PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles High School graduate Terry Clayton was visiting Namibia recently with his daughter.
They decided to make a side trip to nearby Angola, crossing the border into that country.
And that was the 150th country on the planet that Clayton has visited.
Clayton, who now lives on Whidbey Island, has written a book about his travels, titled “Facing the Moment: Lessons from a Global Odyssey.” His book can be found on Amazon.com.
The book is part travelogue, but much more. The introduction, written by author Garth Stein, states that the book is “Part travel memoir, part philosophical treatise, entirely compelling, inspiring, and a pleasure to read, this work is a powerful testament to a life devoted to living, learning and education.”
Clayton said that one of the biggest lessons he learned during his travels was that in spite of all the many differences in cultures around the world, there is a “universality of humanity” — That most people just want to live life, not be hurt and not to hurt others.
“Most people are nice people,” he said.
Clayton was a multi-sport star at Port Angeles High School and is attending a 66th class reunion later this month in Port Angeles and the annual Roughriders Hall of Fame dinner at Civic Field on Aug. 20. His late brother Mike Clayton was inducted a couple of times into the hall of fame, both as an individual and as part of the 1966 boys basketball team that finished second in the state.
“It was a great town, the kind of town where if you were at a neighbor’s house, you’d have lunch with them,” he said. He battled dyslexia early in life and he said overcoming it gave him the discipline to succeed.
While Mike is an athletic legend in Port Angeles, Terry was also a star and had scholarship offers to play basketball at four schools in the Pac-8. He ended up attending and playing basketball for Western Washington University. He got a degree in history at WWU, received a teaching credential from University of Washington and began a long teaching career at Seattle high schools, Shoreline Community College and Everett Community College, teaching history and environmental studies.
Clayton said he knew early in life he wanted to teach.
“I knew in the eighth grade that I had to do all I could do to help save society from itself,” he said. He also described himself as an adrenaline junkie. On the cover of his book is a plume of volcanic ash exploding from Mount St. Helens. He was only a few miles from Mount St. Helens when it erupted in 1980 and was able to get the up-close photo. He and a companion just happened to be in a right spot in a bubble where the ash and pyroclastic flow went over them. People only 40 miles away were killed.
“We were almost killed a number of times that day,” he said.
He had some other close calls during his travels, barely avoiding the Chinese army in a valley in India during an invasion in the 1960s. From all of his close calls, Clayton had an epiphany one day that he isn’t remotely afraid of death.
“I’m not afraid of death. I’m not excited about it, but I’m not afraid of it,” he said. “I’m sort of curious what comes next.”
Today, travel has become easier, but 50 or 60 years ago, it could be much more difficult. Westerners rarely went to some of the corners of the globe that Clayton visited. He told a story of the oldest throne in the world still standing on the island of Crete. Many years ago, Clayton was able to sit on it. But times have changed with more people traveling the world.
“Now, it’s in a glass cage,” he said.
Clayton said he was inspired to write the book from his travels and his insights into the environment and the world’s cultures. He’s just now beginning to publicize his book after recovering from a hip replacement. He’s 84 years old and plans to continue traveling.