Friday, July 24, 2020

A Stuffed Blue Bear Kept Me Company Across States and Countries

When I set out to run across America in 2006, my then six-year-old son, Brian, gave me his little "Blue Bear" to keep me company during that long journey. I carried the small stuffed bear on my support stroller... and I ultimately had that little bear with me for each of the adventure runs that I did. Of course, when I wasn't running across a state or country, Blue Bear could always be found on Brian's bed.

On every journey run I did with Blue Bear, I would always take a photo of it along the way. I wanted Brian to see that his small stuffed animal did indeed keep me company. Today, Brian is 20 years old and in college. If he still has that little bear I hope that he knows how well traveled it is! I also hope that he knows how much it meant to me that he would give me his little bear to be a companion or sorts as I trekked across vast distances.

Many years after I completed my 2006 U.S.A. run, social media took off and became popular. As it did, one of the trends was to take stuffed animal photos in landmark locations. It even got to the point where a company would custom manufacture passports for stuffed animals. Perhaps the travels of Blue Bear and I were a foreshadowing of what was to come on social media.

In fact, just four years after I completed the coast-to-coast run the first "toy travel agency" debuted in Tokyo, running local tours for clients who wanted to live vicariously through their plush animals. The agency would take photos of the stuffed animals in various locations, sending the photos to the clients. At the end of the trip, it was shipped back to the client along with a DVD of photos, some souvenirs, and a custom t-shirt. If you're like me, you're probably shaking your head over the fact that there are people who actually pay for such things.

Blue Bear and I had some great adventures and I am so thankful for the thoughtfulness of my youngest son in wanting to make sure that his Dad wasn't lonely on the road.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso