Fine Living: The Adventures of James Buie

 

Written by Lindsay Whelchel in the February 2011 Issue

Mark Twain once said that, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness,” and Edmond resident James Buie would likely agree. With a lengthy career in the U.S. Navy and a love of travel, Buie has seen more of the world than many ever dream of.

He has spent years collecting memories from around the globe and is more than happy to share his outlook on life. “My Facebook says ‘get off your computer and live’,” he laughed.

As he tells the stories of his adventures, you can tell he takes his own advice wholeheartedly.

Having grown up in Los Angeles, Buie was set to begin a career in the film industry by the early 1980s. His father was a grip and his uncle a gaffer for movie sets. Buie’s family ties could have easily led him to make movies about far off places, but instead, an actors’ strike that left him out of work, led him to join the Navy where he could go see these far off places for himself.

His father’s WWII service in the Navy inspired him to join the same branch, where he served for over 20 years, travelling the world five times. “It’s easier for me to point to a map and tell you where I haven’t been versus where I have,” Buie says.

One of his early stints at sea included extensive travel around the Mediterranean Ocean. “I was in port a lot of periods in the Mediterranean,” he said, explaining that they usually ported for 10 days at a time in various countries. It was here that many of Buie’s lessons in the ways of the world truly began.

“I saw all of these different cultures,” he said. “The wider you open your vision, the more you see; the more you learn, the more you have understanding of other people and tolerance of other cultures.”

His excursions with the Navy led Buie to a wide range of destinations including France, Naples, Iceland, Japan and even Egypt, just to name a few. He began his travels on a ship called the Coral Sea, but it is clear Buie takes a great amount of pride in another ship. The one he sailed on her maiden voyage, and then again on his last voyage with the Navy – the Abraham Lincoln. Buie even recalls watching this massive boat being built.  “It made the Coral Sea, which is an aircraft carrier, look small,” he laughs.

While traveling, Buie made it a point not to fall into the stereotypical itinerary of many who are staying at port. “We have some people who join the military and they just hit the bars and go see the tourist areas,” he said. But it was different for him and his group of friends. They all had passports and made good use of them. “We would spend Christmas in the French Alps or visit the museums. It was all about constantly learning about people
and cultures.”

One beautiful lesson learned came while Buie was in the Kingdom of Bahrain, a group of islands in the Arabian-Persian Gulf. He was standing in a lively market area called the Gold Souq and tells the story of witnessing a mother chase her giggling child though the aisles of goods. “I come to the realization, and so does her husband at the same time and we both laugh out loud, realizing that children are the same no matter where you stand on the planet,” he said.

Buie clearly loved his time in the Navy. He speaks of destinations and their country characteristics with an almost unmatched reverence and joy. But perhaps for him, the most magical place of all is Australia, where he met his wife in 2003.

It was Christmas in Perth, a city Buie describes to be much like Los Angeles. But it was summer there and hardly felt like Christmas at all. So, in his typical refusal to spend the holiday hanging out in the bars, Buie chose instead to crash someone’s Christmas party at a local dinner club. That someone turned out to be his wife, and the rest as they say, is history. 

After retiring from the Navy, Buie got a job at Tinker Air Force Base and he and his family have since settled in Edmond. He has been to an estimated 75 different places, multiple times, around the United States and the world, but his thirst for adventure is not quenched yet.

Two years ago, his wife gave him an anniversary gift of a hot air balloon ride and the two are constantly planning new travel opportunities. One place he would like to get back to is Venice. “When you go back to a place, even if it’s your hometown five years later, things have changed. The world constantly changes,” he said.

It’s true; the world is changing, and it can change you too, if you let it – so at the advice of James Buie, get out there and live. 

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