WE ALL HAVE THEM. People on our journeys that have shaped our experience. That have saved our ass. Characters without whom our stories would be much less colorful and probably much shorter.
Though some become lifelong friends, most we simply keep in our memories. So in honor of the roles they’ve played in my adventures, and before my faulty memory fails, I would like to commit my own travel heroes to print. In chronological order starting with my most recent trip:
You got us started in Indo. You shared a decade’s worth of savory and not so savory experience with us. Thank you. If we ever need to pick up a prostitute in Medan, we’ll know where to look.
Though in the end our ideas didn’t quite mesh, and we went our separate ways, I respect how much you sacrifice to continue “living the dream.” How you refuse to consider a normal life, though frankly, at your age, that would probably be the wisest option. I hope it works out for you man.
Also, the “Jedi skills” you taught us managed to get our 150lb surfboard bag on the plane for free. Thanks. You saved us a shitload of cash.
Thank you for being my friend when I was alone in a strange place. If we lived less than 8,890 miles apart and spoke more of the same language, I could tell we would be bosom friends. But as it is, I think we’ll have to settle on the occasional awkward Facebook chat where we try, and fail, to say what can’t be said. I wish you every happiness in your life.
Even though you turned out to be kind of a creeper in the end, thank you for adopting us and helping us navigate our way successfully though the Telo Islands. You scored us some sweet deals and hooked us up with some great people. If the only price I had to pay is that you now refer to me as the American girlfriend you once had, well then I consider it a fair bargain.
Thank you for welcoming us into your home. You and your family are every traveler’s dream come true. Honest, helpful, authentic. Our stay with you in your home on Sibranun Island was one of the highlights of our trip, and we hope someday to see you again.
Chinese Microsoft Man
Thank you for being there the day China broke me. A 13-hour hell ride in hard-seat class, a mile-and-a-half slog to the subway in the rain, forcibly ejected from the subway car at the height of Beijing rush hour. Your kind words dried my tears and got us a cab directly to our hostel for $3 rather than the $100 previously quoted. You rock.
Random Old Man in Beijing
You were so old and wrinkly that I almost died when you suddenly appeared and began speaking perfect English. Why, yes, we are looking for the subway station (and have been for about an hour). And, yes! You can show us the way. Thank you random old man of Beijing!
Thank you for jumping the fence first. Without your nonchalant flouting of the posted signage in Huangshan, we never would have had the courage to jump that fence too, embarking on what can only be described as the most frightening, near-death experience of my life as we climbed the 1,300 slippery, leaf-strewn steps, carved at a shockingly steep and remarkably unsafe angle, into the side of the mountain, on what is now a condemned and disused trail, to the top of Celestial Capital Peak, where my soon-to-be husband, flying higher than high on adrenaline and acrophobia, got down on one shaking knee and asked me to be his wife.
Also, thank you for taking our picture, and for the congratulatory pineapple beer you so handily had, stowed away in your backpack, whose 1.3% alcohol content was just enough to calm our rattled nerves and allow us to scoot all the way back down the mountain on our butts. It is safe to say our Guardian Asians will appear in the stories we tell both our children and grandchildren.
And now for all those travel heroes I don’t remember so clearly, that I only knew for mere seconds: Thank you for your smiles, for your patience, for your fingers pointing in the right direction. Thank you for not laughing at me as I butchered your language and ignorantly flouted your social customs. Thank you for sitting four to a seat so I and my overstuffed backpack could fit on the bus. I’m sorry I stepped on your foot.