Tonopah and the Lady in Red

You might think only of Las Vegas or Reno when you think of Nevada. And that’s reasonable, since roughly 84% of Nevada’s 3.1 million residents live in those two areas. But there’s a lot more to the state, in terms of history and character, represented by the roughly 500,000 people that live in the rest of the state. The names of some of Nevada’s towns literally scream out, begging for investigation. Names like Ely, Winnemucca, Elko and Mesquite. How about Stagecoach, Jackpot and Virginia City? It’s enough to make your head swim.

IMG_4545So, when our traveling twosome first came to the Silver State, one of the first hot spots (literally) we visited was the Nevada mining town of Tonopah, located approximately midway between Las Vegas and Reno, at the intersection of Highways 95 and 6.

Tonopah’s main reason for existence was the Silver Top and Mizpah mines, now the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. Prospector, Jim Butler, accidentally discovered gold and silver here in 1900 and Tonopah quickly became a wealthy boom town with over 50,000 people. Once known as the “Queen of the Silver Camps”, Tonopah’s fortunes fell once the mines started to play out in 1906 and the town now has a population of about 2,500. There’s still some mining  going on however.IMG_4549

IMG_4550       Heroic Miner: Big Bill Murphy

IMG_4546But one of the big highlights for us was staying in the historic Mizpah Hotel. When we booked our room on the 5th floor, the top floor, somehow we neglected to do our research. We didn’t even notice that the hotel’s website proclaims in small print: “Voted the #1 Haunted Hotel in America by USA Today”. How could we have missed that? Built in 1907, the Mizpah was the tallest building in Nevada until 1927 and it’s fortunes have risen and fallen and risen again, just as Tonopah’s has. 

Lady in RedThe big draw for the hotel, which we had failed to notice, is the ghost of the Lady in Red. The legend is that a young prostitute who worked the hotel, was spotted one evening by a jealous ex-lover as she left the room of another client and was then brutally murdered in the 5th floor hallway outside Room 512. Her ghost apparently continues to haunt the hotel, and especially the hallway just outside the door of our 5th floor room.

Before we had even heard about the lady’s ghost, Tanya swears she heard creaking both inside and outside our room during the night. I told her, “Hey, it’s an old hotel, naturally it creaks.” But the two young women working at the front desk the next morning confirmed that not only the Lady in Red haunts the hotel but the ghosts of several others, including those of a pair of young children who run through the 4th floor halls, laughing. Does this sound like “The Shining”? One of the two hotel clerks told us about her boyfriend who was working on the hotel’s restoration in 2011 who felt one of the hotel’s sprits pushing him down on a hotel bed with cold hands and not allowing him to get up. There’s even a photo album in the hotel lobby with some photos taken by guests, showing shadow images of spirits in their pictures. Now, we’re not necessarily believers in ghosts, but one does wonder.

In any case, staying at the Mizpah was a fun experience. And, Tonopah is worth a visit.

Posted in USA | 6 Comments

In the Land of the Haligonians

Our traveling pair is originally from Oregon. We are, or were, Oregonians. Folks to the north of us are called Washingtonians, to the south, Californians. So far, this makes sense. Similarly, we have Virginians, South Carolinians, Kentuckians and Mississippians. We even have Delawareans, which frankly seems a bit odd. But then we have states whose residents’ identifiers end with “er”: New Yorkers, Vermonters, Marylanders, Mainers. Those name endings sound very logical. But then, Vermontian and Marylandian don’t sound too bad either. But why aren’t any of these folks from states ending with “n” called “ites”? We have Wisconsinites so why not Oregonites or Washingtonites? After all,we have Michiganites. And then we have New Hampshirites. How about Massachusetts? These folks aren’t called Massachusettsians, Massachusettsites or even Massachusettsers. They’re simply called Bay Staters. That’s neat but how would anyone not familiar with that name ever figure out it refers to people from Massachusetts? By the way, there’s a word for a resident of a particular place. It’s called a demonym. But that’s another story.

And then we come to the place our two Nevadans (or Nevadians) visited this summer, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Residents of this Canadian maritime province are called Nova Scotians, so naturally one would assume people from its capital, Halifax, would be called something like Halifaxians. But no, they are….drum roll please…Haligonians! Huh? The town isn’t called Haligonia. How the heck did this nomenclature develop?

