I met two guys on the ferry yesterday. One from the UK, one from Normandy in France. They had just met on the flight from Fiji. I’ve talked with PCVs here who have never traveled alone and tell them to do it. There’s always someone to talk to, eat with, explore with. And if you just spend time with yourself, all the better.
The English guy, David, explained that Xavier, the French guy, was a “real traveler.” He had 5 kg of luggage. A tiny bag. I carry more than that with me to church. He’s traveling across the Pacific for several months. In that 5 kg bag he has a sleeping bag, cooking gear and clothes. My underwear weighs more than that.
Neither of them had any plans, nor did they have much money. David is working as a volunteer in Fiji for a year and was traveling as a normal palagi – with luggage and the expectation of hotels. But he was lured in by Xavier’s spirit of adventure.
I told them I couldn’t have them sleep in my house because that would cause a scandal, but that my family would likely be willing to let them sleep on their property. They opted to walk from the wharf to my village. It’s a 40 minute bus ride. I told my family about them, but assumed they’d find someplace to stop along the way.
This morning I was greeted by my brother who said “Your friends came by last night.” “Really? Did they ask for me?” “No, they just came to buy some food.”
Later, at school, one of Year 7 boys ran up yelling “David is here for you!” Yes, the 2 men were there. They’d spent the night before in my village with a family they met on the road as they walked. The family gave them a place to sleep and information about how to find my school.
David and Xavier spent almost all day with me at school. They got to see every class sing and dance. I asked the Year 8 boys to get some palm fronds and make some baskets. The palagi’s were amazed at the skill of the kids in making baskets, head wreaths, bracelets and rings out of a single palm frond. The kids were amazed that two palagi men wanted to spend time with them.
I explained which buses led to the next part of the island and how to flag them down. They have no idea where they are headed next. They don’t know where they’ll eat or sleep or bathe. David said that Xavier is rubbing off on him and he’s becoming more adventurous.
Would/could you do it? Leave home with 10 pounds of luggage for 3 months? Depend on the kindness of strangers in cultures you don’t know? By the way, Xavier spoke English, but it seemed to be limited. Neither David nor Xavier spoke a word of Samoan.
I took more than 10 pounds of luggage to Apia to spend one night for Thanksgiving. I had a place to stay. Part of me is jealous. I wish I had the cojones to travel that way – accepting things as they come and having faith that there will always be someone there to provide what you need. Another part of me thinks that it is a bit arrogant and selfish to put the responsibility of your room, board and safety on strangers.
Whatever, both men are having an adventure. Experiences they never would have had if they’d stayed inside their comfort zones. One thing I believe in, absolutely, is that it is a good thing to step outside the space where you feel safe and comfy. Do something that scares the bejeebers out of you. It’s good for the soul and will keep you young.
Steven Wright, an amazing comic, once said something like “You know that feeling when you lean back and balance on two legs of the chair? When you think you’re just about to fall over? That’s where I like to be.” Me, too. For me, it was Peace Corps, although this is more like three legs of the chair on the floor instead of two. For some, that may mean going to a movie alone. Or eating alone in a restaurant. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing. Just something that feels a little scary.
Fear won’t kill you. It will let you know you’re alive.