If Louise Echols had to choose a theme song, the perfect choice would probably be “I’ve Been Everywhere,” which was made popular by singer Johnny Cash. Louise literally has been everywhere—every state in the union, every continent in the world, and, at last count, 124 countries. As if that weren’t enough, she has been to all of them at least twice.
Louise grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, where, after graduating from high school, she married her high school sweetheart and gave birth to two sons. Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce. Louise eventually remarried and moved with her new husband to Dallas, Texas where she spent most of her adult life—when she wasn’t traveling. Sadly, Louise’s second husband, who had been her travel companion for 12 years, developed cancer and died. She ultimately met and married Ed Echols, and they traveled the world together for 50 years before he passed away in 2020.
According to Louise, it was her sister who first aroused her interest in traveling. “My sister, who is just one year older than I am, started working for American Airlines right out of high school,” she explained. “She got a couple of free trips, and she took me with her to California to visit our other sister. That hooked me.”
Eventually, Louise also went to work for American Airlines as a ticket agent based in the downtown hotels. “That was back in the day when we wrote the tickets out by hand,” she laughed. “I did lots of traveling then.” As she explained, “The sales reps from the international carriers would stop by and they’d say, ‘Hey, do you want to go to Rome for the weekend? It’s 49 bucks, everything included.’ They wanted us to sell their services. I’d say, ‘I think I can do that’, and I did it several times to different cities.”
After 20 years of working with the airline, Louise decided it was time to retire. “I went home one day and told my husband that I wanted to quit,” she recalled. “He said ‘are you through traveling?’ I said no, and then I quit, and we kept traveling.” From the time she first discovered the joy of traveling until the present, Louise has flown around the world twice and cruised the world 10 times—and saw something new and different every time.
It would be nearly impossible to capture all of the exciting and unusual experiences Louise has had during her travels, but here are just a few: flew over an active volcano in an open cockpit bi-plane; flew over the French countryside in a hot air balloon; traveled to the highest point of the longest navigable road in the world (17,300 feet) in Tibet; walked on the Great Wall of China three times, in three different places; saw the stone figures on Easter Island; rode a camel in the Sahara during a sand storm; back-packed around England twice and Scotland once; piloted a boat through the canals of France; saw the oldest structure known to man when they were in Egypt; has been inside a pyramid; visited Stonehenge before they put a wall around it; and helped build a snowman on the deck of a ship in Antarctica.
Not surprisingly, it can be difficult for someone who has traveled so extensively to choose their most memorable, or favorite, moments. For Louise, one memorable experience that first came to mind was watching the tallest building in the world—Burj Khalifa in Dubai— being built over a period of four years—and being able to go in it after it was finished.
The experiences Louise says she thinks about most often are the times she and Ed used to drive around Europe. “I think we enjoyed that more than anything,” she remembers. “But as we got older, other ways were better. Some of the most fun things that we did were the little river cruises we took, like the Nile cruise we took for a week. We also took the long cruise across Europe. I really like river cruises.” As far as the most beautiful place she has visited, Norway is high on Louise’s list. She has been there 10 times, including this past August.
Throughout her years of traveling, Louise has collected numerous shells, rocks, fossils and other mementos from around the world, many of which are creatively displayed in her apartment. When she’s not traveling, she expresses her creativity through sewing, quilting and embroidery.
Louise moved to Cypress Cove, with her husband Ed, in 2016. “I’m so glad that I’m living here at this point in my life,” she remarked. “I often think what if I lived in a little house all by myself?” Although she’s been everywhere, her travel days are not entirely over. She intends to continue cruising when the opportunity presents itself, beginning with a cruise to the Caribbean she has scheduled in March.