Patrick Mackay talks to an old friend…

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 Patrick worked as a Early Childhood Educator for 30 years, 25 of them running a preschool he started when he was 22. He then took on a new challenge when cannabis became legal in the U.S., working as a Union organizer in that industry throughout the Western States. He’s also managed to squeeze Paper Boy, Carpenter, Salesman, Jewelry Maker and Actor onto his resume. His kids are grown and married, he has two grandkids and is currently single. His passions include politics, travel and reading, making friends and enjoying art of every kind. After surviving stage 4 cancer he put his belongings in storage and hit the road with hopes of one more incarnation, as a writer. His current address is India. 

 RareJaunt: How old you were you when you first went overseas?

35 and I was a bit disappointed it had taken me so long! My wife and I traveled to Paris, Bath and London, in that order. We were only gone for 10 days as we had 3 young children back in Seattle along with a School to run. One morning in London I bought a couple suits at a thrift store (which I still wear and always get complimented on) so I had these 2 big bags I was carrying. The sweet woman running the place told me I had to walk around the block and see 10 Downing Street, I was intrigued so I did. There were no cars or pedestrians around as I approached the lone guard out front who didn’t seem to like the looks of me carrying those bags, opened his jacket and displayed his submachine gun along with a hard stare! I knew I couldn’t turn around at this point, smiled, bobbed my head and walk on by. My heart was going a mile a minute though lol. Good times. Paris and Bath resulted in other equally interesting adventures. I was hooked and hungry for more.

 RJ: What do you remember about your first travel experience, or what is your first travel memory?

My parents drove my baby brother and I to Southern California from Duluth Minnesota before I was 3 years old, 1962. No idea how long we were there or what else we did but I have a clear memory of blissful warmth, my toes in soft sand, the surf and palm trees. I think this had an impact on my preferences lol.

 What first inspired you to travel?

When people ask where I’m from, the best answer I’ve come up with is “the Western United States” since just saying Earth or the Milky Way isn’t terribly specific. I attended 12 schools k-12 and lived in 15 (or so) homes in 5 States (Nevada twice) by the time l was 16 when I emancipated myself. I consider that childhood an absolute gift, my brother claims it was abusive but I like to say Forrest Gump ain’t got nothin’ on my story, lol! I experienced places and things that my contemporaries didn’t even know to dream of. One of the things I kept with me on those moves was a world map that I hung on the wall(s) by my bed. I dreamed of seeing it all and figured that I’d walk there If I had to. By 30 I’d been to most of the West, Canada and Mexico. Always being the new kid at all those schools made me fearless at making friends and a keen observer of people and local customs too.

 RJ: What is a special travel memory that stands out to you?

On my way to India, traveling alone in 2009, I had a 6 hour layover in Dubai. Because it was the time of year when Muslims all over the world make their pilgrimage to the Hajj, the airport was a sea of people. Small and large groups were swirling around me, many dressed alike in which I guessed was their local clothing and designed so they wouldn’t lose each other in the crush of humanity. I’ve always loved to people watch at airports, the emotional goodbyes and reunions are so beautiful to observe. I got a cup of coffee from the starbucks found a seat. A group of 30 or so deeply brown skinned people dressed in white and trimmed in a brilliant shade of green with luggage and parcels piled on their heads caught my eye as they filed through the crowds and made their way towards an escalator. As I was enjoying the procession a woman towards the back with three large suitcases balanced skillfully and wrapped parcels in each hand slipped for a moment and in the process of insuring she didn’t lose her load, while keeping pace with her group, lost one of her flip flops and continued walking with one still on. I jumped to my feet, raced through the crowd, scooped up her footwear and caught up just as she was to step onto the moving stairs. I tapped her on the shoulder and show her her sandal. I saw agony in her eyes, bent down and slipped her footwear back on so as that she didn’t miss a beat. As I stood back up to look she was already part way up the moving stairs but had turn around to look back at me. The smile on her face was something I’ll never ever forget. She beamed! I doubt anyone in her group or in that cavernous airport saw and I never felt lonelier and more connected in that moment.

