03 Mar, 2010 | Posted by: photosource


When I was 26, and living in Maryland, USA, I made a wanderlust trip through Europe, Africa, USA, Mexico and Central America that lasted over 35 months, almost three years. That was in 1957-60. When I returned home I began writing a memoir during 1960 and ’61. When I finished, I put it away in a closet and forgot it. I really didn’t forget it, I just didn’t think I should publish it back then because there were so many episodes and descriptions in there that would be awkward to people like my relatives and my friends along the way. So I left it all alone. It’s now 2010, almost 40 years later. . I’ll dust off the manuscript and publish it here for the first time. I thought you would like to know how a photographer and his family came to living on a farm here in western Wisconsin –RE

My Story


Sea Gulls keep watch over the canals

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Rohn climbs to his loft at bedtime

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Horses on a cold morning

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I didn’t sleep well. I blamed it on the sounds outside my tent. Like someone walking around. Or some animal out there scraping around the bratwurst sandwich leftovers from the weekend picnickers or something.

As I lay there, I thought about what the future had in store for me. Had the predictions been right? Was losing my camera only a beginning of the catastrophes that were awaiting me? It was true that my financial situation wasn’t holding out as I had expected. The thought of contacting my parents and asking them to send me money passed my mind. No, I would be humiliated. I couldn’t do that. It would be a “We told you so!” situation .

Loneliness had crept into my trip and was playing an important role. I yearned for companionship but the thought of finding a partner for a venture like this was out of the question. My guitar had gotten me as far as I had hoped. So much for hope. Alone, by myself, I wasn’t able to strike up the courage to sing to the public as Rick and I had done back in Wuerzburg.

I had heard about Rotterdam and how it was a large seaport with ships going everywhere, even to the USA. The thought crossed my mind that when I reached Rotterdam, I could hitch a ride on a freighter back to the USA.

But really, as I think back now, I really think my problem that night was waking up in the morning to the unwelcome thought of being the outsider. As if ‘the world’ was zipping up my tent and saying “Don’t come out. You don’t belong here. Go back to your own kind. We don’t want intruders.”

Here I was, going to enter a country new to me, Holland, sometime today where I didn’t even speak the language.

I fell asleep leaving all my decisions to the following day.

I awoke at dawn and peeked out of my tent at the long morning mist stretching out over the still-frosted countryside. Like the man taking his final walk at the penitentiary, I packed up my Vespa, shivering from the cool morning or the thought of the day’s decision that lay ahead of me.
Oh well, as good ol’ Harry Truman used to say, “If you can’t take the heat, get outta the kitchen!”

On my way to the Dutch border, I found myself in a new predicament. My highway led on up the Rhine through countryside of picture postcard villages, the kind you see on travel brochures.

I stopped to make a sketch of a farmstead along the way. Hey! Wait! Where’s my camera bag ? I kept it tied with a bungee cord between my feet on the Vespa so to have it at the ready for pictures. It wasn’t there. My Rollieflex was gone!

I rummaged through my suitcase. Maybe I had packed it away there. It wasn’t there.

Then I thought of an idea. I remember that I heard a thumping sound on the cobblestone road in the village I had just passed through. It could have been the sound of my camera. I rushed back, and asked townspeople if they had seen my camera.

No one had any news for me. I went to the police, the Burgermeister, the firehouse. No one had seen it. At the fire department, the chief said that articles were often turned in to him. He said I could wait around if I wanted to. But it might be a month before someone turned my camera in. –Or never. It was a losing battle. My camera was gone.
And the roll of film that was in there. I would have no roll of film to send back for developing and printing to my friend Hans Bartsch back in Wuerzburg. I thanked the fire chief for his trouble and left.

I looked in my wallet. I had $168.00 to last for my world tour. Could I afford a new camera? It would cut my resources in half. How could I continue my journey on $84? No, I couldn’t, I decided.

So, if you’re going to take a journey like this, Rule number One, keep your camera in a safe place. And while I think about it, Rule number Two is “Keep your passport in a safe place.” Like don’t even let a police officer take it from you. That was told to me even before I left Wuerzburg. They didn’t tell me about the camera. They probably figured, at least, I was smart enough to know that.

A little further up the road I came upon the German-Holland border. The Customs officers at the Dutch border were amused by my sign on the side of the Vespa, “WORLD TOUR”.

They crowded around with interest.
“ How far have you been, son?” One of them asked, looking at the sign.
“I started in Wuerzburg, West Germany,” I said, a little ashamed of the speedometer, which read only 249 miles.

They had seen many a traveler come through on all kinds of vehicles -bicycle, motorcycle, on foot, motorbike, with aspirations of touring the country, or Europe, or the world. But most hadn’t lasted more than a tankful of gas. I wondered if that might happen to me. They stood alert and saluted me with a smile as I passed into their country.

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