Tom Loomer, 64 and from South Dakota, lives in Chang Mai, Thailand, and makes yearly trips to Bali
What’s the greatest lesson life has taught you?
To be aware of our addictions and be able to admit to them. That turned my whole life around.
What’s most important?
Peace of mind – knowing that we choose the way we feel. If we want to get angry about something we let ourselves and if we want to let it go and be happy we can. I practice this and am aware of it every day.
What advice would you give the younger generations?
I would advise them to travel internationally as early as possible. All the news we receive these days is sensational, so the only way to find the truth is to see if yourself. When I was sent to Vietnam, I had a week in Hong Kong and one in Sydney and then of course in Vietnam itself I saw people living differently and it opened my eyes.
Are you worried about dying?
No. I expect to live a long time, maybe to 100 or more. My job now is to take care of myself mentally and physically and make sure I have plenty of time left.
What was the happiest time of your life?
Right now. I’m happy not being an angry human being. Traveling in Asia calms me and makes me feel at peace with myself.
And the worst?
The two years before I finally got sober were extremely depressing. I was angry and my life was in chaos.
What’s humanity all about?
Growing and enjoying this existence – this life. Happiness is something you really have to work hard on and it’s really easy to just tread water. You have to constantly make good, positive choices and remember happiness is the journey, not the destination.
Why are there so many conflicts in the world?
Everybody wants it their way. There isn’t nearly enough compromise.
Is a peaceful world possible?
Only on an individual basis. As for a worldwide or perhaps even neighborhood or village-wide basis, no it’s not possible.
How old do you feel?
I feel about 40-something. I spend a lot of time with younger people, like backpackers, when I’m traveling, which I think keeps me feeling young.
Is one lifetime enough?
Yes. I’m in no hurry to die, but I’d like something else next time around.
How has Bali changed?
It seems much busier; buildings and people are changing fast. I also see a change in attitude, perhaps because we are grinding people down. Their natural friendliness is being tested.
Has tourism been good for Bali?
Like I said, it’s testing the Balinese people, but of course it’s always give and take. They’re able to buy the modern things they want, like motorcycles, which is something we are powerless to stop. It’s the same everywhere in the world.
What’s the major difference between the East and the West?
Respect for traditions. In the West, America especially, religion and culture are so quickly erased because people want to fit in.
Have you ever doubted your religion?
Yes, and I completely dropped it. I come from a religious family and was made to choose a Catholic university and it was there that I started questioning it. I thought maybe this isn’t all the truth. I never liked the idea of a punishing god. I do believe in some kind of creator but my god is a loving god who doesn’t judge or punish me. I am the only one who can judge myself now.