Hiking through a National Park at 2am under a full moon tends to get your mind thinking about life. This is where I found myself on Saturday night.
As I scrambled across rocks and laughed with strangers about how ridiculous we must have looked dancing around with our glow sticks on Wedding Cake Rock, I thought how travel is a unifying bond that does not discriminate or judge.
Travel sticks me to you based purely on the feelings of joy and celebration.
The more I travel and interact with strangers the more I realize I have nothing to fear and everything to gain by opening up and sharing a moment of my life freely.
On the traveling road, I have shared many experiences with strangers, and even though I may never see them again, the bond of what we experienced will forever tie us together as friends.
Why is it so?
Sharing travel adventures with others is all about celebration.
On our moonwalk journey, we were celebrating, not just the adventure in nature under the moon, but each others lives. We rejoiced with Mel, the professional wood chopper, and his beautiful wife, Linda, over their son’s upcoming graduation from Stanford.
Giovanni delighted us with tales of traveling the world as an Italian fashion photographer.
Peter’s story of his 2 year motorbike adventure photographing the Australian landscape inspired us.
We celebrated the Frenchy student interns as the creators of the best summer salad I had ever eaten under moonlight and tea candles.
Anthony, with glow stick Alien ears, surrounded himself with a posse of neon bejeweled girlfriends on an elevated rock as the rest of us danced below lighting up the air with flouro green and blue lights, in the hopes of creating an artistic photographic memory of our evening together.
Where else but on the traveling road could you do that with strangers?
And then there was Andy, our guide, who fed us with unbridled enthusiasm and energy to help us finish the midnight hike, and was filled with pride when we did.
Each of us walked away the next day with a memory of a special experience shared.
Who we are will live on in the stories told by each person present, to their friends and families, around the globe. And when we speak of each other, it will be with joy and laughter in our hearts, sending out only positive energy into our world.
Traveling removes your inhibitions.
Is it the knowledge that you’ll perhaps never see your traveling companions again, that allows you to let your guard down and show strangers the best of who you are? And do you celebrate them in return because you know you have nothing to fear or feel intimidated by?
I want to rejoice in you because I don’t have to worry about you taking anything from me. I don’t have to worry about your opinion of me, because you don’t know anything about me. We’ll depart each others company in a few short hours, knowing only the best of one another.
When we meet with other travelers on the road, we leave the shit of our lives behind and focus only on the wonderful things about our stories to talk about.
There’s no bitchiness or gossiping, judgement or misplaced expectations. There are no problems to weigh each other down or baggage to hide.
There’s just you and me and a cup of tea.
Why can’t our travel friends stay with us forever then?
I often don’t want to see a lot of people I have met on my travels again. The memory I have of a certain person in a certain place, could possibly be tarnished or changed as I got to know them in a different setting or learned more about them.
I want to remember my new friends for who they were in the moment that I most celebrated them.
Travel taught me how to bond with strangers and it also taught me the importance of letting go.
Kim taught me many years ago that the letting go comes with the ability to appreciate and be grateful for why they were present in your life in the first place.
Strangers turned friends Photo: Peter SolnessKim was a free-spirited rock climbing Swede traveling around the world. My best friend and I met him in the bar of the Last Bar- a run down dive of a backpackers on East Railey Beach, Thailand.
Kim and his small group of friends took us on rock climbing adventures during the day, and phosphorescent cave and magic shake explorations at night. He walked with a swagger of a person who knew his place in the world, and he did not care what others thought about that.
A tamed version of Jim Morrison, dancing to the beat of his own drum, and one of the coolest guys I had ever met. And while my feelings for him never ventured beyond friendship, I always wanted to be around him, hoping that some of the confidence and passionate ease he oozed would rub off on me. Last Bar Hammocks
One afternoon, we were in the bar chatting after a long day of rock climbing. Mark, our Aussie “Marlboro” Man, who was every bit as gentle as he was macho, was with us. Mark was also trying to find his place in this world,and I think after a week at Raileys he also came closer to finding it.
We were swinging in hammocks, Mark and Kim opposite me, one swinging above the other. I was in the middle of a random sentence when Kim interrupted me with something obviously more important to say,
“You know Caroline, you are really beautiful.“
The world paused for a deep breath, and as I looked at him, a space opened up inside of me. He did not even have to speak the next words for me to know what he meant.
“I don’t mean in a ‘I want to take you to bed way either’. Although we could do that too if you wanted.” Kim always had a way of bringing sex into every conversation. “I mean, beautiful on the inside; it radiates out from you.”
It seemed such a natural and simple thing for him to say and the conversation quickly turned back to something light and fun.
But to me, it wasn’t a natural or simple thing to hear. I had never before heard someone say to me that they thought I mattered. And I was just coming out of a really rough period where I truly believed I didn’t.
How did Kim know to say those words to me? Did he even realize the impact they were to have on my life?
Kim didn’t know any of the shit of my life, he only saw me for who I was in that moment, and in that moment I was free to be me.
And when he brought that awareness to me, I began to look at the world through new eyes- the eyes of a person who deserved to be in.
My confidence and subsequent zest for life grew each day after that afternoon spent swinging in the hammock. That one simple statement of celebration triggered an avalanche of positive momentum forward. In that instant my life took a different turn and even today, in those moments of doubt and when the shit hits the fan, I hear him say it as he lifts me up one more time.
A few months later, Kim arrived in Australia to seek out more mountains to climb. He emailed and asked if I could come down to Melbourne to meet him. I wanted to. But I was so scared that away from our Last Bar travel bubble, the reality of our lives would have changed who we were or how we really saw one another.
I could not ever live with the idea of Kim being anything other than the person I adored for giving me back my life. And so I made an excuse and let him go.
In my heart, he stays forever frozen in that Last Bar hammock. There were three other people during that week who were a part of the celebration of each other.
My last contact with them was when I sat in the long tail boat taking me back to the mainland. I looked back to shore. Cindy, Mark, Chris, and Kim stood waving to Bec and I, until we turned into specks on the horizon. I knew it was the last time I would see them in my three dimensional world.
I have had many friends on the traveling road come and go since.
I’ve learned that life is not about holding onto things just because you feel you need them in your life. It is about celebrating and then letting go.
People enter your life sometimes just for the purpose of saying a simple statement to get you back on track. I call them our angels- our important messengers. Understand that you may be an angel to someone too, and you shouldn’t ever hold back from celebrating what is beautiful about someone else.
When you travel, you release all ties to who you were yesterday, and you succumb to the person you are now. With that comes freedom and the ability to relate on a deeper level with most people you meet. This freedom brings celebration.
The traveling road is full of angels and are we able to hear their messages better because we are rejoicing in them.
What angels have you met on the road and how have you let go of them?