How does where we are from and where we live and have traveled influence who we are?
The above photo of me was taken in early December, 2007 at sunrise in Carthage, Tunisia. The story behind it isn't as epic as the history of the place itself (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carthage), but it was a pretty profound experience for me all the same...
I was accompanying my great friend and then producing partner Blue Nelson on one leg of a particular long-term, record-setting-attempt road trip he's been on and off of in one way or another since 1998. This kicked off the North African leg. We'd previously been through Central and Southern Italy as well as the Southern European island nation of Malta together. This was the morning we woke up in Tunisia, having ferried over from Reggio, Italy 22 hours before, and it began a journey around the entirety of pre-Arab Spring Tunisia that took us down into the entrance of the Sahara Desert and back, with stops across the borders into both Algeria and Libya (past the old Star Wars sets, a movie his uncle helped produce...but that's HIS story to tell).
I say all this because I've had a lot of opportunity to reflect on the impact of travels and relocations in the slightly over 9 years since this trip. I woke up on January 1, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. The next day I travelled to Wellington, where I woke up January 3rd. On that day I meditated for an hour on the nature of my year just past, and was struck by the realization that in just the roughly 6 months previous I'd been in: Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand; Los Angeles, California, Seattle, Washington and Birmingham, Alabama in the US; various tiny towns in Inner Mongolia that I can't type properly in Roman characters; and in Gannan, Xi'An, Anyang, Erenhot, and Beijing, China.
How did I get here - all of those "here"s - from whence I came? That'll take more than one blog post to explore, but the short version is that it was a combination of accident and effort. I'm going to brain-dump the outline below, without a lot of editing, and then will flesh out details in subsequent posts as I get around to it. :)
I was born in Augusta, Georgia in the Southern US. Mostly raised in and around the Atlanta area, and in Anniston, Alabama, where my maternal grandparents lived. They were the closest thing I had to a stabilizing influence in my young life so I adopted Anniston as my hometown of choice. I lived a few "interesting" years in Southwest Georgia, which will also merit it's own post. I spent one year of college in Birmingham, Alabama back before my mom lived there, which she does now, and I commuted an hour back "home" to Anniston most weekends to visit with my Grandmother, which was (in retrospect) probably why I am not dead or in jail as I type this. I had a sweet fake ID so I would go out and see my friend / guitar teacher Will (then "Bill") Owsley's bands playing in area clubs when I could - he gets a blog post too someday - but mostly I'd sit at home with "Ma" and do laundry, read or chat about things with her, and eat her amazing food. But after that one year in Birmingham, then a regrouping year back in Albany, Georgia at the then-junior college resurrecting my grades (I HATED my college in Birmingham, and avoided studying as much as possible in some creative ways, which is also it's own story), I finally moved to Athens, Georgia to attend the University of and get my life back on track. I lived in Athens for 8 years and have loads of stories and experiences involving the art and music scenes there that I will also dig into another time. For now, the key part of this narrative is that Athens and then Atlanta (where I moved next, the last stop before Los Angeles, and where I earned Bachelor's Degree in Film) are the two cities that most shaped me immediately prior to my move West.
As a Southern expat of 15 years now, I'm unqualified to talk about their values and virtues today. But when I was there, in addition to all the good and bad that are topics for still other discussions, there was a sense of fundamental community that I later had in Los Angeles, believe it or not, in the tight-knit concentric circles of the entertainment business, but which seems so far away from my 2017 perspective as an expat yet again, this time halfway around the world in Beijing.
The plan is to be mostly here for ~5 years, give or take, with stops back home and at points elsewhere and in between as needed. The things that I'm building with friends and partners here are worth the tradeoffs, but those tradeoffs are real, and they are significant, starting with the ability to communicate fluently with close friends who share a somewhat similar frame of reference to me. It's why I spend any time at all on Facebook these days, even though the sorry state of affairs in our political system back home is hugely depressing. Still, it's the closest thing to a virtual town square I have, so for better or worse there I will be, for now.
Where have your travels taken you, and what are the lessons learned along the way that you think are universal? I'll have more thoughts on mine later. For now, I'd like to know yours. Please comment below, via the Contact form or any social sites I link this too if you want.