I am a traveler. I have been travelling my entire adult life. I have travelled professionally and for leisure, domestically and abroad. I have seen amazing things all over the country and all over the world. And I am not even close to done. The more places I go, the more I want to go. And whenever I sit still too long, I feel myself getting old. I need to be on the move. It’s not something I planned, it’s just something that is.
So this blog is from the perspective of a traveler. Most of the travel blogs I read, and there are some excellent ones out there, are from the perspective of a non-traveler who has become a traveler. They have left their jobs as IT consultants or web-designers, photographers or business people, sold their houses, put stuff in storage and set off on a journey. Their blog was generally something they started to keep in touch with friends and family and blossomed into something much bigger. And I respect that, in fact I love that. And while most of my favorites will peter out after a few years as people get tired of being on the road and start to set down roots again I don’t get upset because I understand. I know that when they do reestablish themselves, they are different than they were when they set out. They are forever changed because travel changes us. We learn and grow and gain confidence and perspective. And I’m glad I could share in their travel experiences, no matter how long or short they turned out to be. But my perspective is different. It’s almost the opposite of what I’ve just written. I’ve never really had those roots. My first real career was as a tour guide. I was travelling 11 months out of the year from the time I was 24. I never owned a house – never owned much of anything for that matter. I’ve never bought a refrigerator or a couch. I’ve never known those things which people eventually end up missing and return to no matter how changed they are.
After over a decade of constant travel, I decided it was time for me to settle down, grow up and become a respectable adult. Having never really been in the “real world”, I wanted to see what it was like. My desire to help out in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina provided a real and serious opportunity. I applied for and got a job as a math teacher, rented an apartment (albeit a furnished one!), and genuinely tried to settle down. I gave it a real go, but in the end I lasted about as long in that life as most travel bloggers last on the road. I never spent a day at school where I wasn’t staring out the window and daydreaming about being outside. While teaching is a wonderful profession and I gained a lot from it, I realized it’s just not me. I had built a life around being outside, surrounded by nature and forever changing scenery. Living a life in one spot (or even the three spots my teaching career took me), I felt my soul was not being nourished. I needed somehow to get back on the road. That’s where my passion is. It’s who I am, and sometimes we need to just be ourselves. And while people might not respect my professional choices, and they might not respect me at all for that matter, that’s okay. I’ve come to the conclusion that that doesn’t matter so much as long as I respect myself. And so putting my personal happiness above societal acceptance has been incredibly liberating. And while I genuinely miss working with children, I don’t think I would ever be able to give myself fully to them, and that is something they deserve in a teacher.
But what could I do? I could continue running tours, which I love doing. But making a lifelong career of that would not be as satisfying as I wish it would be, at least not for me. There would always be the creative side of me which would feel unnourished. There would always be the chains of being tied to a certain route or a certain itinerary. I love guiding tours and I hope to continue to do so from time to time, but not full time, not anymore. There’s too much out there I haven’t seen. There had to be something different.
On occasion, I get an email from a passenger who rode with me years ago saying how that week or two weeks or six weeks they spent with me changed their lives. Now I don’t believe it was me as much as the situation, begun by their own willingness to step outside their comfort zone, which I simply helped along, but it’s still a wonderful thing to hear. And it got me thinking. Maybe I could continue to guide people and inspire people, but on a grander scale. And so this blog was born. I’m not writing this to change your life, but maybe to brighten your day a little bit. Or maybe to inspire your weekend plans. I want people to be able to see America through my eyes because it really is a wonderful place. I want people to look outside the politics and policy of the country and look to its people and places. To see our heart and soul, not just the rough exterior so often seen on the news around the world. And I hope that through your reading of this blog, maybe you’ll be inspired to head out for the weekend somewhere you’ve never been, to stop at that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try or go to the National Historic Site on the other side of town. If you live abroad, maybe you’ll come for a visit. I think you’ll be happy you did. America really isn’t what you read about in the paper. I very rarely took a foreign guest on tour who didn’t have their opinions change by a few weeks on the road in America.
Most travel blogs I read about the U.S. are about a coast to coast trip which is great. I think everyone should travel coast to coast in the U.S. at some point in their lives. But I’ve made that trip 26 times. I’m not interested in a whirlwind cross-country tour anymore. I want to slow down and visit each state like I mean it. I want to be able to drive down dirt roads to old saloons and have a beer because I don’t have anywhere that I have to be. I want to wait around an extra day to catch a high school football game or a festival or a concert. I want to live in a world where I make the rules. And I want you to experience that right along with me.
I certainly won’t be the first to do these things. One of my heroes is Charles Kurault and he traveled the back roads of America for 30 years. I can get lost for hours watching old videos of On the Road. But the country is different now, it’s changed. And while plenty of people are out there travelling and writing and photographing America, there aren’t a lot of people focused on the country as a whole. And I feel as though my 11 years as a Tour Guide has given me a big head start in writing this blog. My travels have taken me far and wide, and there isn’t a region of the country where I don’t feel at home. I can read a map and feel my way around a strange city pretty well. Which isn’t to say I won’t get lost, but sometimes getting lost is a part of the adventure. And sometimes you find things you didn’t even know you were looking for.
I really want to meet people on this trip, and I hope this blog will help me in doing so. I want you to show me your town and what’s special about it – you are the expert, not me. I want to hook up with local bloggers who make it their job to be experts on local affairs whether it’s history or music or the best beers in town. I want to have a coffee or a beer with real everyday folks going about their daily lives and really talk to them. Everyone has something they love, something they are passionate about whether it’s fly fishing or photography or coin collecting. I want you to share that passion with me because my passion is travel and through travel learning as much as I can with the time I’ve been given. And through this blog, I want to share your passion and mine with the world.
Do you ever feel like everything in your whole life has led you to a certain moment? That’s how I feel right now as I set off on this journey. Everything I’ve ever done has led me here – to this trip and to this blog. Thanks for reading and I’ll catch up with you down the road….