There are not many people in the world who can say they have traveled to over 100 countries and gone on a six-month-long cruise across the world. Charles and Diane Jacobson are among the few.
After meeting at a singles dance, which both described as terrible, Charles and Diane hit it off. Charles’ first gift to Diane was a passport and they began to travel together. After 20 years, they have gone to over 100 countries.
Now, they reside in Gainesville, where Diane is a part of the American Association of University Women Gainesville chapter and Charles enjoys taking classes at Santa Fe College.
Once a month, they give a lecture on their travels at The Village of Gainesville. They tell stories, show photos and provide tips to others on traveling. Currently, they are working their way through the six-month cruise with the group country by country.
Charles and Diane plan to travel to Egypt and the Great Lakes this year.
The following are excerpts from a recent interview, which has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Tell me about your background. What inspired your love for travel?
Charles: I had been fortunate enough to be fairly successful in my business life. I worked very hard, long hours in corporate America, doing different projects. My area of expertise is finance and economics. I was pretty successful in my stocks and in investing. I worked on Wall Street as a trainee for the first year after graduating from university. Then I did accounting for a medium-sized public corporation and took a master’s degree at night. I went to New York to seek my fortune and had a number of positions. They basically learn the techniques of security analysis and financial analysis. They can look at a situation and usually figure out what the problems are and help make proposals as to how to fix it.
Richard Leider wrote “Power of Purpose,” and I found it pretty interesting. The author said I’m taking a small group of people to Africa, and we’re going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. If you like, you can join us. So I did, and I’m on top of Kilimanjaro when I couldn’t catch my breath. We were just huffing and puffing, and I made the conscious decision that I didn’t want to keep doing what I was doing, which was working 60 hours a week. So, I came back and told my partner we had to change. After the first week, things were not working, so we split, but my family didn’t like the fact that we weren’t making as much money as we used to. When I met Diane, I asked her to hit the road, and she thought I was joking. But she took me up on it, traveled across the US for almost two years, because our spouses had the houses. Our first foreign trip was in Thailand.
Q: Tell me about your meetings at The Village of Gainesville?
Charles: We collected our memories, and that’s what we’re sharing at The Village. We share every month an hour’s worth of memories from that trip. It’s been very fun for us to review the trip, and I think people are enjoying traveling with us as we go. We’re about halfway through—it’s taken 13 months to do the whole trip. What we do is we make a DVD of a trip and share it with the participants.
Q: What inspired you to start sharing your travel experiences with others?
Diane: That’s a good question, really, because normally, when people travel, and they come home, and they ask their neighbors or their family or somebody if they want to see pictures, they always say, “Sure.” Then it’s like, “When would you like to come over?” and they’ll respond, “I have to do laundry. I don’t know.” So, we wanted to find a place where we could share.
Where we used to live, we started a travel club for people interested in sharing their pictures. And that inspired us to make these DVDs, and to have a presentation to share with people who wanted to see them. Because some people like armchair travel, but it’s typically not your friends and neighbors and family for some reason. So that’s what inspired us to do that. When we moved here, we had these in our repertoire, so I just talked to the people at The Village that do the education or the entertainment, to see if they’d be interested in it.
Q: How did you get started collecting foreign currency?
Charles: One of the jobs I had was in corporate international, so I traveled to most of Europe and Latin America. But when you go on business, you don’t really see anything other than very nice hotels, the office and the restaurants. So, you stick a piece of currency in your pocket, and it’s not a big deal.
That’s what started it. One reasonably clean note was a bit of a challenge because in some of these countries, the money gets pretty grimy. And then of course in Europe, the currencies—most of the countries—are part of the Euro. I’ve been to a lot of countries before the Euro, so I have currencies that are no longer in circulation, like French Francs.
Q: What is the rarest currency in your collection currently?
Charles: Well, we have one note that is $100 trillion. And when we were there—this is in Zimbabwe—we had a $20 note paid for lunch. That shows you what inflation can really do when it goes round. From $20 to this $100 trillion, and it’s probably not worth the paper. I think for actual beautiful currency, the Maldives sailboats are beautiful. The old French Francs with the mother and children are nice. Another one of the more valuable ones will be the Japanese 10,000 yen or 1,000-yen value, and then the Swiss Francs.
The other thing that’s kind of interesting is the queen is on a lot of currencies in the British Empire. And about every five years, they do a new picture. So, in some of them she’s quite young and some of them are now more elderly.
Q: What is your favorite place that you have visited so far?
Diane: It’s like asking to pick your favorite child, but I found the most interesting place that I’ve been was in South Africa. And you know, Africa is a big continent, and people get kind of confused about the different parts of it. South Africa is quite unique from a lot of the other parts. I’ve actually been there three times now, and we’ve been through quite a few safaris there.
Charles: Well, one of the places that I really enjoyed was Ethiopia because it was a very different world from the one we’re in. The Simien Mountains in Ethiopia are just spectacular to hike in. A lot of people there are living almost a stone age existence in the mountains, one that’s isolated, and the world is quite different. You know, it’s not what I call the Euro-American-centric type of life. It’s very primitive. Some people still live in the bush. On that trip, we had a whole entourage of people and guards who would stay awake all night so nobody got eaten by hyenas and things like that. I mean, it was really quite rigorous.