I don’t remember who said it, but it has stuck with me long enough that I should probably credit them. The gist is this though: To live an extraordinary life, you have to be willing to give up some of the things that come with an ordinary one.
In the last two weeks, I’ve done some pretty rad stuff. I watched the sun set from the top of Mount Vesuvius. I jumped a bus to Macedonia for dinner in Skopje. I had a wine-filled night in Pristina, Kosovo at my friend Bujar’s new restaurant. I got to spend Veteran’s Day at the Luxembourg American Cemetery. I wandered back in from the German city of Trier maybe a half hour ago.
That’s a lot of I’s, I know. Ignore them, and go back and re-read that quote. That’s really what this is about, because it’s taken a lot to get here, and there really aren’t a lot of trail markers.
It’s trial and error, and mostly error.
I am on tour with a remarkable group of people right now, which leads to some remarkable experiences for all of us. In fact, to get here, everyone in this group had to throw something sacrificial into the metaphoric volcano.
But man, look where it leads!
I met my friend Michele in Okinawa in 2013, I believe. I was out with George Wallace and she was the morale director at Kadena Air Base. She took me out to snorkel Mita Point and convinced me that I should take up scuba diving. The sea turtle that followed us into an underwater cave that day was pretty convincing too. We’re old friends, and she is now the regional director for Armed Forces Entertainment Europe.
She was determined to convince our group that we were going to have to get to one particular site on this tour by horseback. I, of course knew the truth, but also didn’t want to spoil her fun. She enrolled half of the air base in Turkey to maintain the illusion.
Master Sergeant Numson had the difficult task of prepping everyone while still keeping up the ruse. “We’re going to go about 200K by armored SUV, and then when we get to the stables, we’ll break up into groups and get on our horses.”
“Can we take pictures?” one of the comics (Dale Cheesman) asks.
“Not in the actual stables,” Numson says, doing some Second City worthy improvisation. “The Turkish stablemaster is afraid that pictures might give away his location.”
I forget that I know my way around these places and that this is a complete first for the rest of the tour. I stifle a laugh and have to walk off, pretending that I forgot something. The hook was set.
“The stables,” of course, was a substitute for a hangar where our “horses” sat. Three Blackhawk helicopters hummed and whirred, waiting on us. There was a collective thud as the group’s jaws hit the ground. “Those are our horses?”
Usually we would take a direct approach to such a remote site, but the 4th Infantry Division wanted a reason to show off, and we certainly gave them one.
They phoned in a flight plan that called for a diversion due to weather, which was hilarious considering that it was 68 degrees of pure, undistilled sunlight. The new route, they said, would take us through a canyon dubbed Jurassic Park.
“Are we gonna see dinosaurs?” Dale asks.
“Haha, no,” says Numson
“Well, you’ve lied to us about every fucking thing else…” Dale’s faux frustration is hilarious.
What followed was one of the most intense things even I have done. Suddenly it was zero-G parabolic arcs, stomach churning dips, and whirring blades skimming less than ten feet above the river at the bottom of the canyon.
I’m grateful for so many of you that are taking this journey with me. I read every one of your email replies and I try to respond to all of them. I love hearing your stories and watching your successes, possibly even more than my own. I love being part of a community that wants to be better tomorrow than it was today.
So to those of you that have given up good things for the hope of greater ones, you’re not alone. Keep on walking. There’s pretty, pretty stuff over the next hill, and the longer you walk, the less traffic there is.
You guys totally inspire me.