Chattanoogan: Charley Frazier – The Treasure Seeker

Friday, December 13, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey

An avid curiosity “to see what is on the other side” was instilled in Charley Frazier since he was a young man. He began traveling the world in his youth and he also traveled with work or vacations. While focused on his career, he did not get to travel as often as he would have liked, but now he is gearing up to see a little more of the world in which he finds great beauty.

Growing up on Lookout Mountain, where his parents French and Frances settled down to raise a family, Charley was the younger of he and his brother French Jr.

“French” was a family name which came from his father’s grandmother, L. Virginia French, who at one point was a renowned Southern writer. She was mostly known for her diaries written during the Civil War which have been donated to the libraries at UT Knoxville.

The Fraziers have been longtime Tennesseans and Charley’s past relatives included a governor of Tennessee, a U.S. senator, a U.S. representative and a mayor of Chattanooga in the 1800s. 

It was Charley’s desire to travel that urged him to seek the beautiful places he had only read about. “I always wanted to be somewhat of an adventurer, traveler and explorer – a treasure seeker,” Charley says.

His parents always encouraged him in that direction and he spent a lot of time with outdoor activities and hiking in the woods.

“Growing up on Lookout Mountain, I was always in the woods exploring and my parents sent me to Sky Valley Camp in North Carolina, which had a pioneer-type setting.  A lot of my friends would go there too and it set a lasting direction for many of them as well,” Charley says.

After college, Charley would begin a three-year journey traveling to places in which he’d seek his treasure.

“I crewed on a sailboat in the Caribbean for a while, went to Europe and bought an old beat up VW van. I drove it to Cape Town, South Africa – that took a year to do that trip. Then I took some trips down to Mexico and Central America. I have always loved boats and wanted to learn more about them, so I went around Annapolis and walked around the docks until I got a job on a sail boat going down to Grenada,” Charley says, “I didn’t get paid, but I told them I would work for passage.”

Charley sailed on the 40-foot sailboat from Annapolis to Antigua and then to Granada.

“It is a wanderlust I have always had - seeing new places and meeting new people and to experience the things that I am not prepared for or that I am not expecting,” Charley admits.

He will travel in the traditional sense at times, but more often than not, Charley likes to take exploratory trips to learn about different places and their cultures. The most exciting trip he took in the three years after graduation was when he traveled to Africa with a friend.

“We had been in Europe but didn’t find that too exciting, so we went to South Africa around Gibraltar, Tangiers and then to Morocco and Algeria. From Algiers, we headed south across the Apies Mountains down to the Sahara. There may have been a paved road, but most of what you see is desert - like what you’d see in ‘Laurence of Arabia’,” Charley says.

Roaming across the Sahara in a Volkswagen van was a difficult journey that Charley was not prepared for.

“When you go through the desert, you travel from oasis to oasis and it is anywhere from 600 to 800 miles one from another. It took us about 20 days to get across the Sahara and we traveled about 1,800 miles,” Charley says.

As he marked more travel notches on his belt, he would come home from time to time to ‘let his parents know he was still alive and then he took off again with a friend down to Guatemala and Honduras.

“He had some investments and ventures and he was trying to open up an old gold mine in Honduras. It’s a funny story because it all ended up being a scam, but we were young men on a quest for a gold mine and it was very exciting. It turned out to just be some people who were trying to take advantage of some excited kids,” Charley laughs.

He came back to Chattanooga and began working for his father who was an attorney. Charlie had gone to law school, but had decided against that for his career and got into the oil and gas business.

“I married a woman from North Carolina and we moved to Denver. We had a big time in the oil and gas business and put a little company together. We made millions of dollars on paper, but then the oil bust came around ‘83 and we lost everything we had and, eventually the marriage dissolved,” Charley reveals.

“I went to Washington, D.C. working for a general contractor, became reacquainted with an old friend in Washington, and we lived in D.C. a couple of years, Then we moved to Dallas where I would establish an office for a company that I was working for,” Charley says. He and his friend Kate ended up getting married and moved back to Chattanooga to raise their daughter Ann and son Charley. Now divorced, Charley is thinking about his near future plans of picking up that wanderlust travel bug he had years ago when he had had more time for it.

Over the summer Charley took his kids (who are now grown) on a trip to East Africa. He encourages them to seek their passions just as his parents had encouraged him.

“I took my kids to Africa because I wanted them to see the animals before there are even less of them. We went to Kenya and Tanzania for two weeks and had a great time there. Hopefully, I am passing that wanderlust on to them,” Charley says.

Charley has worked with Crow Holdings since 1993 and commutes back and forth to Dallas. Once he retires, he has already lined up the places he would like to travel.

“I probably have about 10 wanderlust trips which I am in various stages of planning before I am too old to travel the way I like to travel,” Charley says, “the South Pacific, India, the southern part of South America – Brazil, Argentina, and then I want to see the northern part of South America - Ecuador,  Peru, the Galapagos Islands; and I want to travel the Amazon, see Alaska, Scandinavia (my mother’s family was from Finland) see Norway, Sweden and, Dad’s family was from Scotland, so I want to see the family castle and to see St. Petersburg and Russia.”

“If I am lucky I can do two trips a year for five years, but I am sure things will open up as I go where I want and will want to do those things to,” Charley laughs.

It is the discovery that feeds his passion. Discovering the things he didn’t know existed or the cultures he doesn’t understand.

“I just want to get a bigger picture of the world. Sometimes I feel if I isolate myself in one place, I will never learn what’s out there,” he says. “And, to see how other people in the world live - it is sort of like a treasure hunt… and the treasure is finding the most beautiful place I have ever been to.”  

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