When William Scott Stone graduated from Michigan State University in 1976, he never thought a simple gift would transform his life. But it did.
Stone received a 10-day backpacking trip across Europe as a gift from his parents for earning his bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications. Then after crossing the Atlantic in an ocean liner and exploring London and Paris, he decided he wanted to see more.
"It was like Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz," Stone said. "I wasn't in Kansas anymore, but unlike Dorothy, I didn't want to come home."
Stone called his parents and said he was staying longer. His mom was ecstatic. His dad was less enamored. Stone assured them he had a simple plan: to backpack across Europe for two more years. He would fund the adventure himself with his life savings of $914.
That odyssey became the basis for "Insatiable," Stone's self-published memoir that promotes international travel as a form of self-discovery. The book weaves 36 stories from different times, places, and people – creating a compelling narrative that captures Stone's passions.
"I decided that was the most effective way to write it, rather than having it written in chronological order," said Stone, President of Stone International Media in the New York City area. "The book covers what I had to go through as a traveler, and how you pay for such a global odyssey. Everything was taken from my journals and ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous to other worldly."
Stone says the experience of relying on his own resources for two years abroad made him a bolder person, as well as someone who can think out-of-the-box and write and talk about many things.
"I have my A to Z list on what travel has done for me," Stone said. "It's made me a better person in all aspects."
The two-year journey outlined in "Insatiable" took Stone to urban and rural areas of 34 countries, including those in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and through the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent. He picked up odd jobs, learned to be nimble, and discovered that kindness was the key to finding the lodging, food and transportation he needed.
"You can talk about the landscape and the museums and the cathedrals, but when I think back to 40 years ago, it's the people I remember," Stone said. "Being kind to others made for the ultimate 'domino effect' all around the world."
Stone grew up in Grosse Isle, Mich. – a self-described "American guy," typical of the 1970s. As a teen, he liked sports idols Gordie Howe and Al Kaline. He spent his days hanging out with the guys. His mother told him he needed to expand his horizons. His dad told him he needed to put his nose to the grindstone.
"My mom told me that the more interests and enthusiasms you have the more interesting your life will be," Stone said. "She was always dragging me to chamber orchestras and art galleries."
Stone attended Grahm Junior College in Boston after high school and then transferred to MSU. He says he was an ordinary college guy, too, and began exploring his knack for storytelling and communications.
"My mom was thrilled, thinking I had maybe turned the corner," he said. "She was always the one spurring me on."
His mom was a native New Yorker, with a firm belief that understanding and seeing the world was paramount to leading a full life. She continues to be a prominent influence in Stone's life, having set him on a path of travel and international adventure.
Stone now travels with his wife once a year to a place she picks, and he also takes an annual four- to six-week backpacking trip on his own. He's quick to share his experiences, keeps a lively Facebook page, and fully embraces the ideal his mother passed down: that international travel is vital to a full and meaningful life.
"I've continued to travel like I did that first time, except I'm more aware of hotspots, and it might cost $10 a day instead of $2," Stone said. "The key is making contact with others, and treating everyone with courtesy. People are not only basically good, they're interested and want to help out."