Pat Mundy, of Perry, will celebrate 50 years of teaching in the Perry Community School District next year. While she has taught inside the classroom for more than half of her life, world traveling has allowed her to become a student outside of the classroom.
She has kept curious and open-minded. She has brought lessons from foreign countries back to her students.
“There are things that I always knew from the onset that I wanted to do in my life: one was to be a mother, one was to be a teacher, and the other one was to travel the world and experience as many cultures as I could,” Mundy said.
She has befriended those from all around the world.
After losing her husband in 1998, she kept going.
At the age of 50, she began to travel.
Traveling to New Zealand
It was 1998 when John, her husband, passed away at the early age of 51. At the time, her son, Zach was 11 years old.
She asked Zach if he would like to go on a trip, thinking Disney would be the destination by default.
“He said, ‘I want to go to New Zealand,” a location where his father had always wanted to travel.
Mundy was involved in taking environmental classes during the time, and had a friend who was the head of environmental education for the State of Iowa.
Like clockwork, he held a workshop over the study trips he had taken to Australia.
After attending the workshop, she brought up her desire to travel to Australia and was instantly invited to join.
Funding for the trip was an issue, as well as her son’s age, Mundy explained.
The group, consisting of teachers, encouraged Mundy to attend as her son’s age would allow the group to adjust their teaching to a different age range.
The next day Mundy received a check in the mail from John’s job with the State of Iowa.
“I got his unpaid vacation check the next morning for enough money to cover the trip,” Mundy said. “We ran away for the summer; we were gone a little over seven weeks and the interesting thing was that because of the international dateline, we left the day before the first anniversary of his death, and arrived the day after.”
“The first anniversary of my husband’s death never occurred so it was just kind of like everything pointed in that direction.”
Years of sights
Since Australia, Mundy has visited around 50 countries and all seven continents.
“I find that the people I associate with and the kids I teach at school are fascinated,” Mundy said. “I think people are fascinated; more often then not, the comment that I get from women my age is that, ‘You’re so brave,’ and I don’t really look at it that way.”
“I just think there’s so much out in the world to experience.”
In conjunction with her travels, Mundy has paid tribute to her husband at each of the seven continents.
“When I started traveling, I made this commitment that I was going to write my husband’s name on every continent, either in the [beach] sand or desert, and the water or the wind would come and blow his name away,” Mundy detailed.
Antarctica is the last continent Mundy wrote John’s name at.
“I wrote his name on the snow and its probably still there because it doesn’t snow often there,” Mundy said. “I haven’t done it since because it was just the one time that meant so much.”
Mundy, who still subs for Perry High School, began traveling in her late fifties. She typically travels around once a year for a duration of three weeks to a month.
“Any places where there’s just purity and the whole idea of tourism hasn’t really reached out,” Mundy explained about her favorite places to visit. “Traveling to the purest state is what I love.”
There is preparation in finding the right trip.
“A lot of people want to travel but they aren’t willing to do the research – you have to do the research,” Mundy said. “You have to be prepared [and] you have to read a lot.”
Mundy has worked with companies who plan the trips for the thrill of adventure or for the sake of following an itinerary.
“I think a good way to go is to find a company that they align their philosophy with the kinds of things you want to see and want to do,” Mundy advised. “If you want to go on a cruise and you want every single minute planned for you, that’s what you should do.”
“If you want to see some adventure, you have to look at a different kind of company.”
Traveling through an adventure company, Mundy uses her travels to give back, meet others, and explore different parts of the world.
“There’s a lot of opportunities that come up and they’re not on the itinerary,” Mundy said. “Because it’s an adventure-based group, we don’t do large groups and we don’t go up in a bus drop off for fifteen minutes and get back on.”
“It’s really the road less traveled; we’ll be driving along and we’ll see something [and stop].”
Stopping by a wedding ceremony in Bali, Mundy and her group got the chance to meet two separate bride and grooms during the pit-stops.
“We went in and learned about how the men were making the food for the wedding and they were decorating,” Mundy said.
Leaving Bali, a late-flight allowed them to swing by a tofu factory where she found an Iowa artifact.
During trips, she likes to help and she likes to learn about other cultures.
In the past, she has assisted in building a school in Africa, assisted in making concrete blocks, spearheaded a project supplying grain-food to children in Africa.
She has also embraced several journeys that allowed her to grow spiritually, Mundy explains.
“I respect all religions; when I was in Israel I renewed my Baptismal vows in the Jordan River, but also when I was in Bali, I went to the Hindu Purification and I figured all of the help with God you can get is good.”
There have been only a few times in which Mundy felt nervous about traveling in foreign places.
Mundy, who visited Antarctica in a 60-passenger boat, says crossing the Drake Passage kept her on her toes.
“The Drake Passage to go to Antarctica is the worst water in the world,” Mundy said. “And you have to sleep with a seat-belt on in your bed or you will get thrown out [of the bed].”
At 65, Mundy participated in the South Arctic Polar Dip.
“That has got to be one of the things that I’m proudest of,” Mundy said.
It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, Mundy joked.
A sense of fulfillment
Traveling has opened her eyes.
“I guess I’m open to all kinds of ideas,” Mundy explained. “Like I always tell the kids that I teach, if you don’t want to experience new ideas, new cultures, new food, new surroundings – stay in Perry, Iowa – although we can do that in Perry, Iowa.”
Mundy, who says she would rather visit with locals than climb great heights to see a scenic view, appreciations the relationships she’s developed through her travels.
“I am willing to go into anybody’s home, to pick up any child that comes to me and wants to be held no matter what,” Mundy said.
She has witnessed poverty, families with broken homes, orphanages with children who just want to be hugged.
She has starred in photos with locals who are excited to meet an American, she has practiced English with students who are eager to learn more.
She is home in Perry. For now.
Mundy will embark on a new trip in a few months.
While she has exited the country many times, coming back is always special.
“Every time I come back and I see ‘Welcome to the United States of America,’ I get tears in my eyes,” Mundy says through tears.
“I’m glad to be home.”