“They come for three months – they stay for four years – and I welcome that. That’s how we learn. They see us up close and personal and we see them. A lot of countries that they come from have very different governments, with different rules. We get to learn about each without the filter of what they are told. I wouldn’t say that when they leave we fully understand each other’s cultures, but we are surely better off than we would have been if we hadn’t.”

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In a recent newsletter, I referenced a book; Everything I Know About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead which unbeknownst to me was written by a friend of a friend. Turns out the two friends used to swap Grateful Dead stories and on reading my post this story came to mind. When I read the story, it seemed a perfect addition to my Travels Without Charley series – so please read on and enjoy the first ‘guest post’ in the series.


One favourite was about a concerned father and his 16 year old son.

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“In Italy I was a photographer. In Rome.”

“A pretty place to photograph.”

“Well, not so much, my job was a police photographer. When someone died, I took the photographs. I was very busy. Ten years .. every day … click click click … more death. Depressing. Soul ‘killing’’. I couldn’t make a life out of death.”

So different city, different country, different job?

“Yes. But same girl!”

“She said to me one day that she is coming here. To England. It seemed a good idea. Time for change.”

You didn’t want to do something in photography? Maybe scenery, weddings, commercial … put your skills to a different use?

“No.”

“My girl friend she is always changing. Me too. I wanted change. But Only one change. Change. Stop.”

So you have been here for ten years.

“Yes. And will be for another ten. My girlfriend she has had 15 jobs in the same time. Sometimes working 50 miles away. Always changing. Always chasing. But never arriving.”

“Me? I’ve arrived.”


Any journey is a series of events and one of those events is the destination. 1

He looked at me. Eyes piercing my skull.

“Yes – I have heard of it I replied. An African nation … right?”

African yes.

“I’m sorry, I can’t place exactly where in Africa – but, my memory tells me in the North .. near Ethiopia?”

You do indeed know my country. He gave me the biggest smile.

And then this young man from Eritrea launched into the story of his journey from Africa to San Francisco. Not harrowing … though if you know anything of that region, that is more surprising than if it was.

I won a scholarship to America. I am a musician. I came here ten years ago.

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Stood to the side of the road, walking stick supporting him. Well kept. Elegant even. Just standing. The traffic constantly passing him by. No slowing down, but then no attempt by him to get them to either.

I slowed down to let him cross. No movement.

I opened the window.

“Would you like a lift?”

“Thankyou.” he said. “Thankyou very much.”

Slowly walking towards the car, he gets in.

“Much appreciated.” he said. “I’m going to 4th street … is that ok?”

“No problem. Which cross street?”

“It doesn’t matter. Anywhere on 4th. I’m going to the bank.”

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Jan knows the UK and lives in Texas now, but the journey from one to the other allowed her to see the rest of the world.

She lived in Mildenhall. I’d heard of it. Used to live near there myself.

She joined the USAF to get trained, qualified and see a world ‘outside of the 50’. She left after just three years because she met and fell in love with the man who became her husband (best-laid plans and all that!). Training and Qualifications put on hold, but still traveled and saw the world. After all – her husband was still in the forces.

Now she is an antique dealer and her husband works at the nearby USAF facility. Well not just the USAF, turns out it is the only joint USAF and NATO training facility in the world.

Who knew?

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“I spent the day with my dog.”

“What kind of dog is it?”

“A Boston Terrier.”

“Oh wow, do you have pictures?”

“I did, but I lost my camera and so all my pictures.”

“Oh no, you know these days it’s so easy to keep your photos backed up in the cloud, so you’ll never lose them.”

“I know. I have Google storage and Verizon cloud, but I just never get round to doing it, because it isn’t important.”

“Well maybe you will now.”

“Maybe. But now there’s an opportunity to create a set of new memories.” Continue reading