A pair of local residents took what would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many Kentuckians earlier this month, but for Philip Campbell, it was one of many adventures he’s found himself on over the last 26 years.
It started with an exchange student program in 1977, and while many high schoolers in Central Kentucky have hosted exchange students, not nearly as many can say they found a lifelong friend in the process. That’s exactly what happened with Campbell, when Guildo Marsano of Peru came to Kentucky in 1977 for three months.
Campbell returned from his fifth trip to visit Marsano and his family earlier this month and he was joined by his son, Wesley -- a senior at Washington County High School -- and lifelong friend Richard Davis of Frankfort, who is also a close friend of Marsano’s, but was visiting Peru for the first time. Campbell had most recently traveled to Peru in 2010 with his family.
“When we went last time, it was very family-oriented,” said Campbell’s wife, Erika. “Phil’s been adopted into the Marsano family, and Guildo and his family are all Campbells. This most recent trip was guy reunion time, because they’re all fast friends and that hasn’t changed.”
Marsano’s time here in 1977 coincided with the blizzards of that winter, which made for quite a crash-course in climate change for someone who had never seen snow to that point. Marsano even returned a few years later and attended the University of Kentucky with Campbell.
“His younger brother, Renzo, actually lived here in Springfield and went to St. Catharine for a couple of years (in the early 1990s). He lived with my parents.” Campbell said. “This isn’t just something where we’ve seen each other a couple of times. His parents were at my wedding, Guildo came up for my sister’s wedding, his brother came up for my parents’ 50th anniversary and I’ve probably seen his parents 30 times over the last 30 years between going down there and them coming here.”
The Campbell and Marsano families are even planning to keep the exchange student tradition going by bringing one of Marsano’s nieces here to study with Campbell’s youngest daughter, Gwendolyn -- a freshman at WCHS -- at some point in the near future.
Campbell said the most interesting part of the most recent trip was visiting ancient Incan ruins, and he talked about how different the scene at the popular tourist spot, Machu Picchu, is now compared to the first time he visited in 1986.
“When we went in ‘86 we went straight there in the afternoon and climbed to the top of the mountain and back down,” he said. “Now, because of environmental impact, they only allow 400 people a day to climb the mountain. If you’re not in line at about 4:30 in the morning, you’re probably not going to get to climb it. People have to go down there and spend the night to get in line.”
One thing that Erika recalled about Peruvian culture from their family trip in 2010 was how much outside influence there has been.
“In Peru, they’re touched by a lot of the world,” she said. “There were Russian cars, as well as American cars and the architecture is from so many different countries. It was really interesting to see how Peru is influenced by more countries than just the United States.”
Peru is far from the only place Campbell has traveled to since his 1986 visit, which was the first time he traveled outside the United States.
He was a C-130 pilot in the Kentucky Air Guard and also served six months in Iraq in 2003 on and off. Between his time with the military and his career flying internationally for UPS, Campbell said he’s been to 53 countries -- some he didn’t know existed until he visited -- on six continents.
“I tried to get a military summit to Antartica temporarily, just so I could say I went to all seven continents, but that didn’t materialize before I had to retire,” he said.
Having the opportunity to see so much of the world is something that Campbell is certainly proud to have been a part of, and he said the exposure has made him reflect on the culture he’s known his entire life. For that reason, he said he has encouraged all three of his children to travel the world and see as much of it as they can.
“(Traveling) makes the world a smaller place and makes you understand people a little bit better,” he said. “As Americans, we have certain entrenched values and a lot of times it reinforces some of those values, but other times you think there might be another way of looking at things.”
Campbell estimated that he travels outside of the United States around once a month for UPS. While he’s often only in a country for a day or two, weekend layovers are not uncommon, and most of his experiences are unexpected and are the result of friendships groomed from previous visits.
“I’ve been able to have a lot of story-book adventures,” he said. “People ask me what all I’ve done on these trips and I tell them I’ve fished in the Panama Canal, I’ve been inside the Great Pyramid in Egypt and stood in front of the Sphinx and I’ve played harmonica with the Ecuadorian Air Force jazz band on a deployment down there.”
Those are just a few of the countless memories he’s acquired through his travels, and while he’s had plenty of good times along the way, he’s also taken time to reflect on the historical magnitude of some of the places he’s visited.
“I’m into military history and have been able to go to Europe and spend a lot of time there with the military,” he said. “A friend of mine and I did a lot of travel to World War I and World War II sites and I’ve actually taken a train to Auschwitz, Poland to see the concentration camp there. That was in our parents lifetime that that happened, so that was probably one of the more sobering things that I’ve ever done.”
As for where Campbell could end up next, future visits to Peru to see his good friend Guildo are surely in the cards, but it’s hard to pinpoint what new adventures lie ahead. He did say that he wants to show his wife more of the places he’s seen, and Erika already has at least one idea.
“Our oldest daughter (Charlotte, a sophomore at the University of Louisville) is going to study abroad in Brussels, Belgium this spring. I want to go there,” she said with a smile.