On the Road

A Year of Turmoil, A Journey of Friendship
by Tom Leech


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Experience the tumultuous world of 1968 with Tom’s latest book about his
’round-the-world travel adventures that year

ON THE ROAD IN ’68 A Year of Turmoil, A Journey of Friendship by Tom Leech
The year 1968 has been marked by many observers as the most frenetic year of the last half-century. Books, magazines and TV specials have described the disturbances, confrontations and violence that occurred worldwide in that year.

That same year, 1968, Tom Leech and his pal Jim Butler, both Southern California aerospace engineers and bachelors, get leaves from their employers to head off for a few months’ good time in Europe. They achieve that goal well, then Jim heads back to California and gives up his bachelor status. After heavy internal debates,Tom answered one of those life-expanding questions, “When will I get this opportunity again?” and kept on traveling…to Greece, Egypt, India, Kashmir and Nepal. Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Japan, concluding a journey of nearly six months on the road. Their journeys were marked with the usual traveler activities and scenes, but most notably by the friendships and hospitality of people they met along the way.

During that year, major confrontations and violence occurred in many of the places visited, e.g.,

  • Paris, for Tom three peaceful and pleasant weeks on the Left Bank, followed not much later by major confrontations and riots between students, workers and police;
  • Northern Ireland, a congenial visit with kinfolk ties, while religious turf wars were picking up speed at a rapid clip;
  • Egypt, still reeling in heavy military mode a few months past the major defeat in the Six-Day War;
  • Kashmir, then and now a conflicted terrain, where Tom would lodge peacefully at a retreat of followers of the Mararishi of Rishikesh, shortly after well-publicized visits by the Beatles, Beach Boys and other famous players;
  • Cambodia, including a taxi ride up to Angkor Wat, shortly before the whole country would become involved in war; then a stopover in Saigon, Vietnam, a tourist visit at the heart of the war’s major escalation;
  • Japan, with supper in Kyoto disturbed with news of Robert Kennedy’s assassination back home (preceded in April with Martin Luther King’s), and protest marches in Tokyo;

Major conflicts continuing through1968 with student protests in many countries, the Chicago Democratic Convention, many killed at the Mexico City Olympic Games, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and overthrow of that new government, and many more.

From Tom Fenton, International Columnist, PRI’s The World and former International Correspondent, CBS News: I was a foreign correspondent in 1968, and Tom Leech’s account of his trip around the world is a time machine that takes me back to the world as it was then. It is more than travel writing. It’s a personal account of what it was like to be young and on the road in a year that made history, and a reminder of how much the world has changed since then.

This, then is a look back at the tumultuous year, 1968, from the perspective of a couple of travelers’ experiences and particularly marked by the kindness of strangers and enjoyable interactions with fellow wanderers. Here, four decades later, is a review and update of that year, those places, and many of those people.

More applause for On the Road in ‘68,

Readers Favorite Book Reviews*****

Tom Leech, author and professional speaker, transports reader back to 1968. It was a tumultuous time in history. I remember that year; I was a freshman in high school. Needless to say I did not actively participate in the events that made 68 a year to remember. Leech traveled around the world the first six months of 68.

In 1968 the US dollar was worth a lot more than it is today. Unfortunately the Euro is now worth much more. Email didn’t exist in 68, instead we depended on the postal service. The draft existed in 1968. If you were age 18-35 you could be drafted into the Army. Abroad people looked at Americans with respect; we lost much of that in the last few years. In 68 we were in the midst of the Vietnam War. The US was the economic leader of the world.

Leech shares many humorous tales with readers. He reminisces on the warmth and comfort of a hot water bottle and the hospitality of a friendly truck driver.

Month by month he describes his travels. He reminds us of what was going on in the rest of the world during that month. He shares where he was and what he was doing. The photographs add much to this book. I’d love to have seen more. I’d forgotten much of what he shares. I enjoyed a look at the past. I love to travel and I am a bit envious of Tom Leech’s adventure. Thank you Mr. Leech for a trip through the time machine, back to 1968!

