When Rosa Yordan was a young child growing up in the Bronx she would spend hours looking at the books that her parents had in their huge living room library.
Out of all the books that were there, though, the ones about travel intrigued her the most. “I wanted to read every single book, and I did,” Yordan, now 69, said. “But my main books were the ones about travel — I was so fascinated about it.”
Yordan’s love for travel was sparked by the trips that her parents would take her and her siblings on two to three times a year. And, in 2018, she finished her world tour having visited all 50 states and seven continents.
Growing a love of travel
“My mother who was the driver, she would say, ‘Okay everybody, let’s get in the car, we’re going to take a trip,’” Yordan recalled. “We would travel across the country, by car, or we would go up north into Canada or down south into Mexico.”
Yordan said that they never even knew where they were going to wind up, it was wherever her mother wanted to drive to. “My father would drive too,” she said. “But my mother was the one who loved to drive.”
Those trips instilled in her that traveling was a way of life. “You have to get up, and move around, see, experience and enjoy life,” she said. “That was the backbone.”
Two books in her parents’ library in particular focused on the continents, and Yordan said that it created a deep interest inside of her. She wanted to see all that the continents had to offer herself.
“I was dazzled,” she said. “To see a pyramid, to see pagodas, to see things that are not here in the United States.”
She would always go back to specific pages in the books, she said. “I just had this visual of what my life would be like.”
Even though her parents were not college educated, they emphasized reading and learning. Her father, originally from Puerto Rico, learned how to speak English from her mother, who is African American.
Yordan remembers one birthday when she got a bicycle and a dictionary. Where most kids would’ve grumbled about the idea of a dictionary as a present, Yordan was thrilled. “I was so happy to have that dictionary,” she said. “It traveled with me as a child to an adult to a married woman to a married woman with children.”
As she got older, and the family started to branch out from the tri-state area more into the country, Yordan said, she would be the one that would help navigate when her father drove.
With them, she visited at least 40 out of the 50 states.
A love for culture and scenery
Yordan said that Colorado would be her pick for her favorite state that she’s visited. She loves the scenery and the mountains and has been there more than once.
She recalled a time when she brought her children to Colorado, and they saw a family of chipmunks just flittering about. “I just thought it was fascinating,” she said. “I’m glad my children got to enjoy that as well.”
Yordan believes that every state has something to offer, but she doesn’t think she could live down South. “I’m a Northern girl,” she joked. “Born and raised in New York.”
After everywhere she’s been, she’s chosen to stay in New York — and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I do love New York,” she said. “It’s multicultural and it has everything to offer in its own way.”
She said she loves the talent, art, music, and options that New York has to offer, and how it has four seasons.
The last two states that completed her big 50, were Washington and Alaska.
Beyond the states
With her parents, she traveled to Canada and Mexico, and she’s frequently gone to Puerto Rico to visit her father’s side of her family. But after that, the first place she set her sights was Egypt. For most of her trips abroad, she was either with family or a tour group.
“When I went there, it was the best of times yet the worst of times,” Yordan said. “When I got off the plane, I did not expect to see a military base.”
Yordan visited Egypt in the late 1970s, around the time that then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Egypt-Israel peace treaty in March of 1979 in Washington, D.C.
“There were armed soldiers there to make sure that there weren’t any terrorists or people who were anti-government,” she recalled. “But the trip itself was oh my goodness.”
She got to go inside pyramids and tombs and learn about the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is the main Christian church in Egypt.
“I wanted to go to the most exotic place in the world at that time in my mind,” she said. “But also because there was a display at a museum in New York with different stuff from their country, and it really pushed me to want to experience that.”
One of Yordan’s favorite places that she’s been to is Italy, and even though she said that she doesn’t like to visit the same place more than once, she’s traveled there multiple times.
“The food, the culture, the art, the music, and all types of classical music, I just love it,” Yordan said. “I love Italy.”
Her “greatest adventure,” as she described it, was her exploration of Antarctica.
In December 2018, she headed to Antarctica with Quark Expeditions, a company that invites “citizen scientists” to join professional researchers in explorations of the Earth’s polar regions.
“For twice a day we went out and explored the peninsula of Antarctica,” she said. “You had to wear certain garments including rubber boots because the water can be as high as a foot and a half when you were stepping off, and it’s rocky water.”
Yordan recalled seeing penguins up close, and she described them as friendly. She also loved seeing the icebergs, seals, and whales.
When she came back from her trip, she took all of the knowledge that she learned and put it into a presentation, which she has now shared with several different groups of people.
Continuing her travels
Yordan was ready to head to Israel and Bali in 2020, but the pandemic stopped her from getting there, and she hasn’t traveled abroad since.
She’s looking to travel to Israel, Japan, France, and England when the time allows.
“The whole thing is just to keep it going,” she said. “Enjoy the beauty, the art, the talents, and the conversation that people have to offer.”