Inspiring People

World Traveler Bob Harris and Author Julie Morse

Julie Morse


Julie Morse is a veteran writer, motivational speaker, and communications expert with additional professional experience in sales and marketing. While previously best known for her writing work as a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times Media Group newspapers and as a former features writer for the Chicago Tribune, Julie is now garnering attention as an author. She recently achieved her life-long dream of writing and publishing a book - twice over.

In Summer 2012, her creative nonfiction title, Out of the Box: The Mostly True Story of a Mysterious Man debuted on bookshelves with advance praise from Kirkus Reviews. Also, releasing August 14, 2012, is Julie's children's book, When Billy Went Bald. Inspired by her own son's victory over cancer, the book helps young children better understand and embrace a cancer patient's journey.

Julie currently resides on Chicago's North Shore with her husband... and together they have six grown children, all residing in the Chicago area.

Bob Harris

Bob (as told by Julie)

Mystery, adventure, travels, wealth... I learned about all this and more when writing the life story of box salesman extraordinaiare Bob Harris.  It's truly exciting to share this septuagenarian's life story with the world now because he is such an amazing and, yes, mysterious person. Few people who work with him now, or worked with him over his career, know the full extent of his exploits and accomplishments behind the scenes.  His story is full of surprises and I was honored to be the one he told them too... When I asked if he'd let me write his life story three years ago, he said, "Well, why not...nearly everybody who matters is dead anyway!" I had no idea how involved or far-reaching those discussions would be. Bob didn't disappoint!

Bob Harris has lived the kind of life that many of us dream of living but few of us will ever dare. Julie Morse has captured the spirit of adventure, mystery and elegance that define Bob Harris.

Bob Harris has lived the kind of life that many of us dream of living but few of us will ever dare. Julie Morse has captured the spirit of adventure, mystery and elegance that define Bob Harris.

DR: So the first question is for you, Bob. I am wondering - as I read the book and as I contemplate your life, I feel a little bit jealous and confronted by the fact that I haven't been quite so adventurous in my own life. Do you have any regrets?

BH: Absolutely none. I might have made a little bit more money staying home but I'm nowhere near regretting it.

DR: What is it really like to live the kind of life that most people only dream of? Is it all that it's cracked up to be?

BH: Well it's not for everyone, to be honest with you. People envy you for getting on a plane and going somewhere halfway around the world for this or that adventure but when they are confronted with 12-15 hours on a plane half of them forget about it right there.

The loneliness - if you travel alone which most of this is - you meet people along the way of course but, traveling alone bothers a lot of people. I would emphasize that it's not for everybody. Those who have a touch of it, it's the only way. It's like being born a writer or a musician. It's a calling and you go to it and you stay with it.

DR: This sounds like something that you didn't question; that you dove right in to...

BH: If you go back to my childhood, it began with my brother's stamp collection. When I was eight, ten, maybe twelve years old, my brother would go over all of theses stamps - commemorative stamps and special issues - and I knew all of rulers of all of the petty states of Europe by the time I was ten years old. It created in me some kind of a fascination with it and it stayed with me. When I had a chance to go, I went and that was the end.

DR: Julie, what was it about Bob and his story that attracted you and compelled you to write a book based on his life?

JM: Originally I thought of him as a man of intrigue.

I met Bob through my husband who also works in the box and paper industry with Bob. He would come home over the years and tell me where Bob was traveling. I had a close friend in intelligence and when I heard that Bob was in Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan and Somalia, all of these strange places to go on vacation, I said to my husband, "I think Bob's in Intelligence". He said, "No. Bob works with me at the office. He just likes to go on vacation."

Over the years it became a running joke between us until my husband mentioned it to a ninety-five year old man in the industry who suggested that I was not too far off. So then I called Bob and asked him if he would be interested in telling me his life story.

