An Untamed Lust to See the World

Visiting the Epcot Center at Walt Disney World back in 1990 must have really left an impression on me.  Because now I want to travel the world,  for real.

Yesterday as I was driving home from work, “Who’s Says” by John Mayer came on the radio, and while it’s been in my head ever since then, there’s a particular line that I keep dwelling on: “plan a trip to Japan”.

It opens up this can of worms for me, one that I try to keep out of mind and out of sight: The realization that I will never be able to travel and see the entire world, in all its beauty and mystique. 

To see the ancient and modern wonders of the world.  To meet the people who live in those countries.  To eat their food and drink their wine.  To publish a photo album on facebook from my travels to these places.

I have seen a few countries of the world: Ecuador in 1998, Trinidad and Tobago in 2002, Thailand in 2003 and 2004, Korea in 2004, and New Zealand in 2007.  But that only made me thirst for more.

Best case scenario: I would have to earn or win millions of dollars and retire early in order to be able to see all the parts of the world I want to.

Like Norway and Switzerland and Italy and Croatia.  So basically Europe. 

So since it would be disappointing to assume I’ll end up a millionaire and be able to travel the world in this lifetime, I should consider my next best option:

That when we get to Heaven, in the likeness of a glorified Epcot Center, there will be portal we can step into and instantly see any part of the world we want to. 

Even better, in any year.  Sweden 1983, here I come!

Paul Maley, whom I’ve never met and just happened to randomly find your website, I envy you and your 30 plus years of world travel…

Click below for enlightenment:

http://www.eclipsetours.com/ptravel.html

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Let’s Go to Kentucky

Why, Kentucky, why?

 When my wife and I spend money on ourselves other than for basic needs, it’s pretty much on one thing.  Not cable, not Internet, not sports events, not fancy clothes, not electronics.  What’s left?  Trips.  And what determines where we go?  B&B’s.  Bed and Breakfast’s.

A near cliché phrase is “life is a journey, not a destination”.  And that’s the basic concept of why we go to B&B’s.  Though we love going to Louisville for an easy weekend trip, we knew the Kentucky Derby would be going on, so thanks to some Internet research, my wife found a B&B in a place called Burnside, KY. 

The only reason I recognized the name of the town was because I knew that sideburns derived from General Ambrose Burnside, a Scottish-American who had some of the worst sideburns in the history of the world.  And Burnside, KY was named after the man.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrose_Burnside

We were asked, “But what’s in Burnside, KY?  What’s there to do or see there?”

Our answer: “The B&B.”  That is THE reason.

I have written before about how some go on vacations or mini-vacations to be busy somewhere surrounded by other people, and the rest of us go off somewhere to be left alone, enjoying the quiet and peace (The Opposite of a Beach Bum).  The whole point of going to a B&B is because there is indeed, for the most part, nothing to do. 

Of course I did a Wikipedia search on Burnside, KY before we left (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burnside,_Kentucky).  I ended up finding out that right outside of Burnside, in Stearns, there is a 3 hour passenger train ride.  So that ending up being our only adventurous activity.

And for only $18 per person, we didn’t have our standards set as high as the Monorail at Epcot Center.  Instead, it reminded me more of the kind of train ride a person would expect that takes them through a zoo.  A cross between trolley bus and a boat designed for the chute ride at a local amusement park.

Halfway through the 16 mile train ride, we were dropped off for a while at an extinct coal mining town.  We sort of hiked and explored the area, in the pouring rain, for a while.  Checked out the hilarious gift shop.  And passed on getting chili dogs at the concession stand.  Like a standard weird dream.

Back at the Bed and Breakfast (http://eaglesviewbnb.com/breakfast.htm), as it continued to pour and flood outside, we took advantage of the cozy Gatlinburg-esque cabin and cable TV, which to us, was a luxury.  Especially while watching House Hunters on HDTV and Dogs 101 on Animal Planet.

Demographically, most B&B connoisseurs are over the age of 50.  We realize that being under the age of 30 means that we must be middle-aged at heart.  Even our honeymoon two years ago was a series of B&B’s from Maine to Connecticut.  But for us, this is the best way we can spend money on ourselves. Because the way we see it, nothing lasts longer than good memories. 

And even though our memories will eventually begin to fade, that’s why we take plenty of pictures.

This picture has been made anatomically correct, made noticeable when examined closely.

A bridge going over the river that the train travelled along side, and that our B&B overlooked.

I'm gonna throw a hissy fit if I don't get one of these...

Gettin' lucky in Kentucky.

