By Laura Newsome
Few things mimic the exploratory feelings of childhood quite like travel. When we travel, the world becomes new again. We become immersed in the sounds of strange languages we do not fully understand. Unfamiliar surroundings and peculiar foods are heightened by the customs of cultures we are just getting acquainted with. While adulthood is all about mastering the skills we learn in childhood, travel is a way to turn back the clock and explore the magic of childhood when absolutely everything we know about life is in flux.
“I’ve been traveling all my life,” says Ralph Davis, D.C., Dean of Life University’s College of Chiropractic. “I used to travel with my parents, and now I travel with my wife, LInda. It’s something I feel like I’ve done forever.” Davis has traveled to Greece, New Zealand, Budapest, Vienna and China (twice). At the time of this interview, Davis was busy packing for his next around-the-world adventure—seeing the legendary Christmas markets of old Europe. A bucket list item of sorts, Davis has always longed to see the brightly lit pavilions and colored glass lanterns of Europe’s city markets, where authentic scarves and skirts mingle with homemade toys, jewelry and famous cultural foods. “The markets are huge outdoor festivals where you find handcrafted gifts, and food and beverages only served at that time of year,” says Davis. “I’m most looking forward to Glühwein, which is a hot, spiced wine from Germany.”
As academics or small business owners, chiropractors are uniquely positioned to make travel a regular part of their lives, because they can set their own schedules and make their own hours. For Dawn Cadwallader, D.C., who co-owns Pro Health Chiropractic in Sun Prairie, Wis., with her husband Rob, world traveling has become a regular part of family living. Besides running a business that was voted No. 1 in customer service in her community, Cadwallader also devotes herself to growing the profession through LIFEforce 1000—a group dedicated to finding 1,000 committed members and filling Life University with students who are passionate and will spread Chiropractic around the world—and the Markson Connection, a chiropractic management group. Through her work with these two entities, Cadwallader takes frequent business trips that often morph into family vacations. “We’re a really big traveling family,” says Cadwallader, who notes that her 16-year-old daughter Sophie also loves to travel. “I travel once a month for work and we always try to take one big trip a year, followed by one or two more local trips.”
Recalling their trips to Russia, Hong Kong and Mexico, Cadwallader says she has too many good memories to choose just one favorite destination. However, she will always remember walking through the streets of Tokyo, climbing the peak to see the big Buddha in Hong Kong and chartering a fishing boat for her husband in Mexico, even though he was seasick for the entire trip. Cadwallader also treasures the time the family rented a van in Tijuana and spent two weeks driving up the coast, traveling along scenic Highway 1 all the way to San Francisco. “We’re a really fun family and we like to make everything crazy,” says Cadwallader. “We usually come up with a few things we all want to do, but we don’t try to set too much of an agenda.” On one recent trip, the Cadwalladers, who have become avid powerlifters, spent much of their time in Long Beach, Calif., looking for a beachside gym.
For Davis, the allure of travel lies in its ability to enlarge his world. “One of my favorite trips was to the Greek Island of Skopelos, where they filmed the movie ‘Mama Mia,’” he recalls. For days, Davis and his wife relaxed the Grecian way, visiting many of the stunning sites from the movie, including the church set high atop a rocky cliff on the edge of the island. To his surprise, the tiny church, which appears to hold dozens of people in the movie, is really a chapel just big enough for three or four people. “That desire, the idea of being a collector of memories, a teller of stories—travel gives me the ability to have all these stories of what places are really like,” says Davis. “I have kind of a reputation because I like to eat, and people like to ask me for recommendations because I know the best places to eat in many parts of the world.”
For Cadwallader, travel wasn’t always a priority on her agenda. “When we owned our first practice we didn’t take a vacation for five years and we ended up getting really run down,” she says. “You have to incorporate rest into your practice, or else you’ll never end up taking a vacation. In reality, patients love to see you take time for yourself.” Every September, the Cadwallader family begins setting goals for the New Year, including goals that determine which vacations they will take during spring break, summer and over the holidays, including one trip that is usually outside the country.
