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I am trying to live my life in a state of gratitude. Some days are easier than others. And sometimes, when I think about the past, I realize how truly grateful I am.
No traveler lives completely in a vacuum when traveling. I suppose it is possible to travel somewhere and so strictly follow a schedule that it is nearly impossible to get lost or need help, but that’s never happened to me. I have had to ask for directions at minimum on every single trip I have ever taken. Sometimes it has been much more involved than simple directions.
We hear all the time that the world is a dangerous, scary place. In fact, the most common question I was asked is “Won’t you be scared/Weren’t you scared?”
No, I am not, and No, I wasn’t.
I may have been a little nervous at times, but I was never scared. Okay, maybe I was scared a little when I was kidnapped by two guys between the Peru/Ecuador border when they were trying to extort $250 from me. Maybe I was scared a little when I was caught by rouge waves that held me under water when I was learning to surf.
But I was never scared of the people. Even amongst strangers, I [almost] never felt like I was in danger.
I kept my guard up in the beginning, but I soon realized that I needed to learn to trust the people I met along the way. I think that is just part of me. I am used to being alone [only child and all] so I don’t always think about needing to rely on others. I have learned how to do so many things for myself. Time and time again, I needed to rely on the kindness of strangers to get me through. So this Thanksgiving, I want to thank all of those strangers who went above and beyond to help me in my journeys – from people whose names I never knew or soon forgot to those who I am now happy to call my friends.
Thank you to Missa and Jamie who helped me celebrate my birthday in Rome with a bottle of Chianti, a plate of pasta, and a birthday cards and flowers from the market. It was so nice to not be alone on my birthday.
Thank you to the elderly lady on the train from Rome to Naples or at least I thought it was to Naples. It was actually headed to the other side of Italy. I would have figured it out eventually, but she saved me time and money. I don’t speak Italian great [and even less in 2006] but I know Spanish and between my Spanish and her Italian, she got me pointed in the right direction and I made it to Sorrento during daylight hours.
Thank you to the women in at the Ecuadorian border. After being kidnapped and missing my bus, two women in their 40’s asked me if I needed a ride somewhere. They were headed to Guayaquil and offered to take me anywhere along the route. I had a great time, met some amazing women, had an awesome lunch, and relaxed for the first time that day. After seeing the ugly side of human nature, it was a blessing to see the good.
Thank you to Javier…the teenager who came and picked me up on his moped after I couldn’t get the bus driver to stop. I ended up about 2 km past my intended destinations and carrying the 65L backpack plus the daypack loaded down with my tools for jungle-work would have made a sucky end to a very long day.
Thank you to Massimo…who taught me to cook on a gas stove. I have always either cooked on an electric range or a grill and gas tended to scare me a bit. Thanks to Massimo, I didn’t starve during my weekends alone in the jungle lodge.
Thank you to the lady in Trujillo who made sure I didn’t get cheated by the taxi driver.
Thank you to all the people who have hosted me during my travels. By not spending a ton of money for accommodations, I have gotten to visit so many more places, see how people really live–not just as a tourist, and spend time in places I would have never dreamed about staying.
Lynnley in Charleston, Corinna in San Francisco, Cameron in Seattle, Emily in Vermont, Jeanette in Florida, Angie in Chicago, Emilie in Chamonix, France, Marta in Bratislava, Slovakia, Tomas in Wroclaw, Poland, Alex in Mendoza, Argentina, Steve in Stafford, England, and Sophie in Kokkola, Finland. All strangers at one point; all friends at another.