‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ This was not only the Golden Rule but the Golden Rule in my home. I was born into a working class family in New York where my parents instilled in me this high sense of morality. They had grown up during the Great Depression, and understood the value of hard work. And no matter the outside conditions (economic, health, etc) they never waivered from their selfless behavior. My father would wake every morning at 5 AM, walk an hour to the train station, even on the coldest days and in the snow (this despite the fact that we owned a car) and would not return until 7 pm or later each night. My only travel experiences as a boy were week long excursions to Maine, a nearby province, where our friends owned an old wooden house. Twice we ventured as far as the exotic land of Canada, which, but for the border crossing, it was hard to distinguish where one nation left off and the other began. Despite our status, my father kept an enormous private library and encouraged us to read at least two hours every day (a habit I have kept for 40 + years.) We would throw parties for his friends, other New York intellectuals who had become professors at Harvard, Yale, and other Ivy League schools. Because of this environment, I breezed through my studies, being the 1st in my class to learn how to read and graduating each stage of my education with honors. As a result of my high scores on exams, I earned a scholarship to the #1 State University in New York, where I received my degree in Philosophy. I was a few credits shy of a second degree when I became distracted by a certain love interest- but such is youth.
At the time, had I been asked, I would have replied that I’d been highly educated. In retrospect, however, it is clear that my real education didn’t start until later in life, when my travels began. In 1999 my dog (Monster) and I embarked on a decade long trip across 31 countries on 5 continents. I supported myself the entire time through tutoring, playing my guitar, and offering psychological services. Why did I choose such a non-traditional lifestyle? As with most things, it originated with my childhood. In fact, I had been leading a double life. Besides the one I have just described I had been greatly influenced by a rich relative who had no children of his own. He was a self-made multi-millionaire and treated me to the finest dining in New York, helicopter rides around the Statue of Liberty and as a teenager, introduced me to the wonderful world of travel. Everywhere we went, we stayed in the most luxurious hotels and were constantly surrounded by other rich and famous folks. And yet what impressed me most about those times, was not the diamonds my aunt wore so casually, nor the fancy sports cars my uncle bought (like clockwork, every other year) but the fact that by enlarge, the upper echelon of society seemed no more happy than the folks I had grown up with (and in many cases they seemed considerably more miserable!) Early on, I had taken a keen interest in psychology, and these experiences made me wonder – how did one attain happiness and what exactly was the ‘good life.’ Most everyone I knew seemed to equate happiness with money, fame or power (in one form or another) and most spent their lives killing themselves to get it… but to me, it was crystal clear that happiness had little to do with these things. During my travels, I saw time and time again that, regardless of where I was, which country, which culture, that this truth remained unchanged. For example, a poor peasant family I met in Mexico, who could barely grow enough food to feed themselves, were some of the happiest, most alive people you could imagine – They walked around all day with such huge smiles, you’d think they’d just won the lottery! And when I inquired about it they just told me ‘Rich folks have rich folk problems.’ And so it went. But although I knew what happiness was not, I didn’t have a clear picture of what it was. So I continued my journey, seeking out the wise men from every culture, and learning about all the various religions and cultures. And from that experience I understood (not in a theoretical or intellectual way, but personally knowing it to be true from my own vast experiences) that it was not about having this or that thing, position, respect, etc etc. It was about understanding the value of your relationships (to the people in your life, and to your environment.) There is value in every single moment of your life and a method to maximize appreciation.
My family was very much against my travels and kept pestering me to return to New York where it was “safe.” (You simply need search online for violent crime statistics to understand the irony here.) “China! You’re going to China?! Its dangerous there! And can you speak Chinese? Romania? You’re going to Romania?!” Every move it was the same.
Most of my friends were more supportive, and in fact, universally responded to emails of my adventures with encouragement and wistful notions of having missed their chance to do it. ‘You are so cool! Your life is so awesome!’ they would say. ‘Why don’t you join me?’ I would ask. And I always got the same replies, down to the very last one. ‘I can’t. I don’t have the money.’ Or ‘I need to finish my studies.’ Or ‘I can’t get time off from my job.’ Blah blah blah. There’s always a reason Not to do something, but in actuality, they are not reasons at all, but simply excuses. The truth is that people are afraid. They are afraid and they are confused, and this confusion leads them to make such foolish decisions concerning the most vital things. There are so many people on the planet suffering! The more I traveled, the more I saw this. And yet, the more I traveled the better I felt. And not just me, there is a plethora of wisdom that equates travel with a good life. (I’ve scattered some of them about this website, but you can find hundreds more.) So wise men seemed to agree about the benefits of travel. But why should this be? And how could travel be used as a form of therapy? Because of my unique lifestyle, I was able to figure it out. And this is what I want to share with the world.