated me immediately was that she had traveled to both Europe and the Holy Land as a member of the Amish church.
And she didn’t need to get permission from her bishop to do so either.
While growing up in Indiana, Marietta’s family traveled substantially in the U.S. Her parents, Elmer and Anna Byler, took Marietta and her three sisters to Colorado by train when Marietta was fourteen. “I will never forget the first look at Pikes Peak from Manitou Springs, where we stayed,” Marietta says. The family did a lot of hiking and went to Native American dances held in the park. They also took a tour bus up to Pikes Peak, stopped at the Flying M Ranch for barbecue, and visited the Garden of the Gods, along with other sightseeing trips too.
The family traveled to Niagara Falls one year and visited Mackinaw Island on the same trip. Another time they went to Turkey Run State Park in southern Indiana.
In 1972 when Marietta was in her twenties—single and working—she and a friend started talking about going to the Holy Land. They ended up joining a tour and traveling to Rome, Athens, Egypt, Israel, Switzerland, England, and then back to New York. “When we landed in Rome the world became so much smaller for me,” Marietta said.
She also remembers, “…guards all around the inside of the airport in Egypt holding guns. It was scary, not just because of my [non-resistant] background but just the atmosphere at the airport. Everybody was a little uneasy. It made me very aware of what freedom really meant.”
Two years later Marietta traveled to Amsterdam, Vienna, Israel, Rome, Madrid, back to Amsterdam, and then to New York again. She explained, “…traveling to foreign countries with a group of people that knew very little about the Amish helped me to accept myself for who I was.”
In 1978 her parents also traveled to Europe and the Holy Land, but instead of flying they sailed on the Queen Elizabeth II.
One of their fellow travelers, Monroe A. Weaver, wrote a book about the trip: Amish Europe and Holy Land Tour via Queen Elizabeth II.
Traveling for Plain people is nothing new. For example, in 1908 Jonathan B. Fisher from Lancaster County, PA traveled to Europe. In 1934 he took a trip around the world, visiting Cuba, Panama, California, Japan, China, Singapore, Java, Sumatra, the Middle East, back to Europe, and then on home to the U.S. In 1952 Jonathan took one last trip to Europe with a relief agency to help with restoration after World War II. Harold Hartzler wrote a book about Fisher’s travels called Amishman Travels Around the World: The Life of Jonathan B. Fisher.
Plain folk continue to travel today—all around the United States and to international locations too. Like many of us, a sense of adventure, a desire to see the world, and an interest in other cultures compels them to “hit” the road and explore new places.
Leslie Gould is the #1 bestselling and Christy Award winning author of 19 novels. She and her husband, Peter, live in Portland, Oregon and are the revolving-door parents of four children, three who are young adults, and the owners of three cats. Leslie loves researching church history, seeing Shakespeare plays, and traveling with her hubby, mainly on research trips. Her latest series is The Courtships of Lancaster County.
Purchase Leslie’s books here.
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