Why We Travel: The Family Who Brought the World to Tennessee

I attended my first destination wedding last weekend in Orange Beach, Alabama. My childhood friend, Kyle Nuckolls, married his best friend, Lisa, in a beachside sunset ceremony, and I couldn’t be happier for the two of them.

It’s fitting that Kyle and Lisa chose to have a destination wedding. They are, after all, marrying adventure, too.

They both have that spritely spirit that looks forward to the future, respects the past, and yet stays firmly rooted in appreciation of the beautiful, fleeting present. In spending these few days with them, I came to realize that Kyle and his family had a greater influence on my own wanderlust than I had previously understood.


Kyle Nuckolls and Takashi Hagiwara, one of Kyle’s 14 “brothers,” visiting together as adults (photo: Lisa Nuckolls)

You see, the Nuckolls family served as hosts for over a dozen foreign exchange students while I was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s. When I asked Kyle about it this weekend, he said, without hesitation, “I have fourteen brothers.”

Those exchange students came from all over the world. Japan. Brazil. Iran. They found a foreign home in the tiny little town of Winchester, Tennessee. They were welcomed and embraced. And, by being newly-minted members of the Nuckolls family, they were instantly accepted and loved by the whole community.


Lisa and Kyle Nuckolls with Paulo Duarte, another of Kyle’s 14 exchange student “brothers” (photo: Lisa Nuckolls)

So, before I was given the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia in 1982, I was already being introduced to the world, one foreign exchange student at a time. The Nuckolls family brought the world to us, and we are better because of it.

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