It has been said that, as an expatriate, after seven years you can never go home.

Oh, of course, you can physically go back to the place of your birth. But, after that much time living in a different culture, something inside of you has permanently changed. You become, in some sense, a stranger in your own land.

We ended up living in Asia for almost twelve years. After a few years in China, we then moved down to Hong Kong. I also had a two-year stint in Taiwan. Most of those years, while I was working as a marketing consultant for the computer industry, my wife was working as a photographer covering the region for US and international publications.

During that time, we traveled extensively from Japan down to Australia and most of the countries in between.

Asia became our new home, with all of its rich cultural complexity. We were continually learning, tossing ourselves into new places, each with their own stories and own meaning. Our lives were continually being shaped by our curiosity.

After twelve years, what was this America I was returning to? And who was I, landing back in this place which now felt, in some ways, a foreign land? Most importantly, what had I learned from this journey that would guide my path forward?

The discoveries were many, but one, in particular, stood out. Having seen the economic explosion of Asia, I deeply appreciated the profound reshaping of the global economy that was underway. I was shocked by how many Americans were blithely unaware that the world had been transformed while they slept. America was quickly losing its competitive advantage not only in manufacturing but in all areas of innovation. Our country’s economic future was fundamentally at risk.

I could not shake this concern.

DOT FROM preview-next-diagram

Next: Onward3