Teacher Tristen Bodle travels the world

Charlotte DeForrest

“[Traveling] is what floats my boat. Some people like to collect money or cars or houses or they put a lot of effort into their careers to see how far they can advance. But for me, I like to collect experiences,” Tristen Bodle, a newly returned Redwood Spanish teacher, said. 

Tristen is an avid traveler who has lived in or visited close to 40 counties, including Sri Lanka, Oman, Thailand and Tanzania. He believes his fascination with traveling started after living in Costa Rica during his childhood and attending an international school for Kindergarten.

Following Costa Rica, Tristen lived in the Bay Area and graduated from Redwood in 1988. During his time at Redwood, Tristen was able to pursue his love of traveling by visiting Ecuador as a part of Redwood’s Amigos de Las Americas program. This program allows high school students to travel to Spanish-speaking countries and participate in volunteer work.

“I have always been naturally curious. I have always wanted to know what life was like in different places. I just wanted to see the world, even when I was at Redwood,” Tristen said. 

Tristen then studied abroad in both Ecuador and Spain while attending the University of Oregon. Following his graduation, Tristen toured several South American countries and volunteered for the Peace Corps in Bolivia, focusing on rural sanitation and creating potable water by building wells, water systems and latrines in the mountains.

“[Being in Bolivia] wasn’t always fun, sometimes it was boring. But, looking back on it, living in the mountains with the indigenous Quechua people, doing rural development projects, speaking Spanish and Quechua all day, was such a unique experience. Unlike being a tourist, I was fully immersed in the culture. That was definitely a formative experience for me,” Tristen said. 

In more recent years, Tristen, his wife and his children have lived in Saudi Arabia and Thailand, each for two years. In between their travels, Tristen returned to the Bay Area as a teacher, having worked at Tam, Archie Williams and Redwood. 

Sophomore Lucy Bodle, Tristen’s daughter, has been able to spend a large portion of her life overseas, immersed in different languages and cultures, due to her parents’ influence and history of traveling. 

“Traveling is such an experience. Once you have a taste of it, it’s hard to not want to keep traveling,” Lucy said. “Traveling was embedded in my dad from the moment he was born and my mom lived in Japan for a long time. So when they got married, they wanted to make sure we had those experiences too.”

Tristen and Lucy both loved that living in other countries allowed them to experience different customs and ways of life. For Tristen, his firsthand experience immersed in the unique cultures he teaches about allows him to bring his lessons to life through vivid detail and anecdotes.

“I have so many stories to tell about different adventures I’ve had. If I’m trying to teach grammar or vocabulary, [I like to focus on] how certain words or phrases can be used in the real world context, applicable cultural differences or even embarrassing things that have happened to me in my travels. [Sharing these things] gives students a little peek into life overseas and the different countries,” Tristen said.

Tristen’s stories and personal experiences are aspects of his class that his former student, sophomore Olivia Villanova, enjoyed. 

“Last year we did presentations on different Spanish speaking countries and it was really cool to hear his insight because when we were presenting, he would tell stories about being there and it made [the places] come to life,” Villanova said. “He was able to tell us what [locals] would say, instead of what people who were visiting would say. I loved it.” 

Villanova was inspired to travel by listening to Tristen’s stories and now wants to take a year off in the future to travel.

Tristen encourages traveling at a young age, as Villanova hopes to do, because he believes that it can teach important lessons including gratefulness and empathy. 

“At the core, we are all the same. We all want to live our lives, be happy, take care of our families and have access to the basics: clean water, a roof over our head [and] education,” Tristen said. “And I’ll admit, sometimes I get down on living in Marin. But then I have to remind myself that we live in an amazingly beautiful place and have access to nature and cultural events. A lot of people don’t have [access to the things we do in Marin], so [traveling] gives me a little more sense of gratitude for the things that we do have.”