Why We Travel: Saudi Arabia, 1982

In looking for our next home, it must be a place that inspires stories. These are some of the stories from our life’s adventures that have inspired us. They are why we travel.

That first real trip is crucial.

When, for the first time, you travel further than Grandma’s house in Eclectic, Alabama. When the road becomes exotic, not only in destination, but in composition, asphalt giving way to concrete, then to cobblestone, or to sand-swept hardpack. When the familiar southern drawl loses its cadence, slipping from a Tennessee twang to the rounder sounds of a South Carolina conversation, and then on to thicker, wilder accents, leading inexorably on to unintelligible foreign tongues that leave you grasping for recognizable words.

That first true step into the unknown either makes or breaks a world traveler. The feeling of being alone, out of place, uniquely foreign when you have lived your whole life up to that point in a sea of familiarity and predictability is either something to be loathed, or it’s something to be loved.


My brother Steve and me, visiting the ruins of Diriyah on the outskirts of Riyadh during the summer of 1982

My first trip further than Grandma’s house (yes, there really is an Eclectic, Alabama) was about as far from my hometown in rural Tennessee as possible. Geographically, culturally, ideologically, you can’t get more radically different than Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Plus, it was the summer between my seventh and eighth-grade years. I was shy, short, awkward, and mercilessly bullied. But I was also uncommonly self-aware for a teenager. I figured a few years in the desert would be the perfect opportunity for self-reinvention. So I set out to do just that.

And, in the process, I fell in love with Saudi Arabia and the wider world. I embraced the strangeness of every new place. I reveled in the uncertainty of the road, welcomed the flood of foreign dialects, learned to love not only the destinations but also the journeys themselves.

So, this is why I travel. For the possibility of continual self-improvement through exposure and experience. For the thrill of learning the hitherto unknown. For the chance of channelling that awkward teenager that I was and showing him that the world is still wide, wild, and ever-expanding.

For the beautiful agony of knowing that every journey taken inevitably creates endless roads that still need to be traveled. And, although it is impossible to travel them all, that is exactly what I aim to do.