Usually when I travel, I’m the guy with my headphones on and the scowl that says, “leave me alone.” Last night was a lesson for why I should take those headphones off from time to time.
I was in Tampa for work, but had dinner on my own. I took a Lyft from Tampa to Tarpon Springs, the Sponge Capital of the World, to get some good Greek seafood. It was about a 45 minute drive and on the way back I got to talking with my driver.
Turns out that he is a Filipino immigrant. In 1971, he spent a year with a couple who bought a 41-foot Taiwanese catamaran to sail it from the Philippines to the U.S. There weren’t any good Loran stations back then, so they navigated with their sextant. The hopped through the islands, but ended up 400 miles off course and got stuck on a reef in Figi. He then went to Australia for a year as the boat was repaired. Then they sailed it to Hawaii and over to the mainland.
In the U.S., he settled in Florida and was a truck driver for 25 years. He worked for several years for a company in Minnesota, so he regaled me with stories about traversing Wisconsin.
He had been to 49 states, excluding Alaska, and had wonderful things to say about the warmth and kindness of his adopted country. He also waxed on about the opportunities in America and how it allowed him to raise his 5 kids into the middle class.
At a time when the news cycles are often filled with negative portrayals of Americans, it was heartening to hear one immigrant’s American experience and to remember that it is, by far, the common experience that has been attracting people to our nation for generations.