|Welcome Home Bruce
October 4, 2003
Gíday everyone from Sydney Australia. Some
of you may not have heard from me for a while and may have thought I was eaten
by a shark, fell off a glacier cliff, eaten by a dingo, or captured by Maoist
rebels. All of these are close but no cigar, Iíve been living by the
beach over the past 5 months trying to set up our carpet import business, but
alas, the immigration department changed the visa laws a few months ago and it
is not to be. Julia and I are ending our world tour by arriving in Chicago
on October 4, 2003. That would make 780 days (thatís 2 years, 1 month,
19 days) plus throw in 1 extra for crossing the international time zone (I live
a day in the future, so I can tell you the score of the cubs game before it
happens). My mom says she'll believe that I'm home when she sees me,
but I promise that the tickets are purchased and the visa runs out a week later,
so that's all folks.
The past 2 years has been several lifetimes of experiences and wonders. I feel like Gulliver returning from his amazing travels. The kindness and generosity of people around the world have touched my soul in ways that words canít describe. Iíve seen 5 continents, 19 countries, the lowest seas (Dead Sea, Jordan), the highest mountain (Mt. Everest, Tibet), swam with dolphins, been kicked by horses in Turkey, danced at an Indian wedding with a Maharajaís heir, meditated with monks, crawled into tombs of Pharaohs in Egypt, and been in the wild with lions. Just the act of pursuing my dreams has been one of my biggest highs, which is almost as satisfying as inspiring those I meet to dream a dream and go after it.
I want everyone to know that I truly appreciate all of your kind words and support along the journey. Life can get a bit lonely on the road, so having a word of encouragement has kept spirits high when Iím exhausted from 115 F weather in India and have food poisoning.
I have been working on our website updating the countries and photos. The photo tally is near 30,000 in our files and 7,000 or so on our site. Nepal, Tibet, New Zealand, Thailand, and Toilets around the world have been updated. The 3 months and 3,000 photos are almost finished and will be up in a few weeks.
Upon our return, and adjustment into the new age of America, we will be starting our carpet import business. A few projects that I hope to do are putting my Toilets Around the World section into a book form (great bathroom reading), creating an art exhibition of our photos of a trip around the world, and to put together a presentation for school children on seeing the world and the amazing cultures to know. That one will come with some cool audiovisuals of Maasai Warriors dancing, spears, masks and many cool things that probably are a bit to dangerous to show 8 year old kids (but theyíll love it). If anyone has any suggestions, comments or help in our business, art projects, or presentations, Iíd love to hear from you.
Hereís a SAVE THE DATE notice to you:
Julia and I will be having a welcome home party on Saturday, October 11th in Chicago (bar to yet be determined). I hope that anyone who can attend will come say hi and give us a hug.
To conclude this email, Julia just wrote a beautiful letter to her friends which mirrors many of my sentiments as well. I usually write much of the text in our website (thatís why itís full of poo jokes) and she does the editing. But she has written summarizes both of our thoughts and feelings on the world, so I didnít think it necessary to try to duplicate it. I hope to see all of the people in Chicago, and to hear from you around the world that we have met and been privileged to know.
Dear Friends and Family,
In less than two weeks I'll be boarding a plane for home. I wish with all my heart that I could plug you into my mind so you could have seen what I have seen, been with me and shared in all my experiences around the World.
I stopped writing mass emails a year ago because I came
to a point when getting deeper and deeper into the third world where I
absolutely could not find the words to describe my days. (also impossible to
email in many places) I would try to sleep at night and my head would spin
with images, smells, tastes, feelings that I remembered and thought, "How
would I ever explain or describe this day to someone back home." I've
felt my words were pale compared to my experiences. In retrospect, it is
now becoming easier to share the stories. (so be forewarned...the stories are
I had no "expectations" of my adventure so was able to embark with an open mind. Not only have I learned a lifetime equal to a formal education about foreign cultures, religions, art, traditions, world economics, geography etc, but I, as a previously untraveled person was shocked with the power and privilege of holding a "western" passport. I see my country in a very different light, some positive, some negative especially traveling during war-time which I will share in another email someday. I feel my eyes have been opened to the true meaning of being "American", most of all in the sense of how others see us and how we affect the World.
What I ask of you...
