Me 'n' my travelin' buddy. One of many (many) selfies she took of us together.

Although transitions may be hard, they also create opportunities.

Twice in my life I have wrapped up long-term residences in Asian countries: in 2001 I returned to the U.S. after five years in Japan, and in 2015, my wife Lila and I ended our eleven-year stay in China (which we started separately but ended well married) for her home country, the Philippines.

The pilgrim soul in me
(Tokyo, 2001)
Before leaving Japan, I set out on an epic 10-week journey done mostly on foot. It started with the 500 kilometers (well over 300 miles) from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Old Tokaido entirely on foot; then, after a visit to the Nara area, I mostly walked the 1,200 kilometers (about 750 miles) of the traditional pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku. (You can read about the whole shebang in my Aki Meguri pages.)

But when we left China, things were different. We were moving, not to the States, but to the Philippines. We had a little money in our pockets, I had just turned 60, and I was realizing that, though I had spent over a quarter of my life in Asia, and had covered California and the other Western states pretty well, I had never seen some of the key locations of American culture, especially New York City and Washington D.C.

At first, we were thinking of just hopping a plane to the East Coast. But a few weeks before our start date, I read a popular article about one guy's cross-country train trip, and the die was cast. (You can also read an alternate point of view--and in our experience, a totally erroneous one. This one is a little more "fair and balanced.")

The highlights of the plan would be:
  • The Grand Canyon and Santa Fe: places I had been to numerous times, and had always wanted to take Lila
  • Boston, New York, Philadelphia, D.C.: essentials for a guy who read a twelve-volume kids' history of the U.S. in third grade--and had only spent one weekend in Boston prior to this trip
  • New Orleans: where my grandpa's family hails from

Me, my buddy, and some
lady. In a harbor.
Along the way we would try to squeeze in visits to friends, living and dead.

As it turned out, "the living" meant a Facebook friend in Albuquerque, our Best Man in Chicago (through which the Albu to Boston route passed), dinner with one of my dearest old friends in NYC, a quick meet-up with a good Filipino friend in DC, a stay with family (that I had only met on Facebook) in Atlanta (where Lila also met up with a friend from her college days) and a visit with more family in New Orleans, a few days in that city with a great friend from my teens and her equally-great family, and finally lunch (and a lift to the airport) with friends from my time in Japan. (This trip would have been very different if it had been done before the advent of Facebook!)

The dead ended up including Twain, Thoreau, Emerson, Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, and a few others.

So now you know what started it all, the whys and wherefores.

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