Man of the world


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At the age of 9, Dean Jacobs hopped onto his green Schwinn Stingray bicycle and rode from his hometown of Fremont, Neb., to the neighboring town of Arlington. He rode by himself for miles down gravel roads with the danger of vicious farm dogs dashing after him along the way.

He recalled his curiosity of exploring dates back to childhood adventures, and ever since, he has visited more than 50 countries.

“It was a dream of mine to take a trip around the world,” he said. “And not just a two-week vacation but more of a journey and allow the essence of the place to get into your skin so you really get to know a place rather than just passing by.”

Dean Jacobs will present “Wondrous Journey” today at 5 p.m. in the Main Library’s Shambaugh Auditorium. Admission is free.

Jacobs has embarked on three trips totaling four years outside the United States since 2001. He spent 221⁄2 months visiting 28 countries during his first trip, which was the basis for his book Wondrous Journey, from which his presentation stems.

Jill Goldesberry, a program officer for the Stanley Foundation, saw one of Jacobs’ presentations in Omaha about a year ago.

“It’s an entertaining look at our world,” she said.

Jacobs describes his presentation as showing people that they don’t need to be afraid of the world.
“I’m here to talk about the goodness of humanity,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m ignoring the bad things that happen in the world. I try to shed a little bit of light on the extraordinary things that are simple but are important to remember.”

During his travels, he set a budget of $10 to $15 a day, including lodging and food. He learned to live simply — traveling by himself with only one large backpack and a small book bag for his photography equipment. With such a small budget, Jacobs didn’t always know what he was eating from street vendors. He tried various foods, including zebra, kangaroo, ostrich, and scorpion on a stick — all of which, he said, “taste like chicken.”

One of the highlights was being invited into the homes of families living in developing countries, he said.

“The richness of the journey is to sit down and connect with people and listen to their ideas of life, and what their hopes and dreams are,” he said.

When traveling the world, Jacobs’ goal is not to tell others how to live but rather experience and embrace their lifestyles. He learned a lot from his adventures — especially issues dealing with dignity and respect.

“I was treated with such kindness by people who have nothing but want to give me everything,” he said.

Once, while in Sudan, a stranger paid for Jacobs’ bus fare in an attempt to watch over Jacobs because he was a guest in the country.

But his experiences weren’t always positive. Every time he travels, he said, he loses 10 to 15 pounds and deals with sickness, and once, he was even robbed at gunpoint. However, negatives won’t stop him from fulfilling his dream.

“One moment out of the four years of putting myself at the mercy of the world and only having that one-time experience is really nothing,” he said.

Jacobs travels brought him to such locations as the base camp of Mount Everest, the outback of Australia, and the pyramids of Egypt.

“The world really is far more beautiful than it’s given credit for,” he said.

While embracing his worldly travels, he hopes to bring the dignity and respect he learned to his audiences.

“I have a treasure that lives in my heart, a treasure of experience,” Jacobs said. “It’s not the kind of treasure to be kept to yourself, it’s a treasure to be shared with others.”

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