I turn 50 in a few months.
During the past four years I have had the great pleasure to travel to 40 States (I have been to all 50 states and all US territories except American Samoa) and 10 countries on a spectacular mid-life adventure. I did this in part to insert myself directly into different cultures in order to listen, learn, and share. It was my own mid-life Into the Wild adventure. It has been a whirlwind of great cultural experiences.
I’ve been to rural Alaska to experience what everyday life is like for the Native Yup’ik people in a 500 person village that could only be visited by small plane or snow machine transportation. I took the plane.
I worked for a time as a religious minority in a majority Latter Day Saints residential treatment center for children in beautiful Provo, Utah. and learned about the inspiring resiliency of Mormons in America.
I hiked all over the Western United States, often by myself, meeting up with many interesting people on trails and in coffee shops and brewpubs.
I’ve been to blues, reggae, and Celtic festivals in at least 10 states and tried some of the best beer all over the world at some of the best festivals and the best brewpubs and brewhalls in the world (this will need to be a topic unto itself) including an authentic Bavarian schwarzbier festival in Munich, Germany.
I’ve had candid sociopolitical conversations with strangers in places like Copenhagen, Denmark; Tilburg, Netherlands; London and East Anglia, England; and Stuttgart, Trier, Cologne, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, and in smaller towns all over Germany.
I had a chance to walk down Unter Den Linden in Berlin during a protest and see Hitler’s bunker and Checkpoint Charlie, and later go to a place where part of the Berlin Wall still stands, talking with people who lived the East German Communist experience first-hand.
I went to several traditional Chamorro barbecues on the island of Guam and experienced what lovely and generous people they are. I learned that the Chamorro people, the native people of Guam, had been colonized twice in their glorious past, first by Spain and then by Japan, and that their native language had morphed into a combination of those two influences in addition to English.
Also while in Guam and the Marianna Islands I visited many World War II sites including the famous “suicide cliff” where hundreds of Japanese soldiers and their families jumped to their deaths in World War II.
I attended a traditional Hawaiian luau and was even selected to dance with a beautiful Hawaiian girl on stage on my birthday.
I observed union worker protests in Barcelona and Palestinian support marches in Berlin and most recently Montreal.
I attended Fasching festivals all over Western Germany and even a community Fasching parade in Chur, Switzerland.
I ate tortellini, mortadella, and tagliatelle in Bologna, Italy and walked through an area of that city that was still governed by a communist council. Later I visited, Venice and Milan.
I got lost in Normandy, France and experienced good ole French hospitality before being overwhelmed by the sense of gratitude I felt when I visited the memorial at Omaha Beach, Normandy on a serene day this past May.
I attended a multi-cultural festival in Belgium and had some revealing conversations with locals about culture and change.
And finally, I have had the great pleasure of working as a consultant for the past two years to support military service members and their families at bases around the world. I had no prior experience with military culture and found it to be a great honor to be with them.
Now, I am privileged to be living in the wonderful Portsmouth, New Hampshire community, a truly world-class place.
This is an incredible world and for a lower middle class kid from a small town in Northern Connecticut I feel privileged to have been able to see some of the most beautiful places and meet such interesting people.
Immersing oneself in other cultures is, as one friend put it to me one time, a great way to learn from others while solidifying one’s own core beliefs. I had a chance to notice the similarities and differences among peoples throughout the vast humanity that we call earth and to identify my own core beliefs about human nature.
What stands out as important as I think about what I learned about people, their cultures, and myself? It’s about freedom, man. People want to be free and they thrive when they have it. Self-reliance. People want to run their own lives and they thrive when they do. Too much well-intentioned interference from outsiders is character killing and causes resentment. Neighborliness. The happiest people were the ones living in harmony with their neighbors without too much central control over their lives. Authenticity. People thrive when they can be real with others.
I realized that I am also happiest when these four conditions exist and I become resentful when these are taken away from me or when I sell myself short on my own values. I want the freedom to choose how I run my life and the freedom to choose my neighbors. And I feel good when I have the integrity to do it to my own standards. I believe all of us do.
So, when we start to believe that there is a preferred state that man can create to make life perfect for our neighbors and we go about imposing that master plan we are out of alignment with natural law. Man thrives when he is free, self-reliant, connected with people he chooses to love, and living an authentic existence. So, the best we can do is to climb to the highest mountaintop and scream loudly for freedom – and model these common sense ways of being as we cross paths with others. Carpe Diem!
Check out this link for inspiration – FREEDOM