Rich Hirschman is getting up there in age.
Sixty-nine to be exact.
“Yeah,” he laughed. “Lots of people think by now I ought to have one foot in the grave.”
So he’s thinking of traveling to China. Maybe Tibet. Then Mongolia. Should take a month.
Really? Just like that?
“It’s been 10 or 12 years since I was last there,” he said. “I would like to see how it has changed.”
This trip follows his junket to Cuba last year. And to Tanzania. Brazil before that. All seven continents with his family in tow. Hirschman says he has visited more than 40 countries worldwide. Not content to count those he just “landed in and took off” as a visit. These are sites where he actually put his feet on the ground and searched the countryside.
Teaching history in Nebraska schools provided a foundation for Hirschman’s interest in seeing the curriculum locations cited in his lesson plans.
“Ideally,” he noted with some remorse. “We should travel first, then teach. I am doing it all backward. But that’s life, I guess.”
His two recent trips to Vietnam and Cuba were check-offs on his “global bucket list.” Hirschman did not serve in the Vietnam War, but traveled to the country with a veteran bomber pilot who was making a return trip there.
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“I was amazed at how therapeutic the excursion was for him. He shook hands with people he bombed. The college youth there do not want to talk about the war, only to talk about America and they love Obama. Vietnam is really a nice place to visit.”
Hirschman readily admits to living a charmed life, but also acknowledges his approach keeps him young. Feeling “maybe 40” encourages these forays into the far corners of the globe.
For some, the uncertainties of travel include overcoming language barriers and the safety factor. Hirschman overcomes those obstacles by touring with a group and discovering English speakers among the local population.
“English is the world’s second language,” he said. “There’s always someone around for communication.”
And governments? Hirschman has found most locations to be safer than American streets.
“And the run of the mill guys in Communist countries don’t have guns,” he laughed.
“Psychologically, I want to keep focusing on the future as well as relive great memories of my past. I know I am lucky. I have great health. Traveling keeps me young,” he said.
Asked to reveal a thought from his well-traveled crystal ball, Hirschman pointed to people who seemed to live in poverty by our standards, those who “seem content with a soccer ball and a cup of rice” as he puts it, are living examples of true happiness.
“I get the idea these people have it figured out,” he said. “They don’t have big screen TVs or electronic games, yet they are the most joyful kids. Come right up and hug you.”
A worthy perspective from this ever-youthful man who has been there and wants to return.