I don't care how much this costs, I'm buying it! Nothing could possibly go wrong...

Hey, how did that bird dress shirt I gave to Grandma end up in this gift shop?

People are the Meaning of Life, Part 6

“Americans spend an estimated 20 billion dollars annually on ice cream.  An amount that could feed 83 million hungry children for a year.” -State of the World 2004 Worldwatch Institute

“…I bet my whole checking account because it all amounts to nothing in the end.” -Jason Mraz, “Curbside Prophet”

Suddenly, the thought of being filthy rich is less intriguing than ever. I’m not talking about turning down the chance to make $100,000 a year. I mean stinkin’ rich. Multi-millionaire. Completely set for life. So rich that it would be expected of me to drive a new Jaguar and live in a mansion with a kidney-shaped swimming pool and speak with a Connecticut dialect and be on MTV Cribs. Set for life.

I came to the realization that I already have everything I need and want.

Aside from paying bills and getting out of debt and buying food, the only money I really spend is on non-fiction books off the discount rack at Borders. So that means the only thing I can’t get enough of that money can actually buy is knowledge. I can gain knowledge through my own life experiences. The other way is to buy it through books written by people who save me the time of living out the experiences they’ve already learned from.

So once I get out of debt, which I eventually will since my wife are strict followers of Dave Ramsey, what would I continually spend a large income on if I ever had it?

More expensive, impressive cars? A huge house, with its higher insurance rates and utilities and more expensive overhead and all the nice furniture and fixin’s to make it look nice?

It all goes back to Forrest Gump: “Now, Momma said there’s only so much fortune a man really needs… and the rest is just for showing off.”

So I imagine having the house paid off, being debt free, happy in a small but nice house, driving decent cars. What do I need a lot money for?

For me, it would be to travel the world. I’ve only been to 4 other countries in this world (not counting a layover in Japan or driving to the Canada side of Niagara Falls). There is so much beautiful landscape to see and so many interesting people to meet and all that weird foreign culture to be exposed to. I could never get enough of that, yet with money I could try.

But.

Instead of sending myself across the globe, treating it and its people as my own real-life Epcot Center, what if I helped them with my time and money ?

Because after a few awesome trips to Norway and Sweden and Switzerland, it’s gonna hit me: This is fun, but ultimately it’s all about me. And I’m not that big of a deal.

And I think that’s why so many big movie stars and rock stars are often so much more aware of the needs of Third Word Countries. They “get” this high concept more than we do sometimes. Because they are set for life, unlike us. They have the time and the money to see the rest of the world. And before too long, they see a need to help the millions of people currently living in slavery and poverty.

It’s inevitable there will always be poor people and therefore there will always be a need to give our time and money: “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'” -Deuteronomy 15:11

So if I was so rich I could just retire now, and still have plenty of cash to blow, where would my money go? How would I spend with my time?

Other people. With them and for them. That’s where all the extra would go.

How would it be fair that I had too much while most of the world had way too little? How would I not be a hypocrite to live a life that acknowledges that true religion is caring for the orphans and widows yet I lived a lavish lifestyle? I just don’t see how having that much money could ever make me happy.

To have too much of anything ultimately means that someone out there isn’t getting enough.

http://www.worldvision.org/

https://www.hopeforhaitinow.org/Default.asp

Strip away food, clothes, shelter, and faith. It’s safe to say that anyone reading this on their computer has all those things. What’s left that actually matters to us?

People.

Family and friends.

And complete strangers that need the extra money we have to get a much smaller version of those things we already have.

Life really is that simple.

So if by writing this I jinx my situation and become filthy stinkin’ rich so fate can test if I really mean what I say, I’m not afraid. Because speaking of learning from other people’s life experiences, it’s often those same movie stars and rock stars that “get it” when it comes to poverty in the rest of the world that are also the same ones that prove that having too much doesn’t make them happy.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” -James 1:27

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

People are the Meaning of Life- Table of Contents

Part 1 http://wp.me/pxqBU-2h

Part 2 http://wp.me/sxqBU-289

Part 3 http://wp.me/pxqBU-7M

Part 4 http://wp.me/pxqBU-8r

Part 5 http://wp.me/pxqBU-j2

Part 6 http://wp.me/pxqBU-tm


Snail Trails: Your Memory May Be the Only Proof an Event Ever Happened

Nothing, not even a blank screen. Then suddenly on April 20, 1983, life as I know it began. Not the day I was born, but the day my memory started. With all my family gathered around me at the kitchen table, my first memory of life begins with a song- “Happy Birthday”. Maybe I was simply overwhelmed by that many people in the room at once. Maybe I thought the song had a sad tune. Maybe this is where I got my fear of being in front of a bunch of people with nothing to do or say. But all I had to do was just blow out that giant number “2” candle on my Mickey Mouse cake. Instead, I cried.

