We are the World

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Prior to our west coast trip, my wife Hanna and her friend Cindy made a decision that we would not stop and see friends or family along the way – and certainly wouldn’t detour to find them. With only seven full days and two partial days to eat and drink our way from Seattle to San Francisco, there simply wouldn’t be time….and if we made an exception for one couple’s friends, it would only be fair to do it for the other’s. Therefore, they settled on a policy with no wiggle room.

That agreement was tested early and often.

As soon as I posted the first picture from Seattle, just a couple of hours after the plane touched down, I received an entreaty from a friend: “Hey, you’re only a couple of hours away. Any chance we can meet up?”

The calls, texts and Facebook messages continued every day for the rest of the trip, almost equally divided among residents of Washington, Oregon and California, plus one from Idaho. Despite my misanthropic and lonerish tendencies, it appears that a few people like to spend time with me and/or my redheaded wife, which was both flattering and disappointing, because I would’ve liked to have seen many of them. Our traveling partners certainly received some inquiries from west coast friends, but not nearly as many. At first I assumed the difference was mostly due to my unhealthy omnipresence on social media, but upon further reflection I think there’s a bigger and better reason: fishing.

But for my immersion in the fishing world, I would still have acquaintances all over the place. My high school class fanned out all over the world. My college and law school classes had representatives from all and nearly all of the 50 states, respectively, as well as dozens of countries. Nevertheless, my friendships still wouldn’t be nearly so well-distributed or comprehensive. Most people, I’ve come to realize, live rather parochial existences. If you charted their friends on a map, there’d be one big cluster where they live, another where they grew up or went to school, and few elsewhere. I probably have a smaller congregation than most within 30 miles of my house, but far more dots scattered more widely. I’m not saying that my Rorschach blot is necessarily better than yours, but I know that mine has provided me with great social experiences and friendships with anglers not just all over the U.S., but also in regions as far-flung as Japan (several cities), Brazil and South Africa.

The internet, which was supposed to broaden our horizons – exposing us to different ideas and different kinds of people – has in many cases accomplished the opposite. People seek out self-reinforcing opinions and the people who hold them. I’m aware of at least three friends who in the past year have moved from one state to another to be around more people who “think like me.”

Fishing, on the other hand – at least in my case – has had the opposite effect, offering me windows into worlds I never otherwise would have known existed, along with a willing band of expert tour guides to show me around. The sport has given me so many things, many of which I’ve enumerated in this space before, but perhaps the greatest gift has been a personal network of characters and friends that far exceeds those enjoyed by most of my peers.