Broadening Horizons

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ― Dr. Seuss

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI would like to take you back in time; probably before some of you reading this were even born. But if you indulge me, I will tell you what set me off on this path of world exploration. I’m sure my reasons back then are probably not that different from your reasons today.

It’s 1985, keep that in mind. I have a job at the investment firm “Broadbank”, where I worked as a loan officer.  I had a cubicle but by today’s standards it was an office. Plush ruby-red carpet, dark wood furniture, five-line intercom, and a lion pawed coat rack standing guard in the corner; right next to the entrance.

Along the right side, from floor to ceiling, was a bank of windows that looked out onto the historic Strand Arcade. The arcade acted as a pedestrian artery through which pedestrians could walk from Queen to Elliott Streets. It was lined on both sides by shops lending themselves to nostalgia; in appearance only.

My desk was a place for writing then organizing paperwork and forms. It was a place where clients would sign documents and I would double-check the amortization results of my calculator. 

It was a place free of monitors, keyboards, mice, cell phones, speakers, and apps.

My desk was a large expanse of very little. A writing pad, a pen, a name plate; all the necessities required to make a signature and have it deciphered.

I would meet with clients all day long; approving or declining small loans, recommending to the “higher ups” the larger ones, or running down the credit worthiness of applicants.

I was in a rut; a rat race at the age of 22 and I wanted out.

My girlfriend worked for the same company. We were separated by three floors and a security door. Her world was vastly different from mine. I spent my day working one on one with clients, listening to their financial concerns and dreams; she worked with big business, frantically buying and selling currency on the foreign exchange market.

Out of the blue she called me around 10.00 am, all a tither. Today was not a good day and she let me know it; our conversation ended  with a request. She asked me to seek out a travel agent, during my lunch break, and find out what I could about going overseas. She was fed up with corporate life and wanted out.

I could have told her what she wanted to know right then but the phone went dead.

Around noon I entered the doorway of STA Travel about 200 yards down the hill from where I worked. It was a quiet Wednesday; a summer’s day in New Zealand. Most people were thinking about a lunchtime stroll to the waterfront. Sandwiches, seagulls, some sun in your eyes, and a re-calibration of mid-week working blues.

The travel agent was chatty. He was as excited to pitch world destinations to me as I was to absorb them. As with all  Kiwi’s about to embark on a world adventure the ultimate initial destination was London. The options to get there were plentiful.

Cross the Pacific Ocean and head through the US to the east coast then fly World Airways from the Big Apple to Heathrow; depart Auckland and head east towards Singapore then travel up through Asia; fly to Africa and journey north through the interior where you would, via bribes and baksheesh, cross the mighty Sahara and enter Europe by way of the Rock of Gibraltar, or, fly direct and land with a belly full of airplane food and a pair of legs in need of a stretch.

For years I had always known that I would travel; my mother had instilled that in me.

Without much thinking I booked a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, a scenic bus ticket from there to New York, and another one-way ticket on World Airways to London.

As soon as I got back to my desk I called the instigator of the days activities; planning to rush her back to the agent so we could sync up our plans.  I got the words “I went to the travel agent…” out of my mouth and then she interrupted me with a “thank you but”.

But…what possible reason could she be using the word but.

It went like this. “I was so stressed this morning and I just wanted to get out of here. I spoke to my boss and things are much better now, I love my job”…WHAT!

I continued with my story and as I did, the excitement in me rose again. I was still going, of that I was certain. I told her I had booked my tickets and suggested she should either come with me or meet me in London.

Ultimately she would do neither but my life of travel was set in motion that day, by that phone call, so for that I thank her.

My office became a billboard of impending departure. I had line graphs and bar charts displaying real savings versus required, currency fluctuations, pictures of far-away places; my whole work area adopted a relaxed anticipatory attitude. Stress had been sucked out of my world and resided on the other side of the windows looking in from the Strand Arcade.

The build up to my departure was a full six months. Needless to say as the time neared I was ready to burst.  Work had a big going away party for me and when one of the middle managers with a superiority complex told me “you will come crawling back in two months” the door was opened for me to get a lot off my chest.  It felt good.

On April 12th 1986 I tearfully boarded my first solo flight. Leaving behind family and friends was bitter-sweet. I had no idea how long I would be away. All I knew was that I had no choice, the world out there was calling and I wanted to experience all I could.

It would be 6 years before I saw Mum again; I have trouble contemplating this today.

