By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
A few words out of Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman, and even his newest “mates” realize he was not born and bred in Northwest Ohio. But few probably know the long winding route that Moorman took from his homeland in Australia to the flatlands of Ohio.
Moorman stretched the traditional Australian “walkabout” across several continents and years before ending up in Bowling Green.
“It’s almost like a rite of passage for an Australian. You put a backpack on and travel,” he said. For most, though, the trek lasts six months or so.
“For me, it’s been 30 years,” the fire chief said.
At age 25, Moorman and his brother decided they needed to see the world beyond the borders of their homeland.
“Let’s put a backpack on and travel the world,” Moorman said. “So we did that for a couple years.”
The brothers wandered their way through Malaysia, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, England, Greece and several other European nations.
They stayed at youth hostels or camped along the side of roads. They worked odd jobs along the way, like toiling at a banana plantation in Israel.
“You can get work – though it might not be glamorous,” he said.
As they drifted, Moorman said they would encounter other travelers who would have suggestions for the next leg of their journey.
In Egypt, the pair rented bicycles and peddled on pathways out to the Valley of the Kings.
“Going through the Egypt desert on bicycles was interesting,” he said.
They sailed up the Nile, climbed Mount Sinai and camped there for a night. The brothers explored the Greek Islands, and spent a month touring Turkey, traveling as far as the Russian border.
At some point, Moorman and his brother split ways, with his brother heading to England and Moorman staying to work on a tour yacht and as a scuba guide.
Eventually, Moorman found himself in Germany during Oktoberfest.
“You have no idea what Oktoberfest is until you go to one in Germany,” he said.
It was there that he met an American girl, which led to the next leg of his travels to the U.S.
Moorman had grown up at the base of the second highest mountain in Australia, so when he found out that the American girl lived in Walnut Hills in Walbridge, he envisioned rolling hills covered with walnut trees. His expectation was a little off.
“The biggest hill was a landfill,” he said, smiling.
Moorman, who previously fought “bush fires” in Australia and helped rescue skiers and mountain climbers in his homeland, now fights house fires and rescues people in car accidents.
As the new chief of the Bowling Green Fire Division, he is focusing on the constant training of the firefighters.
“We train, we train and we train,” he said.
But he will never forget the lessons he learned on his elongated walkabout.
“It makes you more open and receptive to other people,” Moorman said. “You become a different person. It makes you more tolerant.”
“It’s the best education I’ve had,” he said.