A stranger on both sides of the pond
Even when Travis Casey returns to the land of his birth he sometimes feels like an outsider. When Casey returned to the United States after years in the United Kingdom, he knew the trip back could provide plenty of fodder for a book. "Once I star...
Even when Travis Casey returns to the land of his birth he sometimes feels like an outsider.
When Casey returned to the United States after years in the United Kingdom, he knew the trip back could provide plenty of fodder for a book.
"Once I started the process I realized there would be a lot of material here," Casey said.
The 52-year-old started writing light-hearted fiction while living in England. He began writing novels when the recession in England took a hard bite out of his property renovation work. Casey had already completed three books and was working on a fourth. When his father had a stroke, Casey and his wife planned to return to America.
In England, Casey said he felt pretty much accepted. When he speaks here, there is little doubt his accent is anything but American. His word choice is definitely British. But on the other side of the pond, they tell him his American accent remains strong.
"Both sides of the pond think I speak kind of funny," Casey said. "I kind of feel like a foreigner anywhere I go these days."
After 22 years in England, the changes that were incremental for Americans on the home soil created a jarring experience of change for Casey. His parents were preachers with The Salvation Army. Coming back to America, Casey's noted a more politically correct culture than he remembered. He felt the country was more liberal than the one he left. And the television programming as more risque, even though he noted the Page 3 girls in an English newspaper The Sun provides topless photos of women everyday. But there, the topless photos were just part of the culture, he said. But Casey said strong language and nudity on television is not seen in Great Britain until after 9 p.m. American television he said is much more violent than British counterparts.
Casey grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind. His mother was born and raised in Brainerd and his family retired here. Coming to Minnesota also provided an extended family he hasn't know abroad.
Casey was 19 when he went into the Navy. He said it is was the perfect life for a single young man. He was stationed in Hawaii for four years.
"That really was a young man's dream," Casey said. He met his Australian-born wife in Hawaii and while stationed there was able to tour the Far East. His next post was in Scotland, a place he described as being one where it's necessary to adjust to a slower pace. Getting a newspaper at the local stand may mean waiting for a lengthy conversation between those in line ahead before there's any chance of being served. He joked it could be a question of getting a newspaper before rigor mortis set in. And there was that wind - more than 100 mph. Everything closed by 6 p.m. Moving to Scotland was an adjustment after the 24 hour-a-day of activity that was Hawaii.
Casey left the Navy in 1990 and they lived in Seattle for two years. But they decided they enjoyed the European lifestyle better. In Seattle, they felt they were working non-stop to make a life there.
"We were so busy working but didn't have time to enjoy it," Casey said.
In Europe they enjoyed a greater sense of taking time off for holidays, vacation and travel. Casey said England is basically closed between Dec. 23 and Jan. 5 each year.
In two hours they could be in any number of different countries. Leaving Brainerd and two hours later, he noted, he could be in Bemidji. Casey said working all the time wasn't what they were looking for and the European living with an emphasis on enjoying experiences was a better fit. They lived on the southern coast in England where they were actually closer to France than London.
Coming to Brainerd, Casey wasn't quite sure what to expect of the smaller city. But he said he was impressed with the amount of things to do here.
Traveling is something Casey grew up with as family vacations meant loading up the camper and seeing the nation. He's traveled to 47 states on road trips and was used to moving often with his parents' work.
Coming back to America, Casey was also surprised at prices. Adding on tax was an eye-opener. The taxes were higher in Great Britain but since they are not listed separately in the price, Casey said people go the register and never expect the cost to go up in the transaction. In England, the prices include a 20 percent sales tax. A gallon of gas, although not exactly comparable to an American gallon, cost $7.88.
Casey utilized places and experiences he knew to create his novels about fictional characters living in Hawaii. He and his wife had a tea room restaurant in England for six years. They put on a Thanksgiving meal and flew Old Glory. One of their British customers joked they celebrated Thanksgiving, too - they called it the Fourth of July.
In England, even as he'd been living outside of the United States for more than two decades, Casey said he was considered the resident expert on all things American. If they had a question on the U.S., they came to him. If there is a tornado in Oklahoma, they ask if he has family affected. "I'm quite moved by that really," he said.
Watching Sept. 11 happen was surreal.
"I was stunned like everybody," he said. It brought up other English experiences with bombings. When Casey first moved there he asked where the trash receptacles were. He was told they were absent because they were too easy to hide a bomb.
In England, Casey learned to change his word choices to be understood. Bring the wrench out of the trunk became bring the spanner out of the boot.
In 2000, Casey said he got a dual citizenship. His books are available on his website, and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
When Casey went to the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport looking for an outlet for his books and found no gift store, he decided to open a small business there with The Travel Cabin. He set up the stands just before the daily flights to provide items travelers may have forgotten at at the last minute, snacks, books, games. Among the offerings were items like reading glasses or a stylus for the smartphone or tablet. He hoped to add gifts of the type people may pick up as a souvenir of the trip to take home. Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Manager Jeff Wig agreed it was a good idea and something the airport was missing. But as of this week, Casey decided to put a hold on the business as sales haven't materialized. It's uncertain it will reopen.
And how has his family adjusted to having him back at home?
"Straight away they say 'you have an accent.'"
RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .