2014 Check up: Bucket List 2012-2015

I was silent on this last year, so it’s time to resume this check  in my progress of my current Bucket List.

The 2012 List

– Malta
– Istanbul
– Wales

The 2013 List

– Istanbul again
– Yosemite Park – aborted by extenuating circumstances. Personally, I think Westin/Starwood should be treating me to this lost vacation.
– Sweden
– Czech Republic

The 2014 List:

– Wales again
– none other. Alas. Well, not really. I spent the time in other locations.

So, what do I have left?

– Oregon Coast
– Nantucket
– Martha’s Vineyard
– Acadia National Park

I will have to already postpone the following. Yet, I don’t regret anything. I have hardly been sitting still, after all.

– Spain
– Kilimanjaro
– Sicily
– Ireland

In Memoriam: Alex Meservey

I rarely mention names or post pictures of friends and family on this blog for their privacy. But this warrants a rule breaker.

A friend took his life this morning. A former Marine, a veteran, who continued to serve his country as a civilian, was son, brother, father, uncle, Marine brother, and friend. He left this message on Facebook for us to wake up to this morning.

Alex goodbye

He ended with a heart wrenching “My address is *************. The door is unlocked.”

I met Alex on a business trip in the Middle East years ago. I was traveling on my own, and he and his colleagues became my fast friends. Their company made what could have been a long lonely frustrating business trip into an adventure filled with laughter and great memories. He wouldn’t strike anyone as friend from appearance. His size intimidated. His scowling face made people balk. He could be unpleasantly and blunt. Underneath that gruff exterior though was a heart of gold, a fighter who would protect and defend those he cared about. It was a wonderful feeling belonging in that defended circle.

I don’t profess to be of the closest friends with him; yet, his death affected me profoundly. He has served for our country in so many ways, proudly. His suicide brings to the forefront of my mind the alarmingly high rates of suicide amongst vets. It hurts my head to think how all these men and women who put their lives on the line for us struggle to live back at in their own home. And it breaks my heart that we still don’t know how to help. These men and women whom our country trains to kill and to make sharp quick life-or-death decisions don’t know how to say one simple word: “help”.

So, now we owe it to them to say: “Please tell me how I can help” or “I am here to help you.”

I left this message for him in response to his post. I hope somewhere out there, he gets it.

Oh, Alex. My heart breaks to read your message to us. And there I was thinking when I sent your birthday wishes that I looked forward to catching up in a couple months. I wish you had just picked up the phone to call someone to help you at your low. I am so sad to hear you felt so alone when it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I hope you are finally at the peace you need and deserve. I wish your family and loved ones the strength to get through these difficult times. You’ve given so much of your life to service and protecting us and our country. Since we couldn’t help you in your time with us, now it is up to us to keep you from becoming a statistic by cherishing and honoring your life for the rest of ours.

Alex photo

(photo credit: unknown friend/family. Picked out from his Facebook profile. I thought it best represented people’s first impression!)

His Facebook page has been an out pour of emotion and messages from friends. Let this be a lesson to other people struggling with similar issues as an example that when they feel alone, the truth is the opposite.

For the rest of us, keep this within our reach for other friends who may need the help: Veteran Crisis Line ( 1-800-273-8255 ) is a resource that is available for our service members.

msg_1-bg_7_wide

 

Good bye, Alex. I wish you could have let us help because then I would have had a chance to say this: You got it backwards, you dumba$$. Dude, in order for us to have touched your life, you had to have touched ours, too. You are dearly missed already.

 

postscript: For those who knew Alex and wish to attend, a service will be held on Wednesday, 3 December, 2014. The service will be held at the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center in Columbia, MD  at 1:00 pm EST, with a reception/wake afterward at Sonoma’s in Columbia.

Oakland Mills Interfaith Center
5885 Robert Oliver Pl.
Columbia, MD 21045

Sonoma’s
Owen Brown Village Center
7284 Cradlerock Way
Columbia, MD 21045

Fundraising for Alex’s children:
http://www.gofundme.com/i0xbo8

No such thing: “The best place to visit”

Now that I’ve come back to the United Stated permanently, I’ve spent a lot of time explaining to people where I’ve been and why I ask so seemingly inane questions (“How long ago was it when the flu shot needles changed to these things?” “What is the sales tax again?” “Are those parking rules new?” “When did you change your menu?” “You don’t accept these frequent drink punch cards anymore?”). Inevitably, a lot of people ask me “where’s the best place to go?”

Whew. Where do I start? There is no such thing. At least for me. Some people may fall in love with a particular place. Many do, and continue to purchase vacation or retirement homes in those locations. But I’m not that person. I want to see as much of the world as possible. It takes a lot to convince me to revisit a place when there are other places I want to explore. My philosophy is that no matter how poor or different each place is, there is some inherent beauty to it and I always find those features. There is a top destinations list, but each made it to that list for a very different reason.

The worst part about that question is each person’s idea of vacation is different. So many people want to lounge by the beach and go no further than 10 feet from bedroom to beach. I hate it. To me, I can’t imagine a more boring and expensive way to blow through a budget. I pounce through places like Myanmar and Egypt. I don’t define exotic by palm trees and sand. The poorer the country, the more intriguing to me. My to-do list includes Mongolia, Nepal, Tibet. So to ask me to make a recommendation to a beach-goer is asking for a disaster.

I do realize I travel so much more than an average person, regardless of nationality. I do have so much more experience in a large variety of destinations. I realize that knowledge alone is precious. I continue to travel a lot, even domestically. I have so much more freedom and time in taking off somewhere than a majority of my peers. So, when you ask me “Where is the best place to go for vacation”.. be ready to sit down for a good 20 minutes while I drill you on your preferences before getting around to answer your question.

Home bound, Oh my!

I am home. Or am I?

I have finally returned to the United States with no immediate plans to leave. What a novel feeling it is. Now.. for the culture shock. Notes from my first week, in no particular order:

American drivers are overly fond of their car horns. Yes, so are drivers of many countries. But living in the UK, there honking the car horn is specifically frowned upon, I underestimated how accustomed I have become to the relative quiet. Oi. My poor ears.

– I have options after 7pm on Sundays! What a joy it is to come back to the overly commercialized country of USA. Sometimes having businesses open late and on every day is a huge convenience. Especially when I’m in a limbo stage of no permanent home right now.

– Sticker shock. Oh, how affordable and reasonable cost of living in the US of A is! Truly. If there’s anything I appreciate about the goods market here, it is that there is a general level of quality assurance in the products, which, frankly, is worth paying for. So I looked forward to what I believe are more reasonable prices, especially compared to the UK.. until the sales taxes. Sheesh. Include them in the price label, is that too much to ask for?

– Supermarkets. I got lost. I admit it. On my first trip, running errands for my mother. I was so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of products in the aisles and the choices!

Stay tuned. I am only one week in…