After a little searching, I came across a post from the website, sesquiotica.com that attempts to explain this. In a somewhat tortured description, the facts we know are covered first. Halifax was named after George Montague-Dunk, the second Earl of Halifax. Halifax is a town in west Yorkshire. Ok, fine. One explanation is that the name, Halifax, probably came from the Old English, halig feax or “holy hair”, referring to a legend that the head of John the Baptist is buried there. From this, the Latinized version of the name would be “halig” followed by the common suffix “onian” to indicate where someone is from, hence “Haligonian”. It appears no one is sure if this is a correct explanation but it seems as good as any and the people of Halifax are quite content to continue to be called Haligonians.

In any case, our time spent with our native Haligonian friends, touring around town and the Halifax harbor was delightful.

Samuel Cunard, native Haligonian and founder of Cunard Line.

We even got a personal tour of one of Halifax’s many historic church cemeteries. One of them, the Old Burying Ground, is home to the remains of Major General Robert Ross. During the War of 1812, he commanded the British force that attacked Washington, DC. His troops succeeded in burning both the US Capitol and the White House.

Ross and his troops then attacked Baltimore and, while riding forward to personally direct his men, three young American soldiers shot him and he died soon after. OK, fine. But how did he end up in a Halifax cemetery?

Well, Ross died as he was being transported back to the British fleet. His body was put aboard the HMS Tonnant, where it was preserved in a barrel of 129 gallons of Jamaican rum. This, of course, gives new meaning to the expression, being completely pickled. Anyway, the Tonnant was ordered to sail to New Orleans for the upcoming battle in January 1815. Apparently, the Tonnant decided to transfer the now well-preserved remains of MG Ross to another British ship, HMS Royal Oak, also on its way to New Orleans. But, first the Royal Oak sailed over to Halifax to give the general a proper send off on British-held soil and he was buried in the old cemetery, seven days days after he had died. We assume his remains were removed from the rum barrel before burial but who knows?  Another great story from the land of the Haligonians.

Posted in Canada | 3 Comments

Insights from Alaska

IMG_4935It’s often said that travel broadens one’s view of the world and helps us appreciate and make sense of it. Our recent 25-day trip to Alaska in June certainly did that but in ways that we hadn’t anticipated. 

The beauty of Alaska’s wilderness and the resiliency and toughness of its residents are immediately evident. We saw amazing wildlife: humpback whales, sea lions, puffins, bald eagles, deer and a bear or two. We hiked. We kayaked through chunks of floating ice as glaciers calved off in front of us. We observed sea otters grabbing a quick snack and then scurry back up the bank to dine amongst the trees.IMG_2954IMG_4904IMG_4916IMG_1880DSC_0075IMG_4969

We chatted with long-time Alaskans who told us the ways their lives have changed since the demise of logging and the decline in salmon runs. The 13,000 residents of Ketchikan view the over 1 million annual cruise ship visitors to their town with mixed feelings. On one hand, they know their infrastructure faces severe stress from this avalanche of selfie-snapping tourists. On the other hand, economically, it’s just about the only game in town anymore. 

Glaciers throughout Alaska, with the exception of possibly two, continue to retreat. Mendenhall Glacier, outside Juneau, has receded nearly two miles from when Jay last visited it in 1973. The effects of global climate change — it was 80 degrees F. on one of the days we visited Ketchikan — seem magnified in this “Last Frontier” of America.IMG_4948DSC_0030

We were fortunate on this trip to have several experts with us. A couple of geologists, a marine biologist, a glaciologist and a wildlife naturalist or two who helped explain what we were seeing and gave us some insight into what the future may bring. Our own observation is that the world is very likely in the process of the sixth great mass extinction. No big news there. Of the five previous extinctions, all but one of them was likely due to rapid climate change. In each of the these extinctions 75% to 96% of all species were lost. Our last mass extinction was with the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago, where 76% of all species were lost. So, from a very long-term perspective, nothing is really new. With our current climate change accelerating, and with the increased rate of species extinction, it seems a logical conclusion that humans will eventually become extinct as well. And, that’s OK. We’ve had a pretty good run. After all, Homo sapiens have been around for 300,000 years and our ancestors for about 6 million so that’s plenty.

I used to estimate that humans probably had another 500 years to go before they became extinct but since our Alaska trip I’ve moved that timeline up a bit. My current estimate for our species demise is in the range of about 200 years. Now, since our personal extinction will happen sometime within the next 30-35 years, Tanya and I have no way of knowing if my predictions are accurate. What it seems like is that we’re in the sweet spot.IMG_4992IMG_4982

We keep reading that humans have about a 10-year window right now to come up with global actions to try to reduce climate change, thus delaying the inevitable. But, how many people really think this is likely? And, how much effect can we really have on global climate patterns? Political and economic self-interest of government leaders will always prevail and it’s hard to see how we have more than five or six generations to go before Homo sapiens are gone. The good news is that the earth will likely survive and regenerate over another several million years. That’s been the pattern and perhaps the next species of intelligent life will do a better job than we have. 

DSC_0024As for Jay and Tanya, we’ll just keep trying to stay one step ahead of the tsunami, pursue happiness and try to spread joy to others while we’re here. As in the lyrics of Let the Good Times Roll: “Hey, everybody, let’s have some fun. You only live but once and when you’re dead you’re done.”

Posted in USA | 12 Comments

Wine and Brothels in Pahrump

IMG_4712Last week Tanya was looking at upcoming events in the area and spotted one that looked like a winner!  The Annual Pahrump Valley Vineyards Wine Stomp! “Okay!” Jay blurted, “I’m so there!” We couldn’t imagine how there could possibly be any wine produced in hot, dry Nevada and we had to check it out. So the gruesome twosome hit the road Sunday to the southwest Nevada town of Pahrump, an hour’s drive west of Vegas.

Having just come from living in Europe for the last seven years, we weren’t expecting the same kind of wine experience we had been accustomed to. But we did experience the same sort of socializing and fun that happens anywhere wine is served. Sure, wine is served in plastic cups instead of actual wine glasses and food choices were limited to hot dogs, philly sandwiches and nachos but people seemed to be enjoying themselves. Vendor booths included a psychic reader, which is something we had never seen in Europe. “I see a large bottle of red in your future.” The wine itself wasn’t “grand cru” quality but most of it was drinkable, although a bit overpriced for what it was. 

The highlight of course was the grape stomping competition. Teams compete to see how much actual juice they can stomp out of grapes while music blares and the MC and crowd cheer on the stompers and their helpers. Pretty entertaining.

All this grape stomping and cheering was followed by a tour of the Pahrump Valley Winery, a rather sophisticated little operation. From conversations with winery staff, the winery apparently opened in 1990 by a fellow named Jack Sanders. Sanders had high hopes for the operation but soon after his new vines were beginning to produce fruit, a herd of wild horses came thundering down from the nearby Spring Mountain Range and decided they would enjoy the crop. The mustangs destroyed Sanders’ work. He replanted and built a fence around his vineyard but sold the winery in 2002 to the current owners.

Sanders built another winery a few miles away and continues his operation there, the Sanders Family Winery. Our wine-loving duo had to check this place out as well, and the friendly wine-pourer, Julie, made sure we sampled practically all of their offerings.IMG_4727

More conversation with our fellow wine tasters resulted in the recommendation that we drive a little further down the road and visit at least one of the two legal brothels in Pahrump, The Chicken Ranch. We were in town, so why not? Although the signs said “Ladies Welcome” and tours were being offered, we opted out of going inside and only took photos of outside, which actually respectable. For any of our readers who are interested, there are several videos on YouTube that provide a complete tour of the Chicken Ranch and what life is like for the women who work there. IMG_4732IMG_4736IMG_4739

There’s a lot more history to Pahrump, including tales of drugs,murder and buried treasure. But that will have to wait for another post. 

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The Borax Visitor Center

IMG_4676Last week, Tanya and Jay, while driving through the Mojave Desert, spotted a road sign announcing the turnoff for the Borax Visitor Center, near lovely Boron, California. “Wow!”, said Jay, “This is terrific! Let’s see what this is all about!”

At the risk of not being boring, how many of you remember the dispensers of Boraxo hand powder in the lavatories in grade school? And does anyone remember Richfield gasoline with Boron, marketed in the 1960s as a cleaner fuel helping unleash your engine’s power? And does anyone remember the longest running radio and television program, “Death Valley Days” (1952-1970) brought to you by 20 Mule Team Borax, and featuring such notable hosts as Dale Robertson, Robert Taylor, and of course, Ronald Reagan (1965-66)? The program also helped launch the careers of actors like Clint Eastwood, Leonard Nimoy and George Takei. Such is Jay’s trivia-filled brain that he remembered a bunch of this, or at least enough to get Tanya to agree to drive down a dusty desert road and visit the home of Borax, located not far from Edwards Air Force Base (remember Chuck Yeagar, the Right Stuff, etc.)?