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77 thoughts on “Broadening Horizons

  1. I’m stuck on the other scenario, what if she had joined you? Tim,your former girlfriend was probably one of the most important people in your life. She changed the course of your life in two ways. First for the idea that carved your future happiness AND second for rejecting her own idea.

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  2. Wow Tim, it took guts to cross that line! I hit my wall early one morning sitting at my desk at home working on my hefty task list for the day and the next thing I knew the list turned into a letter of resignation! I hadn’t consciously planned it, but when I reread that letter I knew it was right and turned it in that morning. Even though I gave 3 weeks notice the owner was so pissed off he had me escorted out of the building so of course most people assumed I’d been fired, and I knew that was his intention. Bothered me for awhile but the people that mattered contacted me to find out the truth, and the important thing was that I never once felt I’d made a mistake. And since following you here it’s abundantly clear, neither did you.

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  3. I can understand about how you felt working in a cubicle. For me, it was the opposite, I was in the military at that age, until I was in my 30’s, and got my traveling days out of the way earlier. Now I work in a cubicle, but have to say, the money from this job has allowed me to travel more, at least where I want to go and without holding a riffle.

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  4. Great to hear the story, Tim. Bravo to not letting that ex dissuade you once your mind was made up to do it!

    I’ve done two major moves in my life and now that I think of it–both happened and were executed in about five weeks. Hm. It is exciting and amazing what happens in life when you let your heart lead you.

    Bravo.

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  5. I love stories like this. It takes guts to do what you did. I know there were people telling you not to go. I commend you for doing that. I’m about ready to break away and travel for an extended time.

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  6. Tim, how wonderful that you had the courage to leave a life that dragged you down to one that constantly keeps you in a state of awe, at least it seems that way to me. Your writing about your adventures, but also about emotional issues, is just amazing. Everytime you mention your mum it’s always with such love and respect. Keep it up Tim and when you’ve written that book, let us know – I think the entire BHB group will be standing in line to buy it.

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  7. What a story! Definitely one of my favorites. You did something that so many people only dream about, and I think all of us can relate in some way to that longing to get out and see the world. I can’t wait to hear more and I’d love to hear about that bus ride across the US. Sounds excruciating to me now, but maybe it was different for a 22 year old in 1985…

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    1. Oh it still sounds like a fun adventure to me now Meredith and would do it again in a heartbeat however I do like getting off the main roads so would probably opt for an alternative mode of transport now that I think of it more.

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  8. No way were you 22 in 1985! I was definitely born but a mere child.

    You always leave your readers wanting more! Your blogs end at the right time – with me hanging by a thread and saddened that it has come to an end.

    This was so moving. You did not see your mum for 6 years. I am wondering what on earth happened to your girlfriend!

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    1. It was a long time without seeing Mum but I did write a lot and it those letters and postcards that make up a lot so we were always close. As for the girlfriend; I never saw her again.

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  9. I love Dr Seuss, think our minds have a lot in common! You hear similar stories of how people jumped the corporate ship to begin a life of travel, but none have ever put it so eloquently and with such feeling as you! Amazing to think all it took was one phone call, but I’m sure if the phone hadn’t have rung you would still have had your life of travel.

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  10. wow! I love your writing, and I love your story. Such an inspiration! I love your spirit – to head out and explore the world, for 6 years! That’s impressive. If you don’t mind me asking, did your girlfriend accepted the idea that you wanted to travel (even without her), or was she upset?

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    1. Six years was just the first stint away from home. I stayed for a few months and then hit the road again for several more years. As for the gf, I never saw her again.

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    1. I have to admit I do miss that time as well; more spontaneous. That feeling of dropping off the face of the earth and communicating through the Post Restante was romantic in retrospect.

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  11. I adore your style of writing; travel blog meets memoir…heavy on the memoir. This piece is more than an account of what inspired you to travel. It is a think piece, forcing us to stop and consider the people and events in our lives that make us who we are. Lovely job.

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  12. Oh Tim!! Such inspirational!!! I strongly believe that things happen for a reason and when it’s time for them to happen.. so well done!! And go explore the world!!
    I’m a mom and i’m trying to instill this exploring spirit to my son, travelling with my family as soon as we can!

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  13. I really loved this post, Tim. What an inspiring story. I’ve lived abroad for a couple years now, in part thanks to an ex who also said one thing and then changed his mind, like your girlfriend at the time. But in the end, it definitely turned out for the better (even though back then it wasn’t what I wanted).

