I was watching Discovery Channel this week. They were re-running a special on situational blindness. They taped experiments that proved we humans really can’t see the proverbial forest for the trees, even when we choose to, because we are hardwired to blur out certain distractions: Our brains have minds of their own.
One of the tests employed a circus clown on a unicycle riding circles around students walking to class while engrossed in conversations on their cell phones. When questioned later, asked if they had noticed anything unusual, they said “no”. The most startling clip involved a fake customer wearing an eye patch, a neck brace and a hat. During several planned distractions for a real sales clerk the customer removed his hat, shifted his eye patch, took off the neck brace and even changed the color of his shirt. The salesman, though he knew “something happened” could not say what exactly had changed.
This blog will strive to make visible people and events to which we have become blind: I will be visiting with and interviewing some of your friends and neighbors and hope to share wonderful stories about them and their lives, that for whatever reason we lost sight of as we moved, head down, toward work, class or home.
I was a devoted fan of the nostalgic heartsongs of On the Road and have always felt a kinship with journalist and historian Charles Kurault. And like Kurault I was first drawn to the stories of the road by Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley where he journeyed in his camper Rocinante, shed his Nobel garb and listened with deep respect and love to the authentic voices of America.My most profound lessons in life have been learned with cabbies as teacher or convicts and recovering alcoholics as mentors. If there is no room in your life for wonder, mystery, or lessons learned from ordinary people, common soldiers or those often counted as unforgiven then this is not a blog you should waste your time reading. And if compassion and reconciliation are not part of your ethos I think you will be disappointed here. This is a hate free zone: My only agenda is to promote America and the Americans, natives and newcomers, who made it, make it what it is. There are plenty of forums for political debate. This is not one of them.
I just returned from seven years in China. There, I battled illness, betrayal, and government interference while all the while falling in love with a culture that below the surface of an oppressive, totalitarian government is incredible because of the people that still practice and live the best of its traditions. I have a home there and live as Chinese a life as any expat can hope to experience. When there, I reside in an area rich in history, religion and folklore. Along the Silk Road in Gansu Province I have many dear friends and have collected a host of cherished memories. The region is the only one with all fifty-six recognized ethnic groups. The kindness extended to me by everyday Chinese people in Gansu informs everything I know about the Middle Kingdom. There is good to be found everywhere. And I make it my business to find it. I don’t wear rose colored glasses, but I don’t discount the good someone has done or can do based on rumor, digital innuendo, ethnicity, country of origin, political views, religious practice or economic status
I returned to America in November to care for long neglected medical needs. I have spoiled myself into 20 extra pounds and continue to bathe myself in all that is different about this country. I love America and say without hesitation or reservation, after years of travel, that this is the greatest country on earth. There is as much diversity here as in China and unlike Gansu, the law protects differences. I have seen centuries old relics in Inner Mongolia, listened to the singing sands of the Gobi and argued with Tibetan and Muslim merchants all along the Silk Road. But, I now feel a need to explore the depth and breadth of my own beautiful nation. There is more than enough history and majesty here to keep a returning expat busy for a lifetime. I have taken America for granted and I intend to make up for that…
Like Steinbeck, and the comparison will stop here, I long to be a magician of a story teller: Now you see them, and me you don’t. The archetypal magician manifests the mysterious and the unknown and his illusions turn into allegory. I love to be mystified and I write because I long to share that experience–nothing more, and hopefully nothing less.
I am a capital E Expat: Over thirty years of my life have been spent abroad wandering through languages, cultures, sins and salvation. Half of that time was foisted on me by the military as a dependent, and later as a soldier and a government contracted professor. I don’t regret anything that has happened to me. No, not anything. And though I’ve often longed for the connections and normalcy of friends and family that have stayed in one place over the years (except for maybe a brief foray off to war, volunteer service, or some spiritual quest), I have never felt regret.
That said, Veteran Traveler will attend most to those who have seen military service. That is because I know that culture better than any other. I am fluent in the dialects spoken by conscripts, volunteers, wounded healers and warriors. I will do my best to teach them to you. And my stories will not be limited to American veterans. We did not win WWII alone, nor have we been a solitary force in any conflict since then. I feel the same admiration and respect for anyone who has donned a uniform in service to their country.
Thoreau posited that we should come home from adventures, perils, and discoveries with new experience and character. Memories are assured when we move out of our comfort zones, but a change of character is dependent on the force of our encounters, our willingness to change and our capacity to translate dramatic events into life lessons that will shape our futures. I will do my best to share those happenings that alter my life in ways I hope might have similar impact on you.
Lastly, the tag line for this blog, “It’s about the journey”, may seem a bit prosaic or cheesy, but I mean it. I will tend toward the corny from time to time. Just know that I gave up my need for destinations long ago and relax into this trip with me. And please! lead me to anyone or anything you think I should experience or write about. Those of you who are my friends on Twitter, Instagr.am or Facebook know my internal compass point me toward interesting people and places. With your help, may it always be so….
Welcome. Please take a moment to read a bit more about me and this upcoming journey on the About Me and PTSD pages in the navigation bar. And do peek at the travel store from time to time as my meager pension cannot possibly finance this trip by itself. If you find something there you like it might well be what is needed to sponsor the next blog post.
And I rarely spell check and I often screw up grammatically because I write posts in my head and then download them via phone or laptop (as I did with Onemanbandwidth) to the blog. So, I welcome corrections and I value you and your feedback, so please comment from time to time and speak your mind and most importantly, your heart….