Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 33° Cloudy
News >  Spokane

The Collector: Always stuck on world travel: Magnet collection a fond reminder of all the places she’s been

Nov. 3, 2022 Updated Thu., Nov. 3, 2022 at 1:09 p.m.

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Stepping into Jessie Lang’s Spokane Valley kitchen is like taking a trip around the world.

Her dishwasher is studded with magnets she picked up on domestic travels and her refrigerator is filled with magnets she collected on international trips.

As a girl growing up in Northern California, Lang remembers looking at National Geographic magazines belonging to school friends.

“I always wanted to travel,” she said. “My folks talked about traveling, but never did. I was 11 or 12 before I saw the ocean and it was just a couple of hours away.”

Her eyes sparkled as she recalled wading into the Pacific up to her ankles.

“Then I saw the Redwoods and I was hooked.”

In high school, she studied Spanish and hoped to study for a year in Mexico, but that wasn’t in the cards.

Most of her domestic travel happened after she married and her then-husband pursued graduate degrees. His job at EWU brought them to Cheney, where Lang found purpose and passion in the budding recycling movement.

“I looked around and saw the waste and the need,” she said. “I started a small nonprofit recycling center in Cheney.”

In 1989, she was tapped to be Spokane’s first recycling coordinator. Shortly afterward, she began booking an annual trip to a distant land and when she retired in 2002 she upped her travel game.

“I’ve visited 60 countries, all seven continents and most of the states in the U.S.”

Her overseas trips took her from Antarctica to Zanzibar and collecting magnets proved an easy and inexpensive way to remember her travels.

An iceberg with a penguin perched atop denotes her Antarctic adventure. To get there she said, “You go to the end of the world and take a boat.”

When asked what there was to do on the frozen continent, she smiled.

“You look at penguins.”

A colorful carpet magnet marks her visit to Kyrgyzstan and beyond.

“I did a tour of all the ‘stans’ along the old Silk Road,” Lang said.

In Morocco, she slept in a tent in the Sahara and rode a camel.

“Once was enough,” she said of the ride. “My camel was not happy with life.”

An elephant ride in India proved more enjoyable, but witnessing the vast disparity between rich and poor left her saddened.

While she’s seen many of the wonders of the world, she doesn’t really count the Great Wall of China.

“The smog was so bad we couldn’t even see our feet,” she said. “It was disappointing, but we did see the terra cotta soldiers and that made the trip.”

Though Lang said she’s not adventurous, she did take a hot air balloon ride in Turkey.

“It’s an absolutely beautiful country,” she said. “I’m a chicken, but when I saw where they would fly over, I went. It was gorgeous!”

Of course, sampling native cuisine is part of the travel experience. Lang ate guinea pig in Ecuador and warthog in Africa and more traditionally enjoyed pizza where it originated in Naples, Italy.

“I also acquired a taste for limoncello,” she said.

Lang always traveled with tour groups like Overseas Adventure Travel or Elderhostel (now called Roads Scholar). These tours offer opportunities to spend time with locals which she enjoyed.

“People are really kind of alike wherever you go,” she said.

As an example, she recalled traveling along the Amazon River in a boat. Their guide saw a man working on a dugout canoe and asked him if they could stop and visit with him.

He agreed and as he chatted with the tourists, his young son came running toward them with his arm in a sling.

“His kid had been playing Superman and jumped off the porch and broke his arm,” she said. “My kid would have done that, too!”

She made it to Mexico just like she wanted as a high school student.

“I visited four times – two of them were volunteer vacations where I taught English to high school kids. I loved that.”

When asked to choose a favorite among the countries she’s visited she said her standard answer used to be, “The next one.

“But how can you compare standing in the Greek ruins to, ‘Oh, look! There’s a lion in that tree.’ ”

Unfortunately, an injury brought an end to her world travels.

“I traveled till my late-70s until I fell and broke my hip,” Lang, 83, said.

Her colorful magnet displays remind her of the many places she’s visited.

“There was a world out there and I wanted to see it,” she said.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.