Louise shared a quotation with us attributed to St. Augustine: “if you don’t travel, you never get past page one of your life.” This journey got us further off page one of our lives than any either of us have ever taken. There are beautiful places out there in the world. There are wonderful people. There are countries that are doing well for their citizens. There are governments that are more effective than our own in taking care of the needs of their citizens. There are standards of living that meet and/or exceed our own.
The first time I went to Europe — in 1963 — WWII had been over for less than 20 years and the rebuilding was far from complete. But, nevertheless, through 19-year-old eyes it was a case of the blessing of living in America compared to the poverty and devastation of what I saw. This is no more the case. Freedom abounds in much of Western Civilization and prosperity has resulted. Science, technology, and achievement are no more about “me too” developments to make them more like America. Western Europe has caught up and exceeded us in many areas. On the other hand the decadence of the modern American lifestyle has been fully exported from America to the rest of the world. Replacing Mozart with Bob Dylan in Salzburg is almost an icon for all that we’ve done to the world — oh, yeah, it was their choice to follow our dubious lead, but follow they have. Civilization continues to slide — entropy rules — but the land is beautiful, architecture and art are beautiful and individuals are beautiful — beauty is where you find it.