As I sit here in 37?C degree weather in an unopened, unoccupied desolate campsite in Quartzville, Arizona it is the first time since I started the California leg of this trip where I have found the opportunity to seclude myself and my thoughts to recollect all that has been seen and done on this trip. I knew before starting this adventure that I would grow as a person physically, mentally and emotionally. First, spraining my ankle on a down hike in Vancouver with a 40 pound backpack, and climbing the rest of the 8 km despite the pain. The journey continued from Canada into the States as a solo traveler, venturing into the world of the unknown and for some reason, initial perceptions of negativity prevailed. What I quickly learned, was that people are inherently good. I want to share a short story from the beginning of my trip.
A Short ‘Explosive’