That's how it began. I was rewarded on a much greater level than if he had been a James Bond-like character because Bob is so real and he is one of those people who decided early on to live out of the box and be intentional about world travel and having experiences. It just unfolded in ways that were unexpected. I was rewarded every step of the way as we did our interviews and I wrote the book.

Out of the Box: The Mostly True Story of a Mysterious Man

Young Julianna was different from the other kids. She suffered from a strange form of arthritis that sometimes left her hurting and bedridden for days a time. But she never let it stop her from living life to the fullest - thanks largely to the secret weapon she had in her Uncle Bob.

When she was little, Uncle Bob filled Julianna's head with positive thoughts - while filling her room with wild souvenirs from his exotic world travels. There was the painted wolf skull from Siberia; a jagged, blood-stained rock from Mount Everest; and a faceless voodoo doll from Africa. He whetted her appetite for adventure and convinced her that nothing was beyond her reach. Then, when she was sixteen, he invited her along on his far-flung adventures. To the teenager, Uncle Bob was Superman and James Bond combined. But even as she grew up to realize that he wasn't really magic, there was something magical about her favorite uncle.

Bob Harris lived life by his own rules, and it took him on great adventures and to the heights of success. Parts of that life were also shrouded in mystery. Now nearing eighty, he reveals his true identity to his beloved Julianna - imparting wisdom, inspiration, strength, and some real surprises, too. Bob's story is a testament to the power of the American dream - and to his personal passion to live life boldly.

Click here to learn more and buy your copy today.

DR: This is a question for both of you. Practicality. That doesn't seem like something you've been burdened by, Bob. There is a quote that goes something like:

"Cease to be earthbound and burdened with practicality..."

When I look at my life I would definitely say that practicality has often gotten in the way of some of my loftier goals and objectives. I want to know, what is your relationship to practicality Bob? And Julie, has writing this book about Bob altered the relationship that you have with practicality?

JM: Bob I'll let you start.

BH: Well, I think life is a series of compromises as you go along. Obviously you can't just become a drifter. You wind up really doing nothing and it's difficult to make your way around the world unless you want to just be a ski bum or a surfing bum. That is not what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something practical, make a living if possible, do something in he way of a profession, all around the world. I was fortunate enough to be able to put it all together, a formula that would work anywhere in the world really. That's what made the difference. But these were compromises. I did not want to be just a plain drifter.

JM: Right. What I got from Bob was being reminded.

I was raised by my father who reminds me in some ways of Bob but without all of the adventure. My father had a very can-do attitude and was very intentional. He believed in the power of positive think. So I was raised that way. But to your point Dana, you start your career and get involved with many different things - family, work - and you start being practical. Well at least I did. You start putting the dreams aside. By meeting Bob, I had made an intentional choice to go back to writing and tried to write a book and Bob came into my life at the right time and he reminded me of the power of intent.

Bob, better than anybody that I know, has been very intentional about who he wanted to be and what he wanted to do from the time he hopped a freighter from the time he was, what you were seventeen, Bob?

BH: Seventeen. Right.

JM: Unusual for someone to be that directed and intentional. Like you said you always wanted to be a working man and found a way and along the way you've also had your eyes and ears open to various opportunities and people who enhance that life, ten-fold.

BH: Yeah. Yeah. I think that covers it pretty well from my point...

DR: So Julie what are you most curious about now with regard to Bob after writing Out of the Box?

JM: You know I think that Bob will always be a bit of a mystery man to me and to everybody else in his life. When you write a life story, I mean Bob and I spent over a hundred hours together learning about his entire life. I probably know more about his life than almost anybody but at the same time I don't think any of us knows everybody completely and with Bob, that little element of mystery is part and parcel of his life and what endears him to me even more.

DR: You know Bob, and at the risk of moving the conversation to psychoanalysis, I am curious about what your underlying driving force or motivation might have been. Perhaps it's something that's not so obvious or that resides just under the surface somewhere...

