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If you’re a going to be a regular reader of this blog, prepare yourself for some rather raw thoughts from me. I’m at the point where I’ve held on to so many identities so cautiously (son, husband, parent, teacher, consultant, “responsible got it together friend”) that this year is my year of letting all that go and reclaiming what’s beneath. Mostly it will be a whimsical travelogue, because I like to write those kinds of posts, and I want you to be entertained as I am by what happens.   But it will not be all rosy and peppy. I’m going to put some very personal stuff up here, partly because I need to write it, and partly because putting it out to all of you is an edgy kind of honest risk that I want to take now.   Since some of you have decided or been forced to, for better or worse, to join me on some part of my Life, (Thank you!), let me assure you that the only person I’ll embarrass is myself. And I’m no longer really worried about the consequences of that.

So, let’s begin. There’s an element of wanting to improve myself on this trip. To somehow find wisdom, to come back, like Moses on the mountain top, a changed man. My Ego is doing a good job on me of building expectations of enlightenment, that I will somehow gain something from this trip. That I will do such good deeds, think such deep and profound thoughts, act in such mature and evolved ways…that all that justifies this year long journey.

Instead…..I’m just sorta not doing anything.  I’m meeting people, but not deeply. The language barrier, and my shyness prevent that. I’m not the Worlds Most Interesting Man here. I’m not Dave Barry, or Mark Twain, or Joseph Campbell, or Bill Bryson….   This morning I puttered around my tiny Hong Kong airbnb room wondering what to do (I’m talking TINY…the bathroom is in the closet!). Made up the story to myself of “going to the coffee shop to write” to give meaning to the day. Presumably to write deep thoughts. Instead, I wandered around the crowded sweltering streets, got mildly lost, came across a post office and mailed home a box of souvenirs from China, walked into a random low rent, claustrophobic indoor shopping mall (intensely populated by desperate Asian Indians who all implored me to buy women’s bags – “good quality”, watches – likely fake, or some other such stuff that I have no interest in).

I checked out the menu from the Outback restaurant and found myself saying ,”Really? You’re checking out Outback? Where is your adventure? Aren’t you supposed to be diving into some back alley to try Andrew Zimmerman or Anthony Bourdain delicacies, have a few beers and then like Ernest Hemingway come away with stories about a Cambodian man I’ve met, same birthdate as me, who escaped slavery on a Thai shrimping boat to make his way on a rickety craft on the South China Sea with 200 others to Hong Kong, where he’s scraping together a meager yet honorable existence so he can send back his remittances to his extended family of 15 in Cambodia? And we become fast friends, vowing to stay close the rest of our lives here on earth?” Jimmy Buffet “African Friend” stuff! But no.

Instead I’m sitting here alone, at a short table, in some random ex pat bar named Mes Amis on Ashley Street , in Tsim Sha Tsui (Hong Kong), surrounded by mostly non Asians around me, drinking a second pint of Asahi, for godssake!! THIS is the Big Year Traveling Around the World? THIS is going to make me an Enlightened Global Citizen? Harumph…

I wonder why I did this.   I’m not scared or sad or anxious. I believe I can “not do anything” anywhere in the world.   (Well, maybe except for war zones, where I’m not too interested in going to at the moment). This Trip Around the World became a thing in my mind a couple years ago and when nothing and no one resisted it, that idea became a Thing that gained its own momentum. And once ideas like this get momentum, you just get carried along by it.

So here I am. Sitting alone in a bar that looks no different from bars in San Francisco, or Ann Arbor, or Munich, or even Dubai….with drunk ex pats, over half of them squinting into their smartphones. Even the music is the same as it is in those other places…some sort of Western Top 40 pop tunes (with some classic stuff too, Santana’s Black Magic Woman is up now!) And, after a month of “checking out East Asia”, I’m ruminating on the questions: Why am I here? Why am I doing this?

Okay, so it’s true that I begin contributing again Sep 4 in Danang, Vietnam. Offered my pro bono business consulting services to the East Meets West Dental Clinic, whose staff seem genuinely excited about my coming.   For 6 weeks.

