“Be flexible. Un-planned events are our favorites.” A Travel Chat with the Johnsons, former European Ex-pats.

by Janis on August 1, 2010

Traveler Interview:  Kevin & Shari Johnson      

Kevin and Shari Johnson enjoy traveling: Scotland, skiing and quiet islands with wild horses.


Growing up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Kevin and Shari Johnson didn’t think of living in Europe. Both graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and then Kevin added a law degree from the University of Missouri in Kansas City.      

The Johnson’s moved to Cincinnati, Ohio for Kevin’s job with Procter and Gamble, and Shari got her MBA from the University of Cincinnati.       

Through Kevin’s work, the Johnson’s relocated to Europe, first living in Bad Homburg, Germany, for two years, followed by two years in Geneva, Switzerland.        

After the European stints, the Johnson’s returned to Cincinnati for four years, followed by a move to Wellesley, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston) in 2006.  All of their moves included two kids, Duncan who is 17 and Brooke who is 15, and their pets – currently two dogs and one cat.      

We were curious about Kevin & Shari’s passion for travel, and to learn more about their European insights.        

The Jones:  What inspires you to travel?      

Shari:  I love the escape of traveling.  I love traveling with my kids and dogs, but my favorite times have to be when I get to travel alone with my husband.   I once heard a celebrity say she spent her money on travel, because she could always keep her memories of the places she visited, unlike her material possessions that can come and go.       

Kevin:  I enjoy the opportunity to see new things and experience new cultures.  I like how travel opens my mind to the world around me.        

What’s something you’ve learned from traveling?      

Shari: Don’t try to fit too much in a day and be flexible.  Often some of our un-planned events are our favorites.       

Kevin:  Plan one event per day at the most.   When we have tried to squeeze in too many things in one day, the experience just isn’t the same.        

Have you always enjoyed travel? What contributed to your love of travel?      

Kevin:  My enjoyment of traveling has increased as I have gotten older.   I think this is because  my expectations are more realistic and I am much more flexible than I used to be.         

What have been your favorite travel destinations?  Why?      

Shari:  I say I am not a “beach person”; however my recent favorite vacation was our trip to Vieques, an island off of Puerto Rico. This very quiet island and minimally-developed location was the perfect escape to our fast -paced lives in Boston.    

Wild horses at Vieques Island, 6 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.


Highlights of Vieques included swimming in the dark of night in the “Bio-Bay” with microorganisms that light up your every movement and the “wild” horses on the beach.        

Skiing in Colorado — especially Breckenridge — has been my consistent favorite escape.  There is comfort in returning to the same location year after year.  When you know where to stay and where to eat, you can truly relax.  Skiing is the one activity where we can get our teenagers to leave technology behind — for a short while — and engage with us.      

Kevin:  Paris, without a doubt.  When we lived in Geneva, Paris was just a short train ride away. Shari and I were able to enjoy a fabulous 4-day spring weekend in there.  The weather was perfect.  We stayed in a small hotel in the heart of the city.  We walked everywhere, saw amazing museums and enjoyed fabulous multi-course, slow paced meals.        

What destination has surprised you the most, either good or bad?     

Isle of Skye, Scotland, is a favorite destination.

Kevin:  The isle of Sky in Scotland.  This place is amazing.  The terrain is always changing.  I felt like we were on a different planet at times.  Plus, we stayed in this amazing bed and breakfast, Kinloch Lodge.   Every night, the owner prepared elaborate meals with fresh fudge and coffee for desert in front of the fire.  

Having lived in Europe, what must-sees do you recommend for a first-time visitor? 

Kevin:  I would put Paris at the top of my list.  And, I would not rush the trip.  There is so much to see and so much to do.  The list seems endless.  Often times with arranged trips, they let you spend two days in Paris and rush you off to another city.  This is criminal.  I say, be bold, go out on your own and enjoy.       

Any “insider” tips that you’d give to visitors to Switzerland or Germany?      

Shari: After living in Europe, we think the best party of Europe is the slower paced lifestyles.  There are a million beautiful castles and a million beautiful cathedrals  and you should see as many as you can, however, if you miss sitting in a sidewalk café and watching the people – or having a European style dinner that takes several hours, than you have missed some of what we think is special about Europe.       

Kevin: Agree.       

From your travels, do you have a practice or insight that makes your travel experiences more enjoyable and/or memorable?        

Shari: When traveling to a new location, I still start with a travel book.  This may seem outdated, but sometimes the search engines on the internet direct you only to certain things.  I want to have a broad overview of the area to start my planning.  I always end up on the internet, however, especially for booking our lodging.        

When traveling with friends, kids and/or dogs, we have recently been staying in homes we have found on VRBO.com or HomeAway.com.  First, you have the comfort and space of a home.  Second, the owners normally are experts on the local area and leave great packets of information about sites to see, and places to eat and shop.  The owners’ information is sometimes as specific as what dish to order at what restaurant.      

What fuels your travel passion?  Please share in comments.       

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