 RJ: What is something you would never travel without?

While in India on that trip I visited a small school for the “differently abled” by myself, which was just down the road from the hotel I and a cohort of six teachers where staying in. At one point a mentally challenged young boy of five or so years came right up to me so I knelt down so say hi and shake his hand. He snatch my glasses off my face and ran … I don’t know where because everything was without them! I panicked and look to see if the principal who was escorting me was going to run after him, he didn’t. Within moments, the boy returned on his own and gently put my specs in my hand unscathed. I’ve always traveled with a backup pair and a copy of my prescription since.

RJ: Where is the nicest establishment you have stayed? Why was it special?

My goodness this was a difficult question to ponder. It certainly has not been the myriad of four or five star hotels I’ve had the privilege of staying in over the years. I generally have found those establishments stuffy and stifling. I’ll go with camping by myself in Havasupi Canyon in Arizona 7 years ago. The name means, people of the blue green water, if you google it you can see how incredibly stunning the waterfalls, pools and the flora & fauna are. What made it such a valuable experience for me was that it had been on my list to visit for 25 years. During the 12 mile hike in I encountered one tourist and one native with his donkey. My feet were blistered and I was exhausted despite my preparatory training and I basically spent the next two days recovering so I could complete the rigorous hike back up and out. I seriously thought about going with the helicopter ferry most tourists use today. I’m glad I didn’t as the sense of accomplishment was well worth the hardship and serenity of the desert completely alone. I didn’t see one human that entire day, ran out of water three miles before the most difficult climb out of the canyon and survived to tell the tale.

RJ: If you could recommend a place to a fellow traveler, where would it be?

It really depends on what you love. Since so many people visit Las Vegas, where I largely grew up. I would say do not miss traveling the few miles out of town and get to Red Rock Canyon and/or The Valley of Fire. Get out of your car and hike the hills some. The desert is alive with beauty and wonder and the rock formations in both places are stunning. Spring Mountain Ranch, which is now persevered as a park within in Red Rock has amazing history and one of the most beautiful short hikes directly behind the ranch’s buildings and into a box canyon. Go in the Spring and if there has been rain the flowers and views will blow your mind, guaranteed.

RJ: Describe a culinary experience that stands out from a vacation abroad?

The beaches of Arambol Beach in Goa India at night became one of the most romantic places I’ve ever witnessed. One of these days I need to take a date there, lol. The daytime lounging chairs and umbrellas were replaced by tables with candles on them all the way down the beach and there was a variety of fish caught that morning on display at each restaurant to make your choice from. Dishes were served with beautiful presentation including fruits and vegetables carved into the shapes of flowers and seashells. After the meal many people order a hooka pipe packed with a choice of fruit that is heated by coals.

 RJ: What is your idea of an enjoyable vacation?

Having the time to relax and a variety of affordable  activities to pursue … or not. Sometimes sitting under a coconut tree with a good book while occasionally people watching is more than enough for me but I like the option of physical activities, museums and making new friends too.

 RJ: Who would be your ideal travel companion?

Currently being single has opened a world to me I’ve never enjoyed since my earliest teen years. I can stop and smell the roses or dance till dawn without explanation or negotiation. If I’m wanting company I will asked a fellow traveler out for a meal or a hike.

 RJ: What do you miss the most when you are away from home?

Family and friends. However technology has made missing them much less of an issue. We share photos and phone calls as easily as if we were across town from each other.

 RJ: What country do you believe to be under-rated? What about overrated?

I don’t think I’m qualified to answer either question. It’s a big wide world out there and whatever your destination you can find hidden treasures if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone.

 RJ: Where is next on your list of places to travel to? Why?

Newly on top of my list is Lima, Peru. A friend of mine has moved there recently a I’m intrigued. The food looks fabulous, the people seem open and warm, the city clean and safe and the prices super low, including airfare from the U.S. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to pull myself away from the vast richness of India, where I’m currently visiting old friends and making new ones every day and I recently obtained a ten year visa! But if I ever do Peru also has the advantage of being in a time zone that would make staying in touch with the U.S. that much easier.