January 14, 2011 | Posted in: Philosophy

Though I’ve deep roots in Phoenix (having arrived in 1968), I’m a bit of a vagabond at heart. As a little girl I knew I wanted to see the world, to wander and explore (founded in great part because the ability to read opened up an entire world of possibilities). With the exception of traveling from the Philippines to America (courtesy of Uncle Sam and the USS Patrick) my parents had very little money for indulging my desires. With five children they only took us on a few trips throughout our entire childhood. All but one of them was limited to visiting family in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. That said, part of the reason I’m so crazy about my husband, Bob, is from the moment we became a couple, travel became part of our lifestyle.

We’ve not seen the world … but we’ve seen an awful lot. Our first major trip was in 1981, our first year together. Tahiti. Heavenly. Especially for my husband who, until falling in love with me, had never thought of travel as something he aspired to doing. Since that incredibly romantic trip, we’ve been to 20 countries and have visited more than 1200 cities (TripAdvisor.com helps you keep track of this type of info!). Athens, Rome, London, Paris, Sydney, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur. The list of cities and countries goes on and on.

I love travel because as Mark Twain says, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” I found that to be true.

Because of travel, I love all types of people, all types of cuisine, all types of cultures. And I’ve learned that no matter where we come from, we all want the same things. Hope. Prosperity. Health. Happiness. Love. Peace. I’ve also learned, in profoundly moving ways, the people of any given country are not messed up. If a country like Iran is a ticking time bomb … it’s not the fault of the citizenry. It’s always the fault of those in charge. Doesn’t matter if it’s a democracy, theocracy, or dictatorship. Those in charge are the ones making a mess of things. But I digress.

An enormous part of why I love travel stems from the fact that it satisfies my near insatiable desire to learn as much as I possibly can. I never come home from a trip that I haven’t expanded my horizons with something significant or life-changing. For instance, the strength and integrity of Japan’s Samurai soldiers impacted me in such a way as to cause me to study them in an attempt to learn the source of their indomitable sense of duty and honor. Walking the Turkish ruins of St. Paul’s, Ephesus (his inspiration for the writing of Ephesisans), created an enormous sense of humility and led me to intently study his inspired contributions to the New Testament. The indescribable generosity of every single person in Australia (from the Gold Coast to Perth!) touched me so deeply and has served to remind me how to treat visitors to my own country. G’day mate!

Over the last few years, my current career path has limited my international traveling to a handful of trips. The upside is it dramatically increased my need to travel throughout America. Though visiting all 50 states had always been on my bucket list, I kept delaying it because I thought I’d get so much more

surprised than me to uncover the amazing wisdom found within our own backyard.

Every city, every town, every state has something incredible to offer. I learned that most people love where they live not only for the fact that they’ve deep roots there, but that there’s genuinely something wonderful to love about their little piece of the universe. But the most important thing I learned is that American people are amazing and, whether it be homespun or sophisticated, have a downright tremendous amount wisdom to share.

As an immigrant to America, I have always loved this country, but even I was taken aback by how amazing we are as a people. Kind. Gracious. Loving. Tender-hearted. Generous. And mostly wise. From San Diego to New Iberia, LA. From New York City to Bayview, ID. From Chicago to Canyon Lake, TX. Doesn’t matter if it’s a major metropolitan city or a quaint one horse town. Good people, great lessons, everywhere.

Honestly? I could easily fill books with what I’ve seen, heard and done these past four years on the road. I’ve literally conducted several hundred events, most of which were in people’s homes (much preferring the intimacy of working with small groups than the gigantic meetings my profession requires me to attend several times per year). Being a guest in someone’s home is always an enormous gift and I walk away a better person for their opening their hearts and hearth to me. Invariably, when I leave, I’m taking part of them with me and my heart always soars forever after. But today’s blog isn’t about covering all of these experiences. Just my attempt to whet your appetite for future stories and to tell you about one of the most profound lessons garnered as I vagabonded around the country.

Late October, 2010. We were at a Waffle House diner in London, Kentucky (somewhere between the major metropolis’s of Bear Branch and Crab Orchard). We were half way through a 6,000 mile trip. On a professional level, and as a result of our fascinating economy, I was searching for solutions to the suffering so many people are currently enduring. On a personal level, I was grappling with what would be the next big step for the direction of my life and was feeling the stress that accompanies big decisions. On a physical level, I was feeling a little worn out (having just completed several months recuperating from a serious injury). Little did I know that the quick decision to have breakfast at this particular diner would help answer so many of the issues pinging around in my head.

As we waited to place our order an overheard comment from the waitress at the next table helped lift an enormous weight off my shoulders. When asked how she was doing, she cheerfully said, “The first thing I do every morning when I wake up is read the obituaries. If my name ain’t there … it’s going to be a great day!”

Wow. Isn’t that profound? London, KY. Population 6,100. Average income per capita, $18,500. The GNP of the entire town of London can’t be what I find here in my above average income suburban neighborhood. Undoubtedly our economy has hit this woman hard. If there’s no disposable income, people eat out less and that means tips are less. She probably had kids to feed. She could have been a single parent. If married, her husband might have been recently laid-off. And, yet, here she was as cheerful as she could be and grateful to be alive to boot.

The weight I’d been carrying simply disappeared.  Poof!

I walked out of that restaurant transformed. If I’d been thinking properly, I would have stopped, turned around, gone back in and had my picture made with this Tibetan monk masquerading as a Waffle House waitress. I would have loved to been able to share her picture with you today. Sadly, having her picture is a missed opportunity for all of us. But if you’re anywhere near London, anytime soon, would you be so kind as to stop by and tell her what she means to me?

On a somber note, yesterday, a casual friend and business acquaintance, woke up to find his name in the obituaries. He leaves behind two little girls.  The saddest part of this news is he took his life.  A permanent solution to a temporary problem. Devastating. Would that he could have gone to London instead.

I didn’t wake up to  find my name in the obituaries today and sure enough it’s been a great day. What say you?

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A beautiful piece of statuary on the patio of the Oasis Restaurant in Austin, TX. With every breath of life, let our souls take flight and let everyday be a GREAT day. God rest your troubled soul, precious David, and may those who love you find peace.