Reminiscing? Discovering? Mattering?
Although when I look back at my own childhood honestly believing it to be unmatched and indeed unique, I also realize that most childhoods can claim the same description. Still, when my size 14-narrow feet started itching to go places and do things others were not inclined to do, I began (ever so slightly) to recognize that my own life journey might not be as typical or defined like so many others’ feet.
Two summers I worked for the Smithsonian on the Missouri Basin Project excavating early man sites in Wyoming and Montana as a meticulous archaeological digger. I earned minimum wage and gained some pretty maximum insights few others would ever see. A book was written about this event called “Bighorn Canyon Archaeology” and, yes, my name is on the Acknowledgements page.
During the school year while attending the University of New Mexico, a love of maps persuaded me to surrender a part-time job as soda jerk and go to work for AAA full-time. I was able to discuss and help plan auto trips by day two on the job. Having most place names already embedded in my map-head, I had already traversed most of the roads. I had a natural map head …such linear thinking was easy, natural. Besides, I needed more money for my new yellow Mustang. University became part-time in the process.
Coming of age in the 1960s was a little more complicated than other decades. Many didn’t know what to do; and, as I discuss in my book Just Dust, some decisions are made for reasons still challenging to explain clearly today. In my case, I joined the US Marine Corps–arguably more an act of rebellion than patriotism. In my book, Just Dust (check Amazon.com for more details) captures my observations over this nearly four-year timeline of unpredictable events, twists, and turns.
Still rebounding from the throes of war, self-examination, and a weary map-head seeking a new direction after my Vietnam experiences, I retreated and went back to work for AAA. I worked for this map-oriented giant for over 40 years rising through overtime exempt manager positions eventually to become chief executive officer of a small independent AAA corporation responsible for the states of Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska.
Over these four decades, in addition to numerous business-oriented trips to many interesting “touristy” destinations throughout Europe, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Alaska, my wife and I also took time to explore certain places in more detail …more traveling-type sojourns or “travelings” to Ireland, Egypt, and Mexico on our own free of organized guided tour-type “touristings.”
In 2010, after I had obtained my certificate to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL), Carol and I took one of these “travelings” to Ecuador and explored many places in the tour guides using taxicab drivers and bilingual locals. After Carol returned home to Arizona, I stayed on in Ecuador for nearly three months teaching English as a volunteer (a local organization connected volunteers to businesses who had large numbers of American and Canadian clientele) in Quito and Guayaquil. One of the companies I worked for, Ecoventura (headquartered in Guayaquil), was a private yacht company that marketed tours throughout the Galapagos. They wanted their staff better able to communicate with their patrons. They were pleased enough with my “conversational English” approach to grant me a special extended tour of the Galapagos Islands as their guest aboard one of the yachts. Over those three months in Ecuador I lived with families who could speak no English. I traveled to places many Americans seldom ever go to and met some amazing Ecuadorians on this journey. My ability to speak Spanish improved remarkably. I decided to write a story about this adventure as well, as it too is another road less traveled.
But then in 2014, on yet another road less traveled, I published that first book dealing with military choices during the 1960s, Just Dust: An Improbable Marine’s Vietnam Story.
Y’ know, there’s always another fork in the road, another choice to make. Which one is traveled more, which one less?