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  14. I am a true believer in things happen for a reason. Maybe that call came just at the right moment. 6 years travelling is quite an experience and I am sure your mother was happy you were out exploring. My parents have instilled the same in me and I often think how my travelling effects them….I’m sure they miss me but are also super proud of my achievements. I guess we are also a lot luckier these days with modern technology to keep in contact with family and friends….back then I don’t think it was so easy 😦

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  15. Its amazing the little things that can start the chain of events that eventually become your life.I’ve enjoyed reading about your travels, thanks for sharing how it all started.

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  16. Great story and an inspiration for other folks stuck in a rut. It’s not easy nor is it everyones cup of tea to let go of the hand rail of life, pack a bag and just travel.

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  17. I always wondered how you began your traveling journey and that was one great story. That woman was a blessing for you – loved reading about that. As far as your Mom… you mentioned she instilled the traveling side of you. I am sure she is looking down on your now, blessing your every trip and smiling widely. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. This is so terrific knowing how your passion for travel began. I have wondered about that for a while. Thank you for sharing how you have come to being able to enrich your life with these experiences.

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  19. Tim — So you finally ended up in San Francisco. I can’t remember if you’ve ever mentioned what you do between trips. Do you still work or are you simply a man of leisure! Lucky you, if that’s the case!

    It’s surprising how one statement by someone can set off a light bulb in your head. That happened to me a couple of months ago when my nephew told me he had found “clarity of purpose” in his next life move. I had been floundering with the same issue and those three words set me on my new path — moving from my beloved NYC to warm and sunny Florida. It’s snowing out my window so I’m very happy with my decision!

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    1. You are right about that Jeannette; one small seemingly insignificant statement potentially changed everything and definitely changed my date of departure. As for now being in SF, well this is now where I have my home. I am striving towards the man of leisure status but haven’t quite reached it yet; one day. But I have little to complain about as I do spend, and have spent, a lot of time traveling for the pure enjoyment of it.

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  20. Well, that was a huge step for you! Thanks for sharing it with us. Isn’t it funny how a seemingly isolated incident can set things in motion? Sounds like you were ready to get up and go – that wanderlust was just ready to bust out!

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  21. … I always wanted to learn about your journeys and especially the story behind the making of ‘Tim the traveler’

    I can visualize the chain of incidents that took place in these 30 years from 1985 to 2015 and glad you are here today.

    And please do not regret any decision in life as regrets make it difficult to lead a peaceful life. Everything happens for a reason and life has its own way of shaping things up.

    Take care and keep exploring the world and the life together…

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  22. Hi Tim. Thanks for taking us back in time to see how your passion for travel evolved. It takes a lot of guts to change up a secure life and pursue a whole new adventure that’s less materialistic, but you’ve grown so much from the experience which is worth applauding.

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  23. I love the spirit and the energy behind this story…personal stories are always more alluring. We can make such bold decisions at a young age…the age of freedom… when we hardly have any responsibilities to cart along! That was a good decision Tim!

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  24. Interesting read – what do you say to those like myself who don’t have high-paying jobs to leave with lots of money saved in the bank? Are their other ways? Do we give up the hope for travel? Do we sit and read and live vicariously through you and others? I may have waited too long as early twenties kind of sets a “trend” for life and is a good time to experiment. Tx!

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    1. When I left NZ I certainly did not have a high paying job. At the time I earned NZ$12,000 per year, had saved US$800 and had a further NZ$1500 in a bank account in London for when I arrived. Travel does not have to be expensive.

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  25. That is a fascinating story. But now we know how it all began. I too wonder what ever happened to that girlfriend. Did you keep in touch with her after you left? When we are young it seems life will just go on forever, so the thought of being away from your mom for such a long period then didn’t seem like such a big deal. It’s only when we are older that we begin to look at things differently.

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    1. I am back in San Francisco right now and planning another trip. As for Thailand and Laos they are on the drawing board. Glad to hear you liked this one; hope all is well.

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  26. Wow. Do you still keep in touch with the lady who inspired you? I applaud you for jumping on the opportunity to travel. At the end, you say you ‘have trouble contemplating that today.’ Does that mean you wouldn’t do the same today? Anyway, I really enjoyed his read. It made me want to get back out there, even as my train brings me back home at the time of writing.

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    1. The line at the end refers to saying goodbye to my Mum for six years. She passed a short while ago and the thought of pondering a six year gap if she were still with me seems hard to fathom.

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