Can you actually say you love your job and look forward in what it might bring each and every day? There’s one area man who can confidently say that he does.
From marveling at the majestic Pyramids of Giza in Egypt to fearlessly jumping off the world’s first bungee jump bridge in New Zealand, Randy Nadler has done it all in terms of world travel.
“But I still have yet to visit Antarctica,” he says.
Nadler has been trotting the globe for more than 40 years. Each summer he packs the same pair of shoes that have touched the ground of the six continents and more than 40 countries he has traveled to so far. After six weeks of experiencing different cultures, photographing famous landmarks and retaining knowledge of remote places from around the world, he later shares his adventure tales with local schools throughout the school year. In March he will bring his one hour educational assemblies to John Luff Elementary in Independence and Hazel Grove Elementary in Lee’s Summit,
“I’ve been real lucky in all of the places I visited and things done,” he says. He can’t pinpoint a favorite place because “all of them have been memorable.”
“I have enjoyed every experience. You really can’t compare to what you see in Egypt or wild mountain gorillas up close in Rwanda.”
How Nadler stumbled onto this adventurous line of work could be regarded as destiny.
“I started traveling right out of college. I had a degree in biology and one day a man offered me to go with him to the Amazon rainforest to take photos, and it grew from there.”
After visiting the tropical rainforest in South America, Nadler thought kids, specifically students, would enjoy hearing stories about his travels and also benefit from learning about other parts of the world. He has been presenting his adventures at various grade level schools in both Missouri and Kansas the last four decades.
“Back in the good old days, I had a 35 millimeter slide carousel that could hold up to 161 pictures. Nowadays I evolved to PowerPoints and jpg photos, as well as incorporate audio and video clips. I just want to make it more real for the kids.”
Eventually his school presentations weren’t just limited in lecturing about the wildlife and other biological aspects of places he visited. He expanded to include features such as a country’s customs and history.
“Initially I focused solely on biology, but once I grew and matured over the trips I got culture shock in seeing how other people act. It led me into all kind of facets to cover.”
And after nearly a half century touring the world, there are enough anecdotes to fill an entire book.
“One time I traveled from Peru to Brazil down the Amazon River with two guides who were kids. They were fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and other dialects and able to negotiate with the locals to allow us to lodge in a bamboo hut and rent mosquito nets for a couple bucks overnight.”
“On my most current trip, I got to bungee jump off the original bridge in New Zealand where the first two guys in the world performed that kind of jump. It was about 43 meters, then I went up the river and bungee jumped another time at 134 meters.”
Besides the exhilarating bungee jumps, has Nadler encountered danger during any of his trips? Surprisingly, no.
“I never had any issues unless you consider being two feet from a wild, 500 pound gorilla or near lions during an African safari inside a truck. Other than that, the only bad experiences I had was being victim of a pickpocket in Italy and one time an intoxicated individual confronted me about the United States and our drones.”
Nadler says he approaches each destination with an open mind. “I arrive at a place with the naiveté of a seventh grader. There are no expectations. I research just enough beforehand to get an idea of the country’s high points.”
He says that conversation with locals is essential in order to make a trip a success in terms of gathering information. “I have fun as a backpacker, and like to pick their brains. On an average day I usually visit a school, walk around a museum or visit landmarks.”
The globetrotter does not travel with a group, but sometimes he’ll meet people along the way and they become part of his journey.
During one particular presentation, Nadler came in contact with Franklin Smith Elementary teacher Rani Khakh in Blue Springs. She later told her husband about Nadler’s upcoming voyage to India, and he arranged tour guides once Nadler arrived there, and his family took care of Nadler while he stayed.
“I got to experience a real, authentic Indian wedding there, too.”
Despite the aid and support of teachers such as Khakh, Nadler says he now experiences obstacles in trying book educational assemblies at schools.
Nadler says today’s school curriculums are limited and precise due to No Child Left Behind mandates and the recent adoption of Common Core learning standards. As a result, he has to meet with school administrators and officials to ensure his presentations align with what they teach.
“I used to be able to pick and choose my field trips, but now I spend time with educators to make sure it matches with what they are currently studying. For instance, I met with the State Board of Education and developed a six-year plan to visit Egypt, China, India, Greece and Italy in accordance to their Ancient Civilization curriculum.”
His student audiences range from kindergarten to high school. He sets up his presentations on a primary and secondary grade level. “I talk about the six characteristics of a mammal to first graders (and) a New Zealand battle cry named ‘Haka’ for high schoolers.”
What Randy hopes kids get out of his presentations is both fun and knowledge.
“I have a little bit of a lot of stuff in just an hour. I want to open children’s minds and pique their curiosity by capturing their attention. First thing, I want them to have fun where they walk out and say, ‘that was cool.’ They should have a genuine educational experience where it is fun and the learning sneaks in without them realizing it.”
What’s next on his itinerary is either Japan, Russia, Germany or, of course, Antarctica. However, there is one detriment that may inhibit him on his next journey.
“I’ll be getting knee replacement surgery soon. Hopefully the doctor will give me the go-ahead and let me travel.”
Regardless of his knees, he says he’ll keep traveling and sharing his experiences as along as he is able to continue.
“My mom was a school teacher, too, and she said “you just know” when you decide to retire.”
Nadler recalls someone who had seen his presentation as a student told him of being a contestant on the television game show, “Jeopardy.” They said that if it not for Nadler’s assembly, they wouldn’t have answered two questions correctly.
“That was too cool.”