We were not disappointed. What we found was the Rio Tinto borax mine, a huge open-pit mining operation, employing 800 people, that produces almost 50% of the world’s supply of borates. “Big deal”, you might think. What the heck are borates anyway and why is there this huge open wound in the earth with trucks moving this stuff around? 

Well, dear reader, if you remember from your high school chemistry class, boron is the #5 element in the periodic table, just behind hydrogen, helium, lithium and beryllium and just edging out carbon in the #6 position. So, a pretty darn important element. And, as we learned from our tour of the visitor center, borates are used in all sorts of everyday products…Tide, Wisk, Windex, Play-Doh and Miracle-Gro, to name a few, plus hundreds of industrial uses. 

The 20 mule teams that were used in the early years of transporting borax out of the now played out Death Valley mine from 1883 to 1889 have been replaced by these monster mining trucks that take the ore down (or up) from the pit to the nearby processing plant. It’s a pretty impressive operation, involving drilling, blasting, and shoveling, all stuff that a lot of guys enjoy, and then hauling the ore out to be crushed, dissolved and further broken down for use. Three million tons of ore come out of this mine every year. 

But this fun can’t last forever. The mine will eventually play out by about 2050, so if you happen to be driving through the Mojave some afternoon, stop by before it’s too late.

Posted in USA | 7 Comments

Our Life in Container TCLU 756590

IMG_4648When Jay was a young man, his idea of how much stuff one should have should be measured by how much you could get into a VW bus. And while he never really met that goal there were times when it was pretty darn close.

Now, as we make our 6th move in 11 years, our material possessions are measured in 216 packages, all fitting into a 20-foot container. Think of it. The product of a lifetime of accumulation of stuff contained in those 216 boxes. Now, one would think that with as many times as we’ve moved we would be accumulating less. And, to a point that’s true. It’s just that as many times as we’ve shed ourselves of worldly goods, they just seem to keep re-generating themselves, like the mythical many-headed Hydra. Not that we’re complaining. It’s what they call a “first-world problem”. IMG_4645IMG_4646IMG_4653

There are so many people around the globe right now who are desperate to get out of wherever they are with simply whatever they can carry with them. That was the case with our grandparents, who left pre-World War I Europe in 1913 to escape from what that disaster would eventually bring. And, our moves have all been by free choice. No one was forcing us out of wherever our home was at the time. There was no fear of being awakened in the night and being loaded onto a train heading east. There were no bombs or chemicals being dropped on us. All our previous neighborhoods were completely intact, not destroyed. So, not only are we incredibly fortunate to be free to move wherever we please, we can take whatever material things we’ve acquired with us. 

But the paradox of acquiring stuff is now that, for Jay at least, we’re in the final third of our lives, the final “trimester” so to speak, the stuff becomes less and less important. Sure, we enjoy what we have but if in the coming weeks Container TCLU 765590 falls off the ship into the Atlantic Ocean on its way to the Port of Long Beach it really wouldn’t matter all that much. What’s in that container isn’t nearly as important as what’s in our hearts and heads and as long as we still have those, we’re OK. 

Maybe the limit of how much stuff we could get into a VW bus wouldn’t be all that bad after all.

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Thoughts on Travel–Two Months Later

In our April 18th posting, “Thoughts on Travel”, we noted that we had been on the road almost constantly for the last 17 months. We also wrote that we were looking forward to spending the summer in Wiesbaden and looking forward to staying put for awhile. Well, that didn’t work out quite as planned. 

After less than two weeks at home, Jay made an unplanned 10-day trip back to the States, then flew back to Wiesbaden. Two weeks later, Tanya joined Jay for a return trip to the US on May 23. After three days, we signed a deal to buy a house in Henderson, Nevada, outside Las Vegas. June was spent exploring Nevada, then back to Wiesbaden to pack up our stuff for the move to Henderson. So much for the relaxing summer staying in one place.

The adventure continues and undoubtedly this travel obsession will not subside. We’ll just be leaving from a different airport. If anything, the need to explore and experience new things, places, tastes and ideas will likely grow. 

The recent death of Anthony Bourdain left all of us saddened and confused. But he left some wonderful thoughts that seem particularly appropriate for us:

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch. Move.”

“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough – to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

We still have so far to go.

