Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week.
“A man who has lived in many different places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village.”– C.S. Lewis
Last weekend my wife and I cruised our boat into the welcoming harbor in Port Washington. We had been gone for 379 days cruising America’s Great Loop. We traveled 6,425.9 miles through 17 states and three countries at an average speed of 9.05 miles per hour. We anchored in remote tidal creeks and behind the Statue of Liberty. We listened to the dolphins breathe as we celebrated the dawn of the new year behind Sanibel Island. We dodged the bustling tow boats in the Port of St. Louis on the Mighty Mississippi. We met thousands of people from all walks of life in hundreds of places. Along the way, I learned, or relearned, a few things.
Throughout our travels, we discussed politics with other people exactly zero times. It just does not come up that often in regular life. Instead, we talked about weather, family, traveling, local events, the rising price of everything, work, boats, jokes, and a hundred other things, but not politics. As someone who spends probably too much time involved with politics, it was revealing how few other people were interested. People are busy living and concerned with the things that impact their lives. Politicians would do well to remember that.
People are generally good. They are friendly, earnest, helpful, generous, curious, honest, and caring. In times of trouble, most people are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to help. They are tolerant and welcoming. Outside of the cities, much of the business of America is still done with a handshake. Observing America through our news and social media filters is to miss how much of real America lies beyond the horizon of those lenses. Americans work hard. Very hard. To travel the inland rivers of our nation is to see an older, more industrial side. The rivers are where great, heavy things are moved about and where the mines, quarries, and farms drain into the arteries of our economy. The knowledge economy is important, but it exists because of the muscle and sweat of hard people who do hard things.
Because many of the businesses we visited were generally declared “nonessential” during the national psychotic episode of COVID, we were witness to the devastating impact of those political decisions. Marina, restaurant, and shop workers gleefully welcomed us as their businesses struggled to groan back to life. We found many places closed forever, and all because some politician whose paychecks never stopped coming deemed some people’s livelihoods to be nonessential.
Our world is truly a diverse and beautiful place. From the Canadian fjords to the Great Dismal Swamp to the Big Muddy to the turquoise waters of the Bahamas, God created a truly wonderful place for us to live. As humans, we have a responsibility to conserve and protect our planet. From a public policy perspective, we must do so with common sense and a balance for the necessities of human progress. From an individual perspective, we must take personal responsibility to ensure that we do not unnecessarily damage our wonderful planet.
People throughout our great nation are delightfully unique while being manifestly the same. People love their families, celebrate their community’s history, brag about their local ice cream shop (“it’s the best you’ll find”), gripe about the weather, and chortle at a good joke. While we may speak with different accents and eat different foods, Americans are unified in their decency and common sense.
The wanderlust has always been strong in my bloodline. I firmly believe in the value of travel for travel’s sake. One does not have to go anywhere fancy or expensive, but one does have to go where someone is not to see and do things that one has not seen or done. Appreciate and enjoy places and people for what and who they are and not what or who they are not. There is no greater teacher than experience.
Finally, while travel is good for the mind and the soul, there truly is no place like home. While we have seen many wonders over this last year, Wisconsin can hold its own with any of them. The towering, tasseled corn, the smell of fish frying on a Friday night, the spirited barroom predictions about the upcoming Packers season, the stoic bluffs of Lake Michigan, and, of course, the best local ice cream make Wisconsin a cherished home.
By all means, go see the world, but never stop appreciating where the good Lord planted you.