Category Archives: Travel Plans

International Lessons from My Grandparents

I was sitting on a guagua (see recent post for definition) coming through El Salvador when a Canadian asked me, “I think it’s so rare to find American traveling through Central America, what led you to make that move?” Before I jumped into all the ego-boosting reasons why it was so rare, cool and unusual for someone like me to be traveling around, I actually stopped to think about the question. Why did I want to travel?

Well that answer has been explored throughout this blog over the past two years, but I know for sure that there’s one experience, or set of experiences, that shaped me growing up.

Thanksgiving in Warren, IL

As a kid, I knew it took longer than 4 or 5 Sesame Street programs (this was my unit of time back then) to drive to Warren, IL from Waterloo, Iowa or from Elgin, IL, and I also thought that was a really long way to drive for food. I’m not sure why we had to go through all the hassle of loading everyone up in the mini-van for something I know mom could have made at home.

Clearly, Thanksgiving is, and always has been more than a meal, and certainly, going to Grandma & Grandpa’s house in Warren, was always an adventure and an international one as well. It was there I learned that not all Russians were communists (Sergei was tall and kind – pictured right) and not just vampires came from Transylvania (a husband and wife explained the difference between Hollywood and reality).

Now, a town of about 1,428 (2010 census) may not seem like a huge international tourist stop, but when we look at Wikipedia we see that Warren hosted many visitors in the past:

“Captain Alexander Burnett was the first known American settler in present-day Warren; he built a log cabin at the corner of what is now the corner of Main and Water Streets in 1843.In 1851 a stagecoach stop was erected on the Stagecoach Trail, the building still stands and is now serving as the Warren Community Building.The village was platted in 1853 along the proposed route for the Illinois Central Railroad tracks and later growth in Warren was heavily influenced by the presence of the railroad. (wikipedia:,_Illinois)

My grandfather, Albert, was a superintendent of schools and my grandmother, Helen, had gotten her masters in education, taught for a good many years and raised three boys and two girls. Education, raising children, and being involved in the local and international community were always important to them.

My guess is that when all those kids left the house, they had to fill it with new ones. Maybe they just missed the noise, but they always seemed to host guests from other countries, and it was always around Thanksgiving when I got to meet them (here’s me trying to learn a new board game – pictured left).

I asked my mom about three years ago how many international travelers my grandparents had hosted and how many countries they’d visited over the years. Here was her reply: (1/15/09)

“[Grandma] said there were 2 guys from Jordan-I remember one’s name was Zadie. She remembered Sergei from Russia, she said there was a couple from India. She couldn’t remember all the countries she and dad visited but I would ask her some names and she would say yes or no. We came up with 25!! They went to 8 elder-hostels in other countries. Here are the names of the countries:

Australia, Austria, Brussels, China , Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Thailand, Turkey

They went to Brussels to see their Foreign Exchange student Antonio and his wife. Previously they had gone to their wedding in the Netherlands and got to sit in a place of honor in the castle where they were married! They went to see Lyle in Germany when he studied there for a semester. Mom was in a teacher exchange program in Japan where the students brought their own typewriters to class everyday and then the students would clean the schools and then go to the bookstores and stand and read books for a couple hours.

Mom and dad had stuff in their home that different guests would have given them. You probably went with grandpa Tucker when he took the guests to the cheese plant and then to the dairy farm. And of course, they went with us to the Apple River Canyon area to help us “Shoot” a Christmas tree!

To me, the lesson as a young child was this:

The world is big and mysterious, so go explore!

That’s something that’s stuck with me all these years.

So yeah, that’s part of why I’m here, doing what I’m doing. That’s what I told the Canadian in El Salvador, and that’s what I tell the locals why a 6’3” white dude is walking around the community where they live. It started a long time ago, in a small town, over a big table, with tales from travelers from all over the world.

Thanks grandma and grandpa.

Traveling is the Excavation of Character

Near the office of Esperanza (HOPE’s office here in the DR), a construction crew is finishing the exit ramp of highway overpass. I walk past the crew every day and see the progress they are making. In one area, they are digging heavily into the ground exposing every good and bad thing found below the surface.

I think that’s what traveling is like.