Flash forward to the summer of 1985. I put on my cowboy boots, grabbed my He-Man lunchbox, stood by the front door, and announced to my mom, “Okay, I’m ready for school! I want to meet friends.” I wasn’t even enrolled for pre-school yet, but my mom took care of it and a month later I was present at First Methodist’s “Mother’s Day Out” program (the year before Kindergarten: 1985-1986).

Though I was four years old, I can specifically remember that Simon Milazzo had a toy dog that I liked so much that my mom bought me one like his. I remember Meg Guice crying one day because somebody ate her pineapples when she was looking the other way. I remember Laura O’Dell gave me a valentine with a scratch ‘n’ sniff vanilla ice cream cone that smelled really good, while Alex Igou gave me a valentine with Darth Vader that said “Be Mine or Else…”.

I remember having a daily “play time” where we all went to the dark green carpeted fellowship hall where we were often forced to play “Duck, Duck, Goose” or sing and act out “The Farmer and the Dell”. Meg Guice would always want to be the wife when “the farmer chose a wife”. I never wanted to be chosen to play a character.

Instead, one day I wandered off to play with my fire truck. Alex Igou also managed to escape from the group, going to the opposite side of the room. We both got in trouble for doing this so the teacher put us in “time out” together. Alex said to me, “Do you like your truck I got for you?” (It was the one he gave me at my birthday party.)

I used to think I was weird for having such detailed and vivid memories from such an early age. But while in my Childhood Developmental Psychology class in college, the professor asked those of us who had a vivid memory from age two or younger to raise our hands. Twenty-five percent of us raised our hands and then had to share with everyone what our memory was. We were told that having a memory that clear from such a young age isn’t common, but it’s not abnormal either.

When I think of elementary school, I don’t remember much about what I learned, but I definitely remember clear conversations and events starring my classmates: In 2nd grade (1988-1989) while in line for a relay race during P.E., I was standing next to Cody Vartanian and Charles Robertson. In honor of the new Nintendo game, Cody said to Charles, “Skate or die!” Charles firmly responded, “I don’t have to skate if I don’t want to skate and I don’t have to die if I don’t want to die”.

Last week I told the story of breaking up a fight while dressed as a giant wolf exactly ten years ago, during my final month of high school (see “Cry Wolf”). I feared that it may come across like I had in some form exaggerated the details. According to my memory, no one I was friends with was there to witness it. So I was much relieved when Adrianne McClung Smith commented on the story, saying she was fortunate enough to see the event in person.

For many childhood memories we have, however, there was not a “constant” in the equation. In other words, without someone else who was there who still remembers a specific event taking place, in essence it only happened in our own minds. It makes me think of the “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it…” question. My immediate response was always to ask if I could put a tape recorder in the forest before the tree fell. My next response was to realize I didn’t care if anybody heard the stupid tree fall anyway.

In the same way, I exclusively hold thousands of memories recorded in my mind. Memories about people I grew up with. Memories these people would never have known happened unless I tell them. Since I am the only person to verify such specific events, in theory they happened BECAUSE I remember them.

All anyone else can do is question the validity of my memory. But I know for a fact these memories are real, not simply evolved from a dream or an old snapshot. Everyone else has this ability though, at least to some degree if nothing else. Every person alive owns exclusive copyrights to memories involving other people.

I am constantly disappointed with the sad truth that even in the year 2009, there is no such thing as time travel. So badly I want to go back to those actual random memories; I want to replay them. In the back of my mind I’m hanging on to this thread of a hope that somehow someday I can revisit my past. Not to change it. Just to see it again, like a good movie.

This hope that when I get to Heaven there will be a series of doors with a different year written on each one, allowing me to revisit- in the likeness of Disney World’s Epcot Center how you can visit several “countries”. Evidently I have a condition which causes me to leave a trail of me behind throughout the history of my life, like a snail. At any given point, I am living in both the present moment and simultaneously each year of the past since my memory began in 1983.

As a writer and as an every day conversationalist, things seem incomplete to me without a nostalgic year or story in there somewhere. Some people have a habit of going off on “rabbit trails”. I end up on “snail trails” instead. My short-term memory is awful- I can’t remember who won American Idol last season. But my petty long-term memory is a little bit Rain Man-esque.