I was in the U.S. Navy from 1973 to 1977. During this time I went on two Mediterranean cruises on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. Whenever we pulled into a port, no matter where it was, Naples or Malaga or Izmir or wherever, most of my shipmates would immediately head for the nearest bar to get drunk, or seek out the local prostitutes, or both. I wanted to fit in and be just “one of the guys” but I just couldn’t bring myself to join them in these banal escapades. It was boring. But I didn’t know what to do so I went out walking by myself, exploring. I found, strangely enough, that the times when I felt most alive and most at peace were the times when I was keenly aware of being all alone in a strange place, in a foreign culture among people who spoke a language incomprehensible to me. At such times the world was beautiful and strange to me. As for example walking along a seawall late at night in Majorca, looking out into the dark sea and sky and seeing tiny stitches of distant lightning and feeling an extraordinary sense of peacefulness. Or climbing up a high hill on the outskirts of Barcelona and watching the sun go down. Or wandering the back alleys of Split until late into the night, all alone, unafraid, and feeling content to be simply walking. I loved the feeling of being lost in a world that I didn’t understand. I think sometimes it must be a good thing for us to be lost. Therein may be unforseen opportunities to see the world anew, to renew our spirits.

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