Almost every day, David Jebb soars from the cliffs at Torrey Pines as an instructor at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, which he also owns.
But those daily flights are nothing compared to the leap of faith Jebb took almost 35 years ago, when he walked away from a successful career as one of San Diego’s top crimefighters to answer a question that he says finds its way into the minds of many of his fellow Baby Boomers.
“Is that all there is?” Jebb said. “A lot of people get to a certain level in their career and feel like they can’t back out. I did. In a way, it was a really meaningful thing, because my life on the outside did not match my life on the inside.”
In 1972, Jebb was working out of the San Diego Police Department’s Northern Division, working in La Jolla and elsewhere in the city against some of San Diego’s most dangerous criminals. After years working on the vice squad and on a special weapons and tactics, or SWAT unit, Jebb said he eventually had a price placed on his head.
“I was involved in covert operations, wiping out drug lords, going against heavyweight gangsters,” he said. “This was a time when I was getting accolades and citations, everyone was patting me on the back, but inside I felt like I was losing my mind. I was thinking, ‘This is madness, what I’m doing.’ ”
When some friends told Jebb that they would be taking their boat on an around-the-world cruise, Jebb walked away from the police department to join them. The voyage only made it as far as Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, before being cut short by bad weather. But Jebb was not finished traveling.
He proceeded to walk from Mexico City to Panama, a 1,200-mile journey that he said took four and a half months of constant walking to complete. It was an odyssey meant to clear distractions from his head, Jebb said.
“I was a warrior in my job,” he said. “All warriors, like the ones fighting today, can get so consumed by the battle that you lose sight of the things that are really important, like your own humanity.”
After reaching Panama, Jebb took his journey to Europe. Beginning in Scotland, he moved all over the continent before heading further east, eventually making his way to Indonesia and finally India.
“I left Scotland with about $200 in my pocket and got to India with about the same amount,” said Jebb, who traveled mainly by hitchhiking and walking. “I was living off people’s hospitality.”
In India, Jebb joined up with a holy man who was roaming the country with about 30 followers. He walked with the man for four months, subsisting on small plates of beans and rice and devoting all of his energy to discussions with the holy man.
“His only mission was to walk and talk of God and truth,” Jebb said. “All we did was argue.”
Eventually, Jebb’s spartan lifestyle caused him to become dangerously thin, and he succumbed to a variety of ailments that forced him into a hospital in Pakistan. Jebb was suffering from kidney malfunction, hepatitis and dysentery, among other maladies.
“The doctor there told me that if I stayed there, I would die. I needed to get to more modern medicine,” Jebb said. “He took me to a bus station and told someone, ‘For Allah, take this man as far west as you can.’ I spent weeks being dragged from bus to bus by people I didn’t know.”
He reached an Iranian hospital where, he says, he was visited by an angelic force that informed him it was not his time to die. Though he spent nearly a month in the hospital, Jebb said from that moment he never doubted he would recover.
After getting out of the hospital, Jebb made his way to Switzerland, where he took a job as a stone mason in a small village in the south of the country. It was there that he met Maya, whom he married and has been with ever since.
He returned to the United States in 1977 and worked for the police department before again leaving force, this time to start a real estate business. In 1996, he left that line of work and purchased the glider port, which he said he did to satisfy an addiction to adrenaline.
“My wife and daughter won’t do it, but my son and I are fanatics,” he said. “I get in the air almost every day.”
Jebb has written a novel, “The Thirteenth Time Zone.” It’s the first of a three-part series based on his life story. For more information on Jebb’s novel, visit www.thethirteenthtimezone.com.