One fun side effect of travel is that warm, wistful feeling you get when you’ve been away long enough to remember just how much you love home. For Wendy and Todd McMinn, home is a corresponding reminder of just how much they love their travels.
The walls, shelves, and surfaces at the McMinn house feature a mosaic of global artifacts, telling the story of a lifetime of adventures. A German cuckoo clock, Chinese mask, Turkish lamps, Dutch wooden shoes, dolls from Guatemala and Colombia, glass piggy bank from Austria, and artwork from all over the world are just a few examples of the cache of vibrant items that decorate their Omaha home.
“We’ve been really blessed with the opportunity and ability to travel. When we first got together, I told Todd, ‘You have to have your passport,’” says Wendy, a nurse with a lifelong love of experiencing far-flung places. “Our home and spaces around the home reflect the places we’ve traveled and the different cultures and people we’ve met along the way.”
When Wendy’s military father was stationed at Ramstein Air Base, the family spent several years of her childhood in Spesbach, Germany. Her parents were intentional in ensuring that she and her brother got a full cultural experience.
“I never knew any different, and my parents always made it fun. My mom is from Louisiana, so she said, ‘Guten tag, y’all,’” recalls Wendy of the way she witnessed the blending of cultures from a young age.
She has many vivid memories from those formative years, like volksmarsching (a recreational walk meant to help engage American military families with the community), learning to swim at the schwimmbad, and trading chocolate chip cookies for sweet bread at the bäckerei downstairs.
The family also traveled throughout Europe during this era, and though they returned to settle in Nebraska in 1983, Wendy’s love of travel endured.
“My mom took me to Holland when I was 10; we saw the windmills and dams and had a really neat experience,” Wendy says. “We went to Heidelberg and all these different places…I felt such a value in those experiences and wanted my kids to learn that value and see different parts of the world like I did.”
Todd, a physician who grew up with more of a domestic family road-trip exposure to travel, agrees that their children—Harrison, 22; Emily, 20; and Grace, 18—have benefitted from seeing the world.
“Wendy encourages international travel, whether that’s mission trips she’s done with the girls, study abroad opportunities, or other travels,” Todd says. “Traveling with the kids has been a great learning experience for them.”
Some of the McMinn family’s favorite journeys have taken them to France, Germany, Holland, and the United Kingdom. On a crowded list of future travel wishes, Wendy says Spain, Australia, Russia, South Africa, and Iceland top her list.
The McMinns like to strike a balance of planning without rigid overplanning when they travel; they use public transportation when possible, and they always travel light. They especially love to visit art museums and historical sites, and they have a family tradition of grabbing a snack or coffee in museum cafes. When the kids were younger, Wendy and Todd would ask them each to pick an attraction in their destination city to research, then when the family was on-site, they would share information they’d gathered about those places with the rest of the family.
“For example, one of my kids picked the Trevi Fountain when we visited Rome, so when we got there it was her job to tell us all about it,” Wendy says. “It gave them some ownership and got them excited about the upcoming trip.”
The McMinns have certainly succeeded in passing their love of travel on to their three children, which Wendy says comes not just with its obvious pleasures, but also with an expanded worldview.
“I realized very young that there are lots of people out there, and many of them are so different than me, but that’s so cool. There’s a lot of difference out there, but it’s not to be feared,” Wendy says. “Travel is just such a deep-down part of who I am. Seeing other people and cultures when I was younger, I got a sense of the bigger picture and just how big the world is.”
Just like a typical McMinn itinerary, their travel-related home décor isn’t overplanned.
“It wasn’t preplanned; it just is,” Wendy says. “All of this stuff is just a part of us and our memories.”
“There’s no structure or plan to it,” agrees Todd. “But every item has a story that goes with it and sentimental meaning to our family.”
This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home.