When I first told people that I was going to travel around the world, solo, many of them looked at me as if I were completely nuts. “Alone?” they would question. And then came the barrage of follow up questions, “Is that safe? Won’t you get lonely? How are you going to do it all by yourself?”
Some of you, who know me well, also know that I really have to bite my tongue when I answer these types of questions or sarcasm will get the best of me. I mean… I live alone. In Los Angeles. And, at the end of the day, traveling around the world is no more dangerous than me driving through South Central LA at the wrong moment in time. Whether I’m in my home city or half way around the world, I travel smart.
I also believe in the good of all humankind and I rarely ever feel alone… and as it turns out these days, I rarely am alone. So, for all of you who have questioned my sanity, I’d like to share a story. It will be the first of many stories that will feature a specific person… a stranger turned friend. A story that I hope will be a demonstration for you of the goodness in all humankind and why I’m never alone unless I really choose to be.
During my second week of travel in Peru, I was visiting Lake Titicaca and the Uros Islands (see more photos here) with a tour group of about 20 people. It started early in the morning and consisted of a van ride from my hotel to the pier, a boat ride on Lake Titicaca to the Uros Islands, and then continued on to Taquile Island, where we would do a short hike to the top of the island, have lunch, and then walk back down to our boat to take it back to the mainland… all while learning about the fascinating lifestyles of the native peoples who lived on both islands.
It wasn’t until lunchtime that day that I had an opportunity to meet and talk at length with Kristy Randall. I sat next to her during our meal and quickly learned that we had a few things in common. We joked about the difficulty of dealing with food allergies on the road and realized that we had both quit our jobs and decided to travel solo around the world. She was from Wodonga, Australia and had already been traveling for 8 months in a manner far more rugged than what I planned to do. She was also going to places that I had never even heard of. At that point, I was barely two weeks into my journey; so naturally, I couldn’t get enough of her stories and was so grateful that she was willing to share them with me. In total, we probably talked for 3-4 hours and then exchanged contact information, said goodbye, and continued on our separate paths.
At the time, I had told Kristy that Australia was on my itinerary and she kindly offered me a place to stay if I decided to pass through her hometown of Wodonga. Now, there would be a lot of uncertainty for both Kristy and myself over the course of the next 3 months, so who knows if that would even be a possibility. But I instantly get a sense of people when I meet them and I knew she was someone who was sincere, and a pretty cool chic, so if I could work it out, I would certainly try to meet up with her again. Over the subsequent two months of November and December, we exchanged 2 or 3 emails. Kristy was scheduled to return home at the holidays, which she did, and by the time I reached South Africa, in January, we reconnected via email. She again offered me a place to stay but recognized that like her, by this point, I was planning day by day, so we left it up in the air.
Just after I arrived in Sydney, I realized that I wanted to see more of Australia than just one city, so I booked a flight to Cairns, and then from Cairns to Melbourne. Not long after this, Kristy informed me that there was train service from Melbourne to Sydney and it stopped in Wodonga, so once I reached Melbourne, we set the dates for my visit. It would just be two nights, but here is what ensued:
Kristy picked me up from the train station and took me to a nearby park so that I could get a scenic glimpse of her town and so that we could catch up a bit. From there, we went to the grocery store to pick up supplies, stopped by her parent’s house to borrow bedding and then drove out to the countryside. You see, Kristy had done very well for herself and previously owned a house, but sold it to travel the world… truly a kindred spirit. Since she has returned, she has been interviewing for a new job and doing some contract work, but is waiting to get an apartment until she decides on her new job, therefore, does not have a home. She is still a bit of a wanderer. Her parents, however, have just purchased a new house and have not moved into it yet, so this is where we would stay. We had a cot, an air mattress, some camping chairs, a folding table, and a fairly well stocked kitchen.
Over the course of two days, we swapped travel stories, lessons learned, and life’s ups and downs. We cooked together for every meal. We went on a gorgeous two-hour hike through Wodonga’s rolling hills, walked through sheep pastures, and marveled at how amazing life can be. We watched sunsets over The Weir and Hume Dam, and stared at stars from the front patio of the house. Kristy also took me to the train station to get my ticket back to Sydney, the discount store to restock toiletries, the post office so that I could mail a postcard, and her parent’s house again so that I could borrow their scanner to upload a few documents that I needed to save electronically. These all may seem like simple things, but when you are in a different town every week, it can be hard to get them done… especially that scanner. This was Kristy’s only time off since she had gotten home and she selflessly made it all about me. My two days with Kristy were more productive than my past two weeks and I feel like I’ve made a friend for life.
If you’re not yet amazed by the thoughtfulness of this woman, let me remind you that she only spent 3-4 hours talking to me four months ago. To top it off, without going into too much detail about her personal life, in the two months that she’s been home, she has battled sickness, lost a friend, been acting as a caretaker to her nephew and several dogs, all while juggling her contract work and interviews. Even as I write this, I am moved by her kindness and unwavering generosity to everyone around her.
So, to put your mind at rest, Kristy is just one shining example of the amazing people who I have met on my journey. And people like Kristy are the reason I never feel alone or have to do it alone. I am learning to ask for help, to accept it, and to replicate the kindness that strangers have shown to me … in a pay it forward fashion.
Most definitely revelling in gratitude.