There is something about travel that enables certain conversations and encounters that invigorate life. I want to thank the people I met on a recent trip abroad. Many whose names have been forgotten, but the experiences we shared will not be lost.
In an airport cafeteria in the Galapagos, a young woman with a guitar asked to sit at my table as she ate her lunch. She was from the UK, a muralist and recent college graduate. She had mapped together destinations recommended by others and connected with welcoming hosts through the community of “couchsurfers.” After traveling for 16 months through South America, she was now ready to return to school to become an art therapist. Her travels had lit her destiny, in a way, and she felt a strong commitment to a new career. There was hesitation about returning home, but the journey had given her a sense of self-knowing that both guided and grounded her.
The software engineer from Texas amazed me with his stories of backpacking through Southeast Asia and road trips with his mother. I found his recent photographs from Alaska and Yosemite, of winter and wide open wilderness, truly gorgeous. His dear mom, dressed in a sari with a coat that swallowed up her small frame, was both captivating and inspiring. He taught me the meaning of the sacred thread of Hindu faith. This thread is worn one’s entire life. When a radiologist recently asked him to remove it in order to perform an MRI scan, he considered his relationship with his religion and felt the call to cut it loose. So, the thread was removed. All of this I learned while heading back to Iquitos on the muddy waters of the Amazon.
I feel deep gratitude to the many people we met during our trek through the Peruvian Andes with whom we tried our hardest to communicate in our less than fluent sentences and simple, but enthusiastic facial expressions. Thank you for your patient smiles and kindness.
When travel extends weeks and months, it manifests a rhythm of its own in the traveler. Open, adventurous, grateful, and curious describe the qualities of these individuals who seek out the experiences of the road. These are the people who will also touch and teach you.