A group of dedicated laborers goes to work unearthing everything you thought you knew about yourself and things you’d prefer to keep hidden. The heavy machinery crew labors throughout the day and late into the night. At times, the sheer force of the demolition leaves you shocked and speechless. You have to call in your advisors (via Skype) and ask them what the heck is going on. Sometimes you feel like the job site changes, even though you know this is the same place being worked on every day. Other times, usually at night, some specialists wake you up with probing questions about which pipes need servicing. Usually, you have to answer them immediately, they can’t wait until tomorrow. (I’ve tried arguing to postpone the meeting, it just doesn’t work.)

All this demolition and excavation is for a good purpose. Everyday you can see things a little more clearly in the sunshine. It’s amazing to hold mysterious, yet familiar objects in your hands and flip them around and see all their facets. Some things you know you need to clean up if you’re going to continue carrying it around on the journey, and other things you know are meant for the junk pile. You realize your pockets are only so big and your back is only so strong, so you must be judicious in what you continue to carry. Airlines at most, only allow two bags, which is never enough space. You’ve really have to decide what baggage you’re going to transport back home.

If you talk with the foreman on the jobsite you’ll get a better understanding of what the new structure is going to look like. I’ve found that I need to check in daily to have a better idea of what’s yet to come. Sometimes it seems like there’s a new set of blueprints every week, but you trust that whatever is going to be built is a whole lot better than what existed before. As far as time and money is concerned, it’s going to take a lot longer than you thought, and cost way more than you anticipated, but it’s all going to be worth it.

Know that someday in the future, you’ll invite your family and friends over, and you’ll sit and have lunch in the plaza in front of the building. You’ll tell them about the hilarious and insightful construction crew made up of international workers who excavated nearly everything underneath, but nevertheless helped you build and improve this marvelous structure that you enjoy today.

And for that, I am grateful for traveling.

(Currently though, I’m in the middle of a construction zone and I’m trying to reduce my velocity. No sense in getting fined for excessive speed, but really, I just want to be able to see what’s being dug up.)

Nicaragua August 2010 Trip Update

From August 2nd to August 9th I traveled with West End Presbyterian Church (WEPC) to the Casa Bernabe orphanage in Vera Cruz, Nicaragua which is just outside of Managua city. A local church, Verbo, has been incredibly active in and around the area of Managua with new church plants and running orphanages with an awesome organization Orphan Network. You can view my pictures here: Facebook Album.

Goodbye To CB&H

So after almost 5 years, I’m saying goodbye to a great group of people at Cherry, Bekaert & Holland. My first real gig out of college, CB&H has been an excellent place for me to learn about marketing and business, and I was fortunate to share it with a great group of guys who make up the marketing department. I will definitely miss the folks of firm administration, the Richmond office, and my friends from around the firm. There are many memories from my time there and I consider it a great first start to my career.

As I’m moving on, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ll take away from CB&H.

What I’ll Miss:

  • Coffee in the morning
  • Ron’s award-winning carrot cake
  • Databases & Dynamics CRM (I can’t hide my true colors)
  • Madeline’s friendly smile
  • High Octane Marketing
  • I.T. guys that I can talk tech with
  • The firm managing partner knowing who I am
  • Plenty of parking
  • CBHU (I think we all miss that)
  • “Synergies,” “Leveraging” and “Thinking Outside of the Box”

What I Won’t Miss:

  • Vendors calling and obliterating any resemblance of the correct  pronunciation of the firm’s name.
  • Having to explain to people where I work: “I work for an accounting firm, but no I’m not an accountant. ‘Why does an accounting firm need a marketing department?’ We’re a huge firm, and I work in the headquarters. ‘So you don’t know anything about taxes?’ Nope.”
  • VA Blood services calling to ask me if I can donate
  • Excel documents that aren’t structured properly
  • The smell of toner in the production room
  • “Synergies,” “Leveraging” and “Thinking Outside of the Box”
  • Discerning if it’s really “final” when the file is called the “Final, Final, Final – THIS IS THE REAL ONE – Version 2”
  • Posting time (oh wait, mine was wayyy easy!)

To all my friends at CB&H, I hope you stay in touch!