Story last updated at 7/29/2009 - 11:18 am
Note: This is the first part in a two- part series about a seasonal worker, based in Skagway, who together with his wife, travels to different parts of the world each year.
I know this sounds weird, so let me explain. It all began when, after many years of living the American Dream in sunny California, my wife suddenly handed me divorce papers. With the stroke of a pen, I was stripped of everything I valued; gone were the wealth achieved from our thriving business and investment property, the dream home, and the love of my three healthy children. I was devastated. Suicide even seemed an option.
Then one day, in an instant, I had a revelation. I realized that, in spite of everything I had lost, I now had gained my freedom, and immediately that positive revelation reawakened a long-held dream - to travel around the world.
Almost overnight, my thoughts changed from suicide to gratitude. I honestly heard an inner voice urging me on, to travel the world, take lots of pictures, and come back to share this rich experience. On my travels, as I was riding a train in India, an elderly gentleman, totally out of the blue, peered intently through Gandhi-style spectacles, and said to me: "Ask yourself what is the most important thing in your life, and then ask yourself if you could lose it and still be happy." That sage advice has since had a profound influence on me. Although I had lost everything that I deemed important in my life, I had gained the freedom to seek happiness and fulfillment through travel and the sharing of my experiences through film.
Knowing nothing of filmmaking, I bought a second hand Super 8 movie camera and a compact still camera, as well as a backpack and a round-the-world plane ticket. I was gone for nearly a year, traveling through 14 separate countries, and gathering a wealth of experiences to share - some exhilarating, some delightful, and some terrifying.
For example, since I was traveling alone, one of my greatest concerns was what would happen to me if I became ill or had a serious accident. Sure enough, in India, I became so ill that I thought I was going to die. Instead, a fellow traveler, my guardian angel, saw my condition and completely took over. She found a doctor who examined me and diagnosed a dangerous airborne virus and prescribed antibiotics. This angel is still one of my closest friends today. She is of Russian descent, and when communism collapsed in Russia, she invited me to make a documentary film of her first visit there. (This is now available as one of our many DVDs.)
Then there was the time I arrived thoroughly exhausted at an Indian bus station, and was told to leave my backpack alongside the bus for the attendant to load onto the roof. I was reluctant to do so, since it held my round-the-world ticket, my passport, and my money, but I did as I was told - pretty stupid. In the middle of the night I awoke with a panic attack, certain that I had lost my backpack. That's when I "got religion," realizing that the situation was totally out of my control, and my backpack, like me, was in God's hands. I went back to sleep, and in the morning my prayers were answered. My backpack was right where it was supposed to be, but the intensity of that experience has never left me.
Later, in Hong Kong, I joined a small group of tourists visiting China, the forbidden empire. As often happens when you travel, you meet a variety of interesting people, and, perhaps because you are in a totally foreign environment, you become more open to new relationships, and develop a unique bond. I was discussing this phenomenon with a couple of my fellow visitors, doctors from a Hong Kong hospital, and they shared some Chinese philosophy which explained it perfectly: "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." I found this personally relevant in that, although outwardly I was taking a journey around the world, inwardly I was taking a spiritual journey which has had a far greater effect, rewarding me with many life-changing experiences, resulting in life-changing attitudes.
Look for the concluding part of this in the next issue of the Capital City Weekly.