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The International Car Forest of the Last Church—Goldfield, Nevada

IMG_4540Goldfield, Nevada currently has a population of about 250 people. This is down from the 30,000 or so who were here during Goldfield’s boom times which started after gold was discovered here in 1902. By 1910, ore production had declined and the population dropped to under 5,000. It’s been downhill ever since.

But just outside of town, with no signs marking the turnoff heading about a half mile down a dusty gravel road, is the amazing, and frankly kind of spooky, International Car Forest of the Last Church. We had heard of this open-air art display out in the desert and we just had to see for ourselves. What we found were the remains of about 40 vehicles stuck in the ground. Now, that’s a pretty bland description so you just have to look at our photos to see what we’re talking about.

The two guys behind this odd piece of Americana are Michael “Mark” Rippie and Chad Sorg.

The following are excerpts from Aspen Marie Stoddard’s April 18, 2014 article in The High Country News that describes the origin of what we saw:

“I came up with The Last Church as representation of the last church being inside each of us,” Rippie told me last year. “Meaning that we should pass knowledge to each other from one heart to another about two things: unconditional love and compassion.”

“To call it an International Forest was my idea,” said Sorg, “as a sort of spoof on ‘national forest’ and because people from all over the world visit Goldfield. Highway 95 gets large amounts of tourists wanting to experience the Old West.”

Rippie, who owns these 80 acres, began the project in 2002, when he was in his late 50s. He’d spent decades around Goldfield (population maybe 250, down from an early 1900s peak of 30,000), often sporting a wispy gray beard and dabbling in mining and other schemes – “running the high desert looking for gold, antique treasures and junk vehicles,” as he put it. He hopped on his backhoe and dug the first hole for the forest, determined to get the Guinness Book of World Records title for the most cars planted vertically in the ground. Then he tapped his personal boneyard of junk vehicles.

Sorg, an artist who had done some work in Reno, came to Goldfield in 2004 thinking the town would be a perfect artists’ retreat and teamed up with Rippie. The High Country News article continues:

“My favorite part about working on the forest was the solitude it provided,” Sorg said. “I was out there every day. We actually wouldn’t start working until after midnight  (to avoid the summer heat). Our trucks and backhoes were equipped with spotlights. The feeling was spooky and quirky. Over time, we learned a lot about the unique physical requirements of each vehicle, how to weight them down, and which end should be buried in the dirt. Mark would drive the backhoe and I would guide the vehicle into the hole. Then we would backfill dirt in. In all the times we did this, surprisingly, we never had any mishaps. After we met, I didn’t leave until we finished planting that last car” – which they did in 2011, seven years after Sorg teamed up with Rippie.IMG_4541IMG_4542IMG_4543IMG_4544

The two artists broke up after the project’s completion and Sorg’s Facebook page describes him as an artist, graphic designer and window cleaner. He lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Rippie’s Facebook page shows he still lives in Goldfield and is a self-employed heavy equipment operator and business owner/engineer at  Stonewall Mining. Their alliance may be over but Rippie and Sorg’s International Car Forest of the Last Church serves as a lasting monument to artistic creativity.

Posted in USA | 3 Comments

Weekend at a Lighthouse

DSC_0170Have you ever stayed overnight at a lighthouse? Well, Tanya and Jay hadn’t. So, when we got the chance to stay a couple of nights in a 100+ year old lighthouse keeper’s cottage along the east coast of Florida we jumped at the opportunity. This was early last month and just prior to taking our latest transatlantic voyage back to Deutschland. Our ship was scheduled to depart from Ft. Lauderdale and rather than staying at some local Holiday Inn before we sailed, we looked for something a bit more interesting. We found it.DSC_0176DSC_0175

The Hillsboro Lighthouse sits at the entrance to Hillsboro Inlet, roughly midway between Ft. Lauderdale and Boca Raton and was built in 1906. The lighthouse still operates nightly, casting its 550,000 candle power rotating beam over the Atlantic. Even though the actual operation of the lighthouse has been fully automated since 1974, the US Coast Guard still maintains three lighthouse keeper houses on the lighthouse grounds for guests and we were able to snag one of them for two nights.

The lighthouse has an interesting history. Made of iron, the tower was built in 1905/1906 by the Russel Wheel and Foundry Company of Detroit. In 1907, the whole thing was disassembled and moved to the Hillsboro Inlet and put together again, ready to start operation in 1909. The structure is held together with bolts, rather than welding, which made the process a little easier. Kind of like a giant erector set.DSC_0177

The 9-foot, 3,600 pound fresnel lens was built in France, is still in use and projects one of the most powerful lighthouse beams in the world, well over 30 miles out. And sure enough, just a little bit before dusk each night, the light starts its nightly rotation. We weren’t bothered by the beam, but we weren’t so sure about the residents of some high-rise apartments across the inlet. Every 20 seconds or so, their windows are illuminated by those half million candles, but apparently a landward baffle has been installed on the lens to cut down the light as it shines over land. But still….

Most fascinating however was how the lighthouse operated in its early years. Electricity wasn’t even brought to this area of Florida until 1932. So, the light rotated by a gear mechanism driven by a weight on ropes, just like a grandfather clock. Except the weight had to be hand-cranked every 90 minutes or so. The light itself was originally an incandescent oil vapor lamp, fueled with kerosene. Several times each night the lighthouse keeper had to haul kerosene up the 175 steps to refuel the lamp. DSC_0173DSC_0181

Fortunately for us, conditions for our stay didn’t include cranking or kerosene hauling and at the end of our stay we were back on our way back to Europe.

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Thoughts on Travel

IMG_4436

As of mid-April, 2018 Jay and Tanya have been traveling nearly non-stop for the last 17 months. For some professionals, touring musicians and global consultants come to mind, this is quite normal. And for us, this has become fairly normal as well, although we are looking forward to spending the summer in Wiesbaden and trying to stay put for awhile. We’ll see how that goes.

Our philosophy has been that as long as one feels comfortable in one’s surroundings and with one’s self, the idea of home is wherever one is and therefore one never leaves it. We still believe that, up to a point. But there are certainly places where we do not feel at home or at ease and some of those places are within our home country.

What we’ve found is there are times when we’ve felt at ease with our surroundings but at the same time we often lose track of where we are. We’re still comfortable but we often end up asking ourselves, What town is this? What state or country? What currency are we using today? Are folks speaking a language we recognize or will we have a more challenging time figuring out what’s going on today? And, it’s not like the old reference to package tours, “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium”, where we’re physically in a different place every day. We can have been in one place for weeks and still experience a sense of disorientation in the morning.

We often encounter people, retired or otherwise, who travel for two or three weeks at a time before heading back to their primary residence. Then a month or several goes by before they head off again. We used to be like that. Maybe we will be like that again someday. 

Why do we continue with this, some might say excessive, behavior? Well, one reason is that we can. We know we are in a very small minority of people in the world who are able or interested in engaging in the luxury of this nonsense. But there’s more to it than that. One of our friends says he frequently experiences severe bouts of FOMO, Fear of Missing Out. Perhaps there’s a bit of FOMO in our travel compulsion. There must be something happening somewhere that we simply cannot miss out on. Or, maybe it’s the exhilaration of continually exciting our senses with new experiences. Maybe we’re running away from what most people recognize as normality. 

We once thought that there was at least some altruism to this travel affliction, that we were acting as goodwill ambassadors of our country, helping others realize that Americans were not all a bunch of selfish, ethnocentric boobs. We always try to act politely and respectfully and we suppose it is true, to a point, that our travel does help the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves. Our travel dollars are spent on local businesses as much as possible and when that’s not possible at least other people’s income is partially dependent upon us. But today we find the distinction between altruism and and self-centeredness blurred. Our journeys have become primarily a means of discovery of ourselves and of others, with any direct economic or psychological benefits to others a mere consequence of that personal discovery.

Certainly the most satisfying aspect of all this travel madness is when we’re able to connect one-to-one with people whose life experience and way of looking at things is much different than our own. We’re often taught things like, “We’re all the same, basically.” and “We all want the same things out of life.” Well, that’s simply not so. Other than we may all want to fill our bellies daily and have a dry place to sleep at night, people from different cultures and backgrounds are just not the same. Values and norms are often vastly different than what we, as Americans, have been acculturated to. We’ve both have had our mental jaws drop when hearing what ideas and beliefs come out of people’s mouths, including from other Americans, but we always try to be understanding and look at these experiences as an opportunity to grow. 

Within the last thirty days, Jay and Tanya have turned 70 and 60 respectively. Milestones in life’s journey. Is it time to stop traveling? No way. Will our travels become more targeted and concentrated on specific regions, cultures or themes? Maybe. Will we be content to stay “at home” more to reflect on what we’ve learned? Perhaps. Whatever happens we know that personal connections are what counts, including friends and family. We look forward to what’s next.

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