So I’ll get to something meaningful (ie, contribution) soon. But this past month of touring Japan, S. Korea, China and now Hong Kong (okay, still part of China but feels MUCH different)…. this past month of touring has left me wondering why I’m doing this. It’s nice to SEE stuff (see previous and future blog entries).   But is that enough? Shouldn’t I be improving something? Or making an impact of some sort? At the very least, being 56, shouldn’t I be in the prime of my earning potential, gathering the bucks so I can retire comfortably? I’m not rich now. I can’t retire unless I buy an RV and live in Quartzsite, Arizona.   I should be making money, right?

But there was something in my awareness, over the last few years, that said….why not? These are the thoughts that have been coming back to me time and again: “You can always make more money. You can’t make more time.“   “If not now, when?” “You’re a global citizen, not just an American, so get to know the rest of the world” “ I feel more comfortable with the sensibilities (selectively chosen) of the rest of the world than of the strident chest thumping of American superiority political discourse.” (okay, that last one isn’t as pithy, but….it’s there). “Isn’t it just plain cool to know that I can live in different cultures and worlds, and connect with people from those different cultures and worlds? So get out there and do it some more!” “Your career is kinda stalled now, so why not?” “I can live cheaper on the road, than I can in SF, so this is a shrewd economic choice!” “I’ll always be a dad, but my sons don’t need me they way they used to, and it’s probably better if I’m gone for a year”.  These are the questions that pushed me along to leaving everything – and everyone – to go on this journey.

New tune! Neil Young’s Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World filling the bar as one guy hauls a too drunk friend to the bathroom in the back of Mes Amis.

There are no conclusions to this sort of musing.  But this sort of musing may be THE reason why I am taking this journey. To give myself space from the urgencies of making a living in the Bay Area to peel back the layers of ossified beliefs that 56 years of living has accumulated.

If you’ve read this far, what do you think? What opportunities do you feel a calling to give yourself, to lay bare and strip away the stories and filters and assumptions that you’ve accumulated over your time here on earth so far? And what would you do with a year away from everything, except yourself?



  1. Given a year, I think I’d do the same: travel. But my choice of locations would have been a bit different. I don’t have a burning desire to see China as I have a lot of animosity towards them as a culture. But rather, I would venture towards the exotic: islands with blue-green sea water, archaeological digs around the world, places off of the beaten path, and so forth. I might spend a year (or more) traveling to digs and islands … work a bit to replenish my pockets, and then move on. Totally agree that you can spend less traveling than it costs to live in SF AND get a chance to see the world while you’re at it. So … why not? You only get to do this thing called life once (as far as we know) and none of us get out of it alive. Hanging with the ex pats might help you crystalize why you (and they) are there. I wouldn’t shun then. Pick their brains! “Why are you here!?” Maybe you’ll get some insights into your own reasons and nature in the end. 🙂

  2. The very fact that you up and left everything familiar is huge. That is a change of state/status that makes you open to experiences most people will never have. The transformation is slow, often unobservable, and deep. My advice – did you ask for advice? Is to watch for the minor miracles. The small changes, the moments of synchrony. The experience of just being in the right place at the right time. The act of watching for those small miracles is also a wonderful state of being.
    Which can indeed happen anywhere – even safe and secure in your home town – but are more likely and you have the time and motive to observe more – when traveling.
    I never thought of you as shy. I’ll have to consider that.

  3. Hi Dave, have been enjoying reading about your travels and living vicariously through you. Over the past 8 years, I’ve traveled so much more than any other time in my life – sometimes alone, sometimes with others. I now have wanderlust BIG TIME. One thing that is so difficult for most of us to do is to “just be”. When we are sitting in some sidewalk cafe with a glass of Cava watching the world go by, although entertaining in its own right, we feel like we’re not doing anything! What would we be doing to make that moment in time more special? Americans, in general, have horrible time management skills and most of us don’t “work smart”. We are so conditioned to have goals, make every moment productive, keep moving forward, work hard, save money, blah blah blah. We live in a false sense of accomplishment, if that makes sense. We are overworked, stressed, eat poorly, our work/life balance is totally out of kilter. These moments of wondering why you are there is healthy – your contributions to this world is by your being and your experiences. Your comment that you are “not the most interesting man” is cutting yourself short. You ARE interesting in your own right and that makes you just as good as Mark Twain or any other writer sharing their thoughts. I admire you for pulling the plug and going off on this adventure. Few of us would have the courage to do so even though most of us enjoy talking about it. It takes a very strong person to go off in the world alone and explore. You need to be comfortable in your own skin – I appreciate seeing your vulnerableness. I’ve always looked up to you and now, I see you as a person just like me, carrying around our insecurities, trying to be our own psychiatrist rationalizing all our actions, etc. WHEW! doesn’t all that make you so tired? Just be and absorb these moments that are the building blocks to making you such a different person. I think the hardest part of this journey will be returning to the states. Yes, it’s what you know best but you will be in such a different place and I don’t know how you will put up with all this craziness here that we call life. Enjoy and thanks for sharing. Love you, Jackie

