Bob Kulp Shares Travel’s Influence on Life, Politics
Though many know him as a businessman or politician, Bob Kulp is also an avid traveler. Last month, Kulp made a nearly 20,000-mile trip around the Earth, and his first full trip around the world.
“It is something that I’ve always had a passion for,” said Kulp. “Over the course of the years, I’ve traveled all 50 states and 61 countries. For me, it’s work hard and then travel. It certainly is always fun to be able to do that, and especially when there is a purpose along the way.”
On his most recent trip, Kulp’s main purpose was to visit his two newest grandchildren in Taiwan.
“It was my intention to go, especially with the State budget being on hold, to see my two new grandkids, as well as Laura (my wife) and my daughters,” he said.
When an opportunity to visit friends in Greece arose, Kulp planned his layover accordingly, affording him the chance to check out historic landmarks and also to witness firsthand the Moria Refugee Camp off the coast.
“Greece is a country that has huge economic challenges,” said Kulp. “Athens in particular has a lot of refugees.”
Traveling primarily via Turkey, refugees must cross dangerous waters to reach safety in Greece. At one time, thousands of people were traveling every day, pouring into the camp.
“One out of every four of the people that left Turkey actually made it safely the five miles across the water,” said Kulp. “There were 42 countries represented in the camp the day I was there.”
During his time in Greece, the most compelling visual for Kulp was the giant garbage dump located a mile off the coast that contained a stockpile of hundreds of thousands of discarded life jackets from those who had reached freedom.
“Freedom is an incredibly valuable thing,” he said. “As an American, as I’m standing out there, I just thanked God that I was born in a country that gives the opportunities it does. Freedom is a valuable commodity that we need to hang onto.”
“It helps to shape my perspective of things when I see those kinds of places,” he added.
After three days in Greece, Kulp flew to Taipei to spend seven days with family. On his way home, he had a brief layover in Seoul, South Korea, during which he took the opportunity to visit the DMZ (Korean demilitarized zone).
“I arranged for a cab driver to pick me up at the airport and basically drove through Seoul. It was 1:30 at night, pouring rain, and there were people out shopping,” he said of the experience. “There are 24 million people in the metro area. It’s a little bit intimidating for a guy like me from the farm fields of Wisconsin, but I’m young and I adjust.”
About 1.5 hours north of Seoul, Kulp visited the DMZ, a narrow strip of land designated by agreement between North Korea, China and the United Nations in 1953 which serves as a buffer between South Korea and North Korea.
“The Korean conflict was never really declared and it was never really over,” said Kulp. “The DMZ is ½ mile from North Korean soldiers. They are always on the alert there. As we know, North Korea has been in the news a lot so it’s not a place to be toyed with, but it was quite interesting as an American tourist to see what I saw.”
Though not the wasteland he expected (there is actually an amusement park and other touristy things amidst the memorials there), he was sobered by the nearness to North Korea.
“It was not as compelling a visual as the life jackets in Greece, but very sobering to think that just miles from there are people that are being oppressed and dominated by ruthless people that don’t have respect for human life,” he said.
These recent travels, along with his previous world adventures, have given Kulp a unique perspective as he approaches his life, his work, and his service as a State Representative.
“It helps me to be more careful about my ’pat’ answers. It helps to not shut out notions that don’t meet preconceived ideas,” he said. “You can’t just know everything about everything from a soundbite. There is so much more to be discovered.”
“Bringing those disciplines into state government has been helpful as well,” he added. “Being able to articulate when you have a difference, finding a way to press the point without being obnoxious… this is something that travel has helped me with. We also have to stay engaged with other countries and their policies. To not do so is to be shortsighted about the world’s future.”