Next time you are downtown and see a "foreign" looking person meandering about, please remember this could have been me. When you see a Buddhist monk or nun with their shaved head and maroon and yellow robes, say hello, ask where they are from, if they've met the Dahlia Lama. I promise they will be the kindest person you ever meet and grateful that you took time from your busy day to say hello. Don't be afraid or weary of them because they are different. When you hear a foreign tongue, welcome them to your city. It really feels good and will put a smile on their face. When you see a tourist standing on the corner with a guide book and a confused look on their face, ask if they need help instead of grumbling that the darn tourists are getting in your way and slowing you on your walk to work. Many times tourists feel ignored by locals and it's a very lonely feeling. If they don't understand your directions, take 5 minutes and walk with them. You'll have a friend for life, a place to stay, a personal guide, and friend when you visit their country. If you live in a small town and meet a newcomer at church or the grocery, invite them to dinner so they can see how your American family lives. Remember that foreigners are much more open to welcoming strangers into their home than us Americans and it would be one of the best experiences in your life, I promise. Also, know that what you see on American television about other countries and cultures can be very biased. Believe me, our journalists don't have the freedom of speech that they should. You don't really know what it's like until you go there.
When you are traveling abroad, don't be a stereotypical American tourist throwing money around and demanding that everyone speak English! How would you feel if a foreigner in your country was angered because you couldn't speak their language?
Also, when you see someone in a way that you find weird or what in our culture could be considered unacceptable, such as their religion (especially religion), the way they dress, their appearance, their food, their mannerisms, the way they speak, try to remember that cultures are different and just because it is unlike your own, it is not wrong. Be accepting of differences, it will open your eyes and enrich your thoughts.
Remember my new Muslim friends in Jordan, Egypt, Turkiye and East Africa and the Arabic people who were so kind to us and sorrowful after Sept 11th while we were traveling in the Middle East, Many of you will meet our Indian family, Nav with his turban, Seema with the bendi dot on her forehead who adopted us and showed us the time of my life and who I will consider family til the day I die, the Tibetan monks in their long red robes an shaved heads who shared their food with us when they had very little. The Nepalese woman who held my hand helping me cross the busy street. Smiling Lal, my Himalayan porter who held my hand for days helping me cross rivers, rocks, and dangerous landslides just so I could trek to the roof of the World and never once complained about my slow pace.
And for you...
I'll try to remember that it's not appropriate while at the check out counter of the grocery store to exclaim, "You're asking too much for these Frosted Flakes! I'm only paying half!", slap my money down and walk away with my cereal. I will ask for a discount at The Gap, though. (I've heard from fellow travelers who have also learned the art of bargaining that it actually works sometimes). I'll try to be patient with other's prejudice of the places they've never experienced.
In many ways coming home is very scary. Afraid my opinions will offend someone or some won't understand my thoughts on certain topics. I'm sure I've changed in many ways, and it should be quite amusing to discover these changes with my friends. I'm wondering what you will think. Will you recognize me? What will you be like now? Will you be supportive of my decision not to go back to a corporate job and to start my own business importing ethnic handwoven carpets and rugs? I'm afraid of the road ragers, the rude drivers, generally angry, impatient, short tempered people as this is something I haven't experienced in two years. How will I react? Will I keep my calm, or quickly be sucked right back into it? What strange habits and phrases have I picked up? Here comes the reverse culture shock!
More than all that, I'm very very very happy and excited to return home. It's hard to imagine having material possessions other than what's in my backpack. More than 4 changes of clothes? My very own bed? No living out of a pack or box? Though not having all those things has been refreshing in many ways, all are a very welcome sight!
After playing "Death is not an option" in third world countries (more stories there). I think back to when I was traveling hard core and wonder how I did it. Many of you were worried about my health. Well, I've had my fair share of parasites, food poisoning, dysentery, broken bones, and miscellaneous strange illnesses, but it was all worth it, I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat...and I survived!
I know you're all wondering about Bruce. Can you believe that after meeting on match.com and leaving on a trip around the world together two months later, we've been together literally 24/7 for 2 years and still enjoy each other? Sure, we've had some very rough times from to much "togetherness", but we've stuck it out and will be returning to Chicago together to be business partners. We are not, and I will repeat...we are not a couple. We just didn't fall in love. We think of each other as brother and sister and are both very happy with that. He's my Wonder Twin.
When you're ready to plan your world tour or just a short adventure, let me know and I'll give you lots of tips. You don't have to be a millionaire to travel the world. You can live very well in many places for five U.S. dollars a day.
See you all soon!
Travel is truly the cure for prejudice and ignorance.
Bruce and Julia, World Travelers and
Adventure Seekers Extraordinaire.
Copyright © 2004 by [MyWorldTour.org]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05 Feb 2007 20:21:29 -0600 .