    • Hi, Jackie! Thanks for your thoughts. Wanderlust IS addictive, isn’t it? I’ve found that I’m much less shamed by and fearful of my insecurities when I just put them out there. The process of finding them, buried deep inside our ego, is, I suppose, a way I’m creating meaning in this trip.

  4. the only sure thing and the answer to every question is that yes, the time is now, and that yes, you WILL be dead. most people live and die without releasing themselves from the self imposed bonds of belief systems that hold them back from experiencing the mediocrity and the beauty of other things, other ways, other beliefs. this movement to freedom cannot be measured in human terms. it is that powerful. and to read that you are experiencing other things and setting yourself free makes me weep with gladness and camaraderie of spirit …. as that has been my mission in the latter part of my life…i so look forward to joining you on part of that !head trip’!

  5. Hi Dave, thanks for being so honest. What a gift. I have gone through a lot of this when I have traveled, and what you are doing is going to promote even more ups and downs, I am sure! I told myself when I went to India, which I found AMAZING and overwhelming, that I should do just one thing a day that pushed me. There were the in-between things, like going to a market to shop, which is both comfortable and exotic, and then were the days I just walked into the lobby of the fanciest Western hotel I could find (which, because of the way we look, we can get away with–an element of our Western/white privilege) and sat down with my book and read for a few hours. Whatever you do on a given day, whether it is an “ex-pat comfort day” or a “push yourself day,” you are already learning so much about yourself, and that is really all God wants for us, to become day by day, more of who we already are. What an opportunity!! Thank you so much for sharing of yourself–it says to me you are really traveling, not just being a tourist.

    • Thanks, Marianne! I have to say that I’ve also pulled the “Western/white privilege card” a few times, doing just as you did. My home may be a tiny, backwater airbnb room. But I hang out in the InterContinental! Sometimes.

  6. No matter where you go, there you are. Breathe, relax, be.

  7. fb share led me here. Look forward to catching up with your journey. I have no words of wisdom except, perhaps, patience. Keep faith with your intent to let this year wash over you. And as for Quartzsite… Anais Nin was married there.

    • Hi, Merrilee:
      I did NOT know Anais Nin was married in Quartzite. Kind of adds a little coolness to it!

  8. It’s ok not to do something profound every day. It could be a day of taking care of business – laundry, anyone? – or it could be a day of processing what you’ve done. Activity without reflection is just manic and unproductive. It’s like with infants; they have to sleep in order to turn their experiences into manageable and ordered information. And it’s ok if sometimes you’re being “just a tourist”. Are you getting something out of it? Are you enjoying the beautiful sights? Are you finishing the day thinking, ‘gosh, I’m glad I went there’ or ‘holy cow, that was *bizarre*!’? Then that’s fine. Travel is about exposure, and the exposure isn’t always profound.

    I think your forays to ex-pat bars, Disneyland, and Outback Steakhouse speak more to needing familiarity than anything. It is HARD traveling in a country where you’re no more than passingly familiar with the customs and the language. It is exhausting, and so to immerse yourself in something familiar is totally understandable.

    As for where I would go if I had a year to go anywhere… I have no idea. I feel like I can’t even start thinking that way, because I’m so deep in the trenches here and now. But I will enjoy your year vicariously!

  9. Dave, you pull out your passport a lot these days; I pull out my Medicare card. I can’t make any better sense of my (bad)health journey than you can of finding yourself second guessing your choices in a North Vietnamese expat bar….Not to worry: Bernard Fall and Graham Greene long ago told the stories of foreigners fucking up Indochina/Vietnam. I SOOOOOO envy your total immersion in these places and cultures!!! Just be, Bubba, just BE! And maybe keep a journal with the puzzling questions. To be answered later, thank you.

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