Halfway around the world, Jeb Brooks changed the name of his blog from Greener Grass to Out Of Place (outofplace.com).
“This has grown into something more than a hobby for me,” he wrote from Kathmandu. “It’s a real passion. Getting out, seeing the world, trying to understand other perspectives, these are what keep me traveling. And, as I thought about those things — and spoke to some very close friends — it became clear to me that this is what is most important to me in life:
“Being ‘Out Of Place.’
“By that I mean intentionally putting myself in settings and situations that challenge me. I enjoy finding ways to stretch my comfort zone.”
Brooks, at 34, is already one of Greensboro’s top travelers. He logged more than 47,000 miles just in the past six weeks. For him, the Gate City means coming and going, which he does for business and, well, a challenge.
Brooks is president and CEO of The Brooks Group, a sales-training company founded by his father, Bill, in 1977. The job affords him the opportunity to travel and work remotely.
He takes notes and writes, so he won’t forget the moments.
I also love traveling and have stretched my comfort zone a time or two. A 15-hour bus ride from Nairobi to Mwanza and backpacking alone across the Orkney Islands in icy rain stand out as memorable experiences.
But I can only keep up with this adventurous young man through his writing. His latest journey took him to Madagascar, Nepal and Mongolia, among other exotic destinations.
It was his second round-the-world trip in five years. The initial circumnavigation in 2012 “was the first time I really immersed myself in culture shock,” he said Tuesday.
He has visited every continent and has some unusual favorite countries — Bolivia, for example. This mountainous, land-locked nation, one of the poorest in South America, claims a little-known pre-Incan civilization centered on the ancient city of Tiwanaku. Brooks draws lessons, and warnings against cultural hubris, from the rising and falling of great societies.
“I view the world from the eyes of an educated Westerner, from the U.S.,” said Brooks, who holds a law degree from Elon. The United States is the world’s leading country, but “that’s true right now. It might not be in 500 years. That’s the march of history.”
In Mongolia, where he camped in a ger, or tent-like hut, on the steppe, Brooks said he learned to appreciate the legacy of Ghengis Khan. Coming from a remote and desolate corner of northeast Asia, without wealth or education, Ghengis Khan 800 years ago conquered lands stretching from the Pacific to the Mediterranean. That memory still is celebrated by Mongolians today.
Brooks also was impressed with the expanse and beauty of those plains and sky, calling Mongolia one place he would like to see again, even as he sets his sights on new frontiers. He counts 44 U.N. member states so far and said he hopes to enter all 193.
“There’s so much more to see out there,” he said.
Brooks usually travels by himself, which he says is easier given his sometimes-haphazard itinerary. If a flight is canceled, it’s easier to grab one seat on another rather than two or three. Occasionally, he finds a group to join for side trips, as he did in venturing to Mongolia’s Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area.
“I have to go out of my way to connect with others,” he wrote. “And the ger camp was wonderful in that regard. I was surrounded by people from all over the world. A U.S. consultant living in Nigeria. An Austrian diplomat living in Milan. A French Canadian couple. A journalist from the Netherlands.
“Our conversations about the places we’ve seen, experiences we’ve had, and people we’ve met have been — hands down — the greatest part of this journey so far.”
Still, there aren’t that many people who are game for traveling to “out-of-place” destinations. Although, Brooks reflected, maybe there’s some of that in all of us.
“I’ve always felt out of place,” he said. “I would bet everybody on the planet has a sense of that. I don’t want to run away from it, I want to cultivate it.”
The irony is that Brooks was born, and has spent most of his life, in Greensboro. “I’ll always come home,” he said.
It’s just that living the rest of his life in a comfort zone isn’t for him.
Greensboro isn’t called The Gate City because everyone stays put. Brooks is already planning his next trip.