I’ve been blessed with an adventurous life.
My career as a journalist has taken me all over the world scuba diving, fishing, snow skiing, running rivers, rock climbing and just digging nature. Along the way I’ve met so many wonderful people and enjoyed their food (most of the time) and drink. I’ve learned that every opportunity is a challenge and every challenge is an opportunity. Living by that value has supercharged the journey.
When I was nine years old, my family traveled to Europe to visit my brother, Thornton, who was serving in the Army in France. One evening near Nice, I wandered down the beach and quickly got lost. I ran up and down the shoreline frantically looking for my family. (I assume they were looking for me too, but that hasn’t been verified.)
Eventually I became frustrated and exhausted. All the hotels looked the same to me. After several hours of searching, darkness descended and I figured I’d never see my family again. I guess that’s the illogical way my nine-year-old brain worked. I thought, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to live in France now.” I don’t recall being scared – nervous of course – but mostly about having to learn a new language. I already knew the food was quite tasty. So I decided to start becoming French.
As I ambled along tentatively, I heard my sister’s voice cutting through the night air. It was the sweetest sound ever! I reunited with my family but the fearlessness of youth had carried me on a great adventure. I learned that sometimes you just have to roll with it.
And why wouldn’t I? I was raised by adventurous parents and emboldened by my fearless bro Thornton who says, “Adventure is in our blood.”
It was Thornton who coaxed me into scuba diving when I was only six years old. Using his mail-order scuba rig we made our plan. Rumor had it, there was pirate treasure in Perdido Bay, where we lived. And who better to retrieve it than us?
With only one regulator to breathe from, we used buddy breathing, a technique developed for divers in out-of-air emergencies. So down we went, me clinging to his back with my arms wrapped around his neck. He would take a breath, then pass the regulator over his shoulder to me for my turn. That’s true trust…mixed with ample stupidity! He just knew there was treasure in the bay.
He taught me that adventure sometimes involves risks. Taking the right risks – and doing so with a skilled buddy – is fundamental to everyone’s life. Adventure has risks; it’s best to share the joy with the safety of a buddy.
One of my best buds, David Ellis, is a self-made guru in risks and adventures. Along with two other friends, we became crazy inventors soon after college. Our whacked-out plan involved using scrap lumber scattered on the beach after a hurricane to build something totally unique – a floating sauna. We called it The Flauna. Never mind that our building skills were marginal – we knew we could figure it out.
We’d have never succeeded if we feared failing. So we just went for it. Life seems to go best when you take your opportunities seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
David and I carried that optimistic recklessness with us to Europe when we were in our mid-20s. We burned a booze-drenched trail from Portugal to Greece and only ended up in jail once. Twice if you count that incident in Portugal but I swear we were innocent. (Sadly, our names are still red flagged on the Interpol database.) That adventure led me into the almost legal, gray market car business (see my book Dutch Oven).
After selling container loads of Mercedes to rich Americans looking for a bargain, I settled into my chosen profession: writing for magazines, newspapers and various other rags. That spawned a long, fulfilling and bizarre career that took me to the far reaches of the planet. I was fortunate enough to find a wife who loves me and has tolerated my shortcomings for more than three decades. Our two daughters, dogs, cats and bunnies have wrapped my life into a happy bow.
What I learned as a kid: roll with it, take some risks, go with a buddy, and don’t take yourself too seriously, has been a road I’d follow again. Whether you find it today or not, my wish is that you always believe that there is treasure in the bay.
These days, I still crave the thrill of adventure but my devotion for conserving our land and sea grows stronger each day. Like many of you, traveling the globe opened my eyes to the fragility of nature. We get slapped in the face with the need to conserve our planet’s most spectacular places. I like to believe that all humans share the desire to protect Mother Nature.
When I was 23, Thornton and I acquired a cheap wooden sailboat called the “Homebrew.” We joked with everyone who saw the boat, “she might be ugly, but man is she slow.” We sailed her ugliness across 600 miles of open blue water from Pensacola, Florida to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. The trip took six days and we spent the summer months fishing, diving and snorkeling and living off of rice and beans and the fish we speared. We could never predict the weather but there was always a 90% chance of rice and beans.
Snorkeling in that crystal blue sea over expansive and lovely stands of staghorn and elkhorn corals, showed me first hand how complex and vulnerable the marine ecosystem is.
After that trip, I landed a job as editor of Scuba Times Magazine and spent the next two decades diving all over the world. My conservatism grew into activism. We battled a paper mill that was dumping its toxic wastewater into the headwaters of our beloved playground – Perdido Bay. Again, Thornton and I joined forces and created the Perdido Bay Environmental Association.
This was before cell phones or the Internet had been invented, not to mention Facebook, TikTok and all of that madness. We were old school, selling bumper stickers and t-shirts. We had bake sales. Within months, we had 500 members who were outraged at the pollution washing up in their front yards. Believe it or not, we’re still having to monitor that same mill some 30-years later. We will continue to fight for clean water and fresh air. It’s our right.
Now, in addition to writing about my escapades, I’ve dedicated my life to conservation. We all deserve to live on a planet with pristine water and clean air. It’s why I’m so passionate about clean energy and anything that reduces our carbon footprint.
I’ve been so fortunate to work in a field that has allowed me to fish, scuba dive, boat, travel and have an absolute blast while still earning a living. Now is my time to give back and do whatever I can to preserve and protect our beautiful planet.
I hope you savor our planet too and will enjoy the writing available on this website. Come with me. I promise to take you on a journey to expand your mind and make you smile with my articles, novels, short stories and blogs.