“You just have to make the decision to make travel a priority—working hard to play hard—otherwise life can become drudgery,” says Davis. “I’m not wealthy by any means, and we have to save to make these trips happen, but we say, ‘We want to go to this place next year,’ and we try to go on a big trip every three years or so. Otherwise, we take annual trips to the coast or the mountains. I can have just as much fun driving to Tybee Island and hanging out at a crab shack.”
For the Cadwallader family, dream travel destinations include New Zealand, remote Mexico, a visit to Dawn’s ancestral home, the Netherlands, and a South African hunting safari with a stop in Cape Town. “Anytime I travel, I find that I’m reenergized by seeing what other cultures are like,” says Cadwallader, who notes that her world-traveling daughter’s favorite food as a child was sushi. “I get wrapped up in the food and the culture and come back even more enchanted with what I have at home. I appreciate everything that much more and am not afraid to try new things because I realize there’s this vast ocean of things to experience. Travel makes me a more open-minded, better-rounded person, and it has brought more excitement and positivity into my life.”
After seeing the great antiquities of Athens, Davis is looking forward to a trip to visit chiropractic college friends who have settled in New Zealand, as well as trips to dream destinations like Rome and London. “Linda is Italian, so we definitely want to go there, and England is a place where we love the culture, British humor and TV shows like ‘Downton Abbey.’” Before every trip, Davis tries to pack light with the help of a monochrome wardrobe, and he reads up on his desired destination instead of opting for packaged tours. “I use the Internet to book trips and I feel comfortable that I can make my way almost anywhere in the world,” he says. “Being culturally sensitive and just learning how to say thank you in a given language goes very far. Don’t be that loud American; use good manners and learn a little bit about the local customs.”
While travel can be good for the soul, well-traveled chiropractors are also an asset for a profession that is growing by leaps and bounds around the world. “You start realizing that the way you see the world isn’t always right,” says Davis, “and nowhere is that more eye-opening than in China, because the more you travel the more you see that despite cultural differences, people are the same all over the world. As children growing up in the 1950s, we were taught to be afraid of places like China, because it was a weird place with weird people. And then you actually go there and you are invited into people’s homes, you share meals with them, and it changes the way you see things. You come back unable to stereotype people and places.”
While Chiropractic has come a long way from the fields and farms of Iowa, Davis believes that cultural sensitivity is key to growing a profession that seems uniquely positioned to succeed in many parts of the world. “If anything, my world travels have made me angrier about the state of my profession here in the U.S., where we are so dominated by competitive therapeutics,” says Davis. “In places like China and Greece, professionals work together to decide what will work best for the patient—none of it is based on ego. LIFE’s Global Initiative is the next growth area, and internationally we are taking a leadership position so that we can be sure the same craziness doesn’t happen overseas like it did here. B.J. Palmer believed that eventually Chiropractic would be bigger outside the U.S. than in it, and eventually that will influence how Chiropractic is practiced in this country.”
For Cadwallader, bringing her profession beyond American borders changed her life. “When I did a ChiroMission to the Dominican Republic, it really opened my mind to the poverty in other parts of the world and made me count my blessings that much more,” she says. “And in traveling to China with other chiropractors, part of my mission was to spread the message of Chiropractic throughout the world. Spending time with greats like Dr. Riekeman made me really realize that there are not enough chiropractors. We need to be less competitive and realize that we have a responsibility to grow Chiropractic around the world—to help the world see that we are nervous system doctors, not just pain doctors, and to get out of our own way.”
According to Cadwallader, the future of Chiropractic is a lot like the risk involved in traveling to strange lands. “You have to be unafraid,” she says. “You have to dream it and have a goal and follow through on reaching that goal. If you never stop to take a vacation, and never stop to give back to the profession that’s given so much to you, your life will pass by before you know it.”