More from people who know the world well

Tom shares the gift of a global perspective as he reflects upon his travels around the world in light of today’s critical events. As the world grows smaller, nationalities and cultures grow richer and more important to understand. If you can not travel around the world yourself, at least take the time to see it though Tom’s eyes and words.
Paul Sullivan, International consultant and educator

Tom is to be commended for keeping a journal of his around the world travels in 1968. It is fascinating to read about that journey 40 years later. This story is uniquely Tom’s as he has never met a stranger. Once you have established a friendship with Tom, he faithfully maintains that relationship as exemplified by the followup interviews in the book. As a member of the leadership of Sister Cities International (SCT), a people-to-people organization founded by former President Eisenhower in 1956, I see in Tom the exemplification of the meaning of citizen diplomat as implied in SCI’s mission statement.
Kathleen Roche-Tansey, State Coordinator Sister Cities International

Excellent Look at Ordinary Individuals in a Not So Ordinary Year. “Tom Leech masterfully combines historical fact with personal travel experiences and lays them against our current political climate. I appreciated each layer for the “oh – yeah” and the “ah-ha” factors but more than anything I applaud his ability to pierce my travel bug and make it sing. This book is a compelling look at the world in general, a slice of history in particular wrapped in a personal journey we can all admire.”
Reviewed by GB.

“It is not unusual for my now 38-year-old daughter to say with envy something like, ‘Gee, Mom, so many exciting and important things happened when you were young, I wish I’d been there to witness them.’ Well, thanks to the expert writing skills of Tom Leech, now she can. Calling on his very personal travels, and those of his companion Jim, Tom paints a picture of beauty and turmoil and adventure that makes the rest of us — who may also have seen the Pyramids of Egypt, but not quite in the same way — want to get off our chairs and venture out to see if what Tom and Jim saw is still there in all its intrigue and excitement. Beware — this captivating volume might just cost you a big chunk of those hard-earned frequent flyer miles.”
From Dr. Sondra Thiederman, author and International Consultant


Because so many disturbing activities occurred that year, it has been much written about. Books started appearing quickly and kept appearing over the years, with increased emphasis as the 40-years later mark arrived. With the added power of the Internet, special reports, video clips, and photos have frequently appeared. Here are just a few of the major works about that memorable year 1968.


  • Tom Brokaw, Boom! Voices of the Sixties. NY: Random House, 2007. Looks before and after ‘68 at a variety of conditions and causes, with profiles then and now of celebrities and regular folks.
  • David Cause, The Year of the Barricades: A Journey Through 1968. NY: Perennial Library-Harper & Row (paper), 1988, also Harper & Row, hardcover, 1988. Major coverage of this year at locales worldwide.
  • -John Corbett, West Dickens Ave: A Marine at Khe Sanh (1968). NY: Ballantine, 2003. A memoir of his experiences at one of the major Vietnam battle areas. He was a new Marine sent to Khe Sanh in Jan 1968. Terrible place for next several months, got out of there under attack, via copter in April, 1968.
  • Bill Eppridge, A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the ‘60s. New York: Abrams Press, 2008.
  • Abbie Hoffman, Revolution for the Hell of It. New York: Dial Press 1968. By one of the major figures in the trials after the ‘68 Chicago Democratic convention.
  • Charles Kaiser, 1968 in America: Music, politics, chaos, counterculture and the shaping of a generation. NY: Grove Press, 1988. Bulk of book is politics, especially about Democratic presidential people and events. Fair amount about music influences, especially Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
  • Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July. NY: McGraw-Hill (1976). Autobiography by an initially eager soldier in Vietnam, severely wounded and paralyzed in January 1968, later an outspoken war opponent. Made into a movie, with Oliver Stone directing and Tom Cruise playing Kovic, nominated for several Oscars.
  • Mark Kurlansky, 1968. (The Year that Rocked the World- from Introduction). Ballantine-Random House, NY 2004. Descriptions of many major events that happened around the world during 1968. A good book about an important time. by a major historian.
  • Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago: An Informal History of the Republican and Democratic Conventions of 1968. NY: World Publishing Co. 1968.
  • William Turley, 2nd Indochina War, by, Rowman & Littefield. new edition out October 2008, update of book from ‘70s. Turley was one of our hosts in Saigon, Vietnam in May 1968.

Other media – Magazines, TV, film, radio, Internet: