It's my parents fault, really. Whether it was a week-long road trip through the desert, or a month in Europe, they recognized the importance of getting my brother and me out of our carefully drawn corner of suburbia. Upon them, I now place the blame for my unyielding need to travel.
My earliest memories include sweating in the back seat of one of my father's awful cars as we headed toward yet another Day's Inn, where, much to my sorrow, "Kids Stay Free." Watching the entirety of the United States roll by one mile at a time through the oversized window of an Amtrak observation car with my mother. Or racing along the autobahn and floating down the Rhine with my father and step-mother.
Regardless of their limitations, whether it was money or time, they tried to take us somewhere each year. Growing up with divorced parents, my brother and I learned that the failure of their marriage had tangible benefits for us. (Their marital failure paid dividends.) Belonging to two families translated into two vacations per year. I felt sorry for the few friends of mine whose parents were still married.
After I retired at the age of 25, seized with a premature wisdom that imagined more than sitting behind a desk for 10 hours a day, I set out to do my own exploring.
The farther I strayed from well-worn tourist ruts to places most often mentioned in warnings from the State Department, the clearer several things became. Experiences with wildly different cultures, habits and norms, only made the similarities more apparent.
Yes, just like my television told me, everyone out in the world is indeed crazy. Not necessarily dangerous crazy or violent crazy. But crazy exactly as we are.
In Pakistani slums, Afghan poppy fields or Vietnamese karaoke bars, one finds the same personalities and characters that populate any cross section of the United States.
People with stories. And I’m hooked on stories. A junkie for narrative. Legends and lore, interesting characters and compelling conflict are my sweetest drugs. It’s my worst addiction and probably the fault of my folks as well.
From trekking on camel through the deserts of the Maharajas in India, to rafting the rivers of the Himalaya in Nepal and dirt biking through landmine-infested temples in Cambodia, I’ve found enduring stories while also crafting my own.
For two years now I have been traveling to, what for me, is another new territory. During my two years at the University of La Verne, I’ve encountered a whole new set of crazy people. And found that compelling stories exist wherever they are.
All you have to do is listen.