BH: I was a Depression child and my father had a pretty tough professional life as a dentist in the 1930's. We were in no way blessed with a very luxurious life but my mother always impressed in my mind, "Be somebody". That's just the way she phrased it. Not to be a doctor or a lawyer but, "Be somebody". That gave me a lot of latitude and one of the ways that I was going to "Be somebody" was to see the world, every farthest point of it. Very few people get to that. Whether I made anything out of a particular trip or not, I was going to cover the world. That was one of my goals early on. That is what I compromised with and positioned around each trip wherever I could do that. Fortunately it just came into balance, the travel just followed naturally and these were good business situations and the business followed naturally. I met some pretty amazing people...

DR: Wow...

BH: I always stayed in the same business. I was always in the paper packing business. I didn't jump fields. I wouldn't go into another kind of business or a different product line. I stuck to what I knew and where I had acquaintances.

DR: And the reason that you stuck with it was because of the security of sticking with something that you knew and where you had acquaintances?

BH: You build it as you get older. I find it much easier. I am dealing, in some cases, with the sons of people I started with and in some cases grandsons and granddaughters. It is actually easier at the age of eighty than it was at the age of forty. Far easier.

DR: And certainly staying with something for a lifetime is not something that people really do these days.

BH: I didn't want to retire and I don't want to retire today. I like doing what I do. If I can get lost somewhere every couple of months, in a desert or a mountain range or something really out of place, that's all I need. I keep my business going that way and I keep on adding to different parts of the world and nobody ever finishes the job and nobody has been everywhere. It's a never finished job.

DR: Allow me to make the observation that the book would make fantastic movie. I am sure that I'm not the first person to suggest that. Bob, who would you want to play you in the movie version of the book?

BH: I would say right off the top of my head - Johnny Depp.

DR: Johnny Depp? I don't think you could go wrong there. How about you Julie? What actor do you think would do justice to Bob's life?

JM: I have to agree with Bob. Johnny Depp comes to mind because he is out of the box as both an actor and a person. You've seen him as a pirate but you've also seen him as a businessman. One of the things about Bob's life is that he lives in a camouflage sense of being. He's as comfortable hanging out with people at a paper mill as he is going to a Black Tie event. He can be like a vagabond on the Trans Siberian express or he can be sitting down with major business leaders around the world who lead the box industry and the paper industry. To me he's that kind of person who can roll with all of those punches and become kind of the everyman, everywhere. That's one of Bob's greatest talents - he's comfortable in every setting.

DR: And Julie, who would you say is the ideal audience for Out of the Box?

JM: My daughter is twenty-five. She has a couple of guy friends who have said that Bob is their hero. At the same time I've met a ninety-year old woman at the hospital who said that she was having so much fun reading the book. We had someone write in on Amazon who was a business, who sounded about forty years old, and he said the book should be required reading for every business course. I think that Bob runs the gamut.

Not everybody can be Bob or will choose to live the life he's led, but I think that we can all be armchair travelers, including myself. We can live vicariously and maybe broaden our horizons. I certainly have broadened my horizons and my expectations of travel and the different things I want to do with my life because of what Bob has done and the rest I will let him do - by himself.

DR: I have to share with the both of you that out of an interest to participate in the adventurous spirit of Bob's life, my husband and daughter and I decided to do something very spontaneous - go to Paris for a dinner party. Simply to get on a plane and go to Paris to go to a dinner party. This is for me, letting go of practicality. Bob you inspired me! That is my stake in the ground now for carving out a more adventurous life.

BH: Well I'm proud of you for doing that. You will never regret it.

DR: I am sure I won't. And on that note I just want to ask you both:

A hundred years from now what do you want to be remembered for?

JM: Bob, would you like to go first?

BH: I'll go first. I would like to be remembered as a traveler.

DR: Sweet and simple?

BH: Adventurer. You can add that to it.

DR: And Julie, you?

JM: A writer who has told people's stories so that they can be remembered.

Thank you, Bob and Julie!

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