My name is Joseph Fehlen and I live in Rhinelander, WI, which is four hours east of Minneapolis and four hours north of Milwaukee. Our town of 8,000ish people is the hub of commerce and industry of the Northwoods. After growing up in a small farming community, going to college and living in Minneapolis for nine years, doing a quick two years in Southwest Virginia, and experiencing family life in the Seattle Metro for eight years, we decided to move back to small-town living. But I still love to travel and experience different cultures.
When I was young, going to Eau Claire, WI (2 hours away) was us going on a trip, even though we were back by nightfall. When I got into high school, my parents had that 'our kids are going to graduate and we haven't ever done a family trip' feeling, so they threw me and my older brother into the truck camper and headed off to Washington DC. No joke, we got to DC, and my brother and I opened the back door of the camper as we drove through rush hour traffic into the Mall area. With feet dangling out the door, we passed the Lincoln Memorial and heard my mom yell through the cab window back to us, "Boys, there's Lincoln. We are not stopping in DC because dad says there are too many people.” We drove straight through and got back on the highway and ended up going to Colonial Williamsburg. (Don't worry, we closed the door on the highway.)
Travel was not something we did growing up. We stayed in small towns because we just might find a crowd if we ventured out. But that didn't stop my parents from letting me go on three different church mission trips to Mexico and Jamaica. It was the Jamaican trip that changed everything. On that trip I was gone for over a month and got to engage with many other young people from around the USA and other Caribbean islands. It was during this experience that I decided who I would marry (no, she wasn't on the team) and that I was going to get a degree in Cross Cultural Studies.
After high school graduation, I got married and have made travel and exploring a priority in our family. We have had the opportunity to take in big cities like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, San Diego, Houston, Philadelphia, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Cancun, Montego Bay, San Antonio, Rome, Athens, Denver, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit, Tallinn, Helsinki and, yes, we even got back to DC a couple times.
I have also experienced some other great monuments, historical areas, and fun places in other areas such as Mt. Rushmore, Grand Canyon, Utah Salt Flats, Appomattox, Monticello, Corinth, Ephesus, Redwood Forest, The Alamo, Gettysburg, Disney Land & World, and of course everything DC has to offer.
Then there are some of my other favorite places in the world that you might not have heard of because they are smaller cities and towns, including Stillwater, MN, Medora, ND, Sedona, AZ, Floyd, VA, Saugatuck, MI, Leavenworth, WA, Breckenridge, CO, Whistler, BC, Fiumicino, Italy, Voru, Estonia, Patmos, Greece, and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
This is not to brag, but just to show that small town folks don't have an excuse not to see the world. I look at the list and think, "Man, there are so many other places I haven't been.” But in between these journeys, we all live and as far as living goes, I choose to live in a small town. And we have so many great ones to be a part of.
So, let's not have wanderlust, let's just get out there and start taking it in one town at a time.
Oh yeah! I also have been married for 27 years, have four awesome children, a dauther in law and son in law!