Theo celebrates 5 years of early retirement as a slow traveler

Five years.

Five years ago today – December 8, 2015 – I resigned my news photographer position of nearly thirty years at television station WEWS in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. 

The date is more widely known as the anniversary of John Lennon’s 1980 murder.

Two days later, I was on a airplane headed to Cancun, Mexico to join my wife, Ellen, who was already living in Tulum — about 90 minutes south of Cancun. We’ve been on the road together ever since.

Both coasts of Mexico, Central America, London, Portugal, Morocco, Barcelona, Rome, Venice, the Croatian coast, Sarajevo, Montenegro, Athens, Thailand, Vietnam… all of Southeast Asia. A whirlwind tour — but in slow motion. A month or two spent in each place. A dream come true.

Of course, it all came to a halt in March of 2020. COVID exploded around the world. We locked down on a beautiful, safe, friendly Philippine beachfront. It’ll be our home until travel is possible again. We are glad and lucky to be here. The dream continues.

I can’t say I miss my ‘old life’. Though I do miss the fabulous professional friends who were part of it. Below is a photo taken with a number of the other WEWS news photographers at my ‘going away’ celebration. Fellow photographer Dave Gapinski also recently reposted to Facebook some other pics taken in the newsroom on my last day of employment.

Honestly, I try not to think too much of my former media ‘worklife’. I’m still trying to recover. Seriously.

Don’t get me wrong: I am so grateful and fortunate to have had the job and career and stable income and benefits and respect that my position conferred. Of course, that was before Dotard Trump termed the media “enemies of the people” and “the worst people I’ve ever met” — while describing himself as “a very honorable guy”.

Thankfully, I was retired for more than a year before Trump took office. The one Trump rally I was assigned to cover in late 2015 was enough for me. I witnessed his disturbing performance in Columbus, Ohio on November 23rd of that year.

In fact, one of my favorite post-retirement memories was protesting Trump’s 2016 nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. We happened to be visiting home during that week. Photos of us appeared around the world – presumably in places we have since visited.

Bizarrely, the convention experience ranks with hiking an active volcano in Guatemala, sleeping in the Sahara Desert, living on a floating house in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, and visiting the Komodo dragons of Indonesia as highlights of our five years of early retirement adventure.

Trump never caused me any angst as a news gatherer. But the daily trauma of American culture sure did. So much violence and tragedy and grief. And it was my job to bring it to viewers each night on the local evening newscasts. 

Shootings, killings, accidents, house fires, hostage situations, drownings, molestations, torture, war, terror, depravity and cruelty and crime of every imaginable sort. The hardest part; asking the grieving family members of someone who just died, “do you have a photo we could put on the news tonight”? Ouch!

By the end of my career, such moments had started to haunt me. Covering sporting events and bad weather was a welcome relief. I doubt I could have stomached all that has transpired in the TV news business since then.

Even now, I will sometimes wake up in the night startled at some dream involving horrific human behaviors. Meanwhile, the Trump years have amplified the ugliness; added further dimension and depth. Observing from afar has been difficult but healthier. I can avoid it if I choose.

Five years.

In some way it’s fitting that my early retirement took place on the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder; a preview of modern American illness.

Ironically, I sang Lennon’s “Imagine” a couple nights ago at a masked, distanced, karaoke gathering here in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines – where we have paused our wandering to wait out the coronavirus crisis.

I like to think of Imagine as a kind of anthem for my life since wrapping up my career. As with seasonal favorite, ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’, and other Lennon classics, Imagine is truly moving in its simplicity and  message; even more so in the current time of turmoil around the globe.

Indeed, singing Imagine at a seaside karaoke bar in the Philippines is the perfect antidote to what ails the earth today and the torments of a 30-year news career.

You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. My incredible wife and I continue to plan our next five years of travel — and beyond. India, Egypt, Turkey, the Middle East, China, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, Korea, South America. Imagine. A brotherhood of man. I hope someday you’ll join us.

Imagine by John Lennon

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Theo celebrates 5 years of early retirement as a slow traveler.”

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