Many people harbor dreams of traveling to London, Paris, or Rome, but former Tabor College professor Richard Kyle has seen enough of them for one lifetime.
Of the 31 trips he’s led for Tabor College students, 29 of them have been to Europe. Nevertheless, three years into retirement, the 77-year-old professor emeritus of religion and history is eager to expand his already-broad horizons.
“I don’t intend to go see London for the 20th or 30th time, even though it’s a lovely city,” Kyle said. “Now I’m more into seeing places I haven’t seen. I’m not on my own going to return to Europe. I may direct a trip at some point, but I’m going to be visiting places I haven’t been to.”
Kyle’s list is smaller than most. He’s already been to 65 countries, accompanied to 30 of those by more than 700 Tabor students.
“I tried to vary it,” he said of the college trips. “I’ve had some students go three times because they were different places. I’ve done Scandinavian trips, Russian trips, I’ve done a lot of the northern European countries and the British Isles, places like that.”
Kyle and his wife, Joyce, came to Hillsboro in 1972 from Albuquerque, where Kyle had just earned a doctorate from the University of New Mexico, one of five degrees he holds. In addition to teaching, he also was tabbed to coach Tabor football.
His foray into student trips began in 1976 when he took a group on a tour of historical sites during the nation’s Bicentennial celebration. Not long after that, he co-directed a college choir trip to Europe.
“My doctorate is in European history, and the choir asked me to go along,” Kyle said.
After that, he started directing his own study trips focused on religious history, and homework was part of them. Students had to read books and turn in book reviews, and they took tests in airports over material Kyle provided ahead of time.
“I believe that to have a good experience you have to know something about what you’re seeing,” he said. “I learned not to just sit and bore them with lectures when they get to these cities.”
Religious history connections were part of everything from art museums to German concentration camps, so Kyle exposed students to a variety of venues off the beaten path. However, he also hit the tourist attractions.
“Someplace like the Eiffel Tower is more touristy than it is historically relevant, but I’m not going to not take them to the Eiffel Tower when we’re in Paris,” he said.
Trip logistics have become easier over the years, Kyle said, through the advent of the Internet and email, and the ease of movement between countries because of the formation of the European Union.
Still, every trip had its issues. Most common among them, Kyle said, were lost passports.
“Three or four times in a trip students have lost passports,” he said. “They knock on the door at 4 in the morning and we’re leaving at 8. You can go to a consulate to get a temporary one to carry you over, but you can’t do that at 4 in the morning. I’ve had them actually right at the train station shriek ‘Where’s my passport?’”
In more recent trips, including the three Kyle has led since retiring, he’s used a common itinerary to make scheduling easier. His latest trip in January may have marked a milestone.
“That should be the last trip,” Kyle said.
But travel is still part of Kyle’s retirement plans, along with writing. Although his pace has slowed a bit, he’s working on his 12th religious history book.
“I should be doing more writing,” he said. “When I was working I pushed myself much harder. Now, well, when I get it done, I get it done.”
The Kyles recently returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand, but they won’t be home long.
Their first son, Bryan, died at 29 from leukemia, but a trip to Colorado Springs to see their other son, Brent, a professor at the Air Force Academy, is coming soon.
“He recently got engaged and we haven’t met his fiancé,” he said.
The couple took a trip to Texas last fall to visit three presidential libraries. They plan to visit more of them, Kyle said, and probably go on some cruises together.
However, Kyle still has his sights set on travel abroad.
“I don’t know if I can get my wife to do much more international travel, but I still have places on my bucket list — India, and I’d like to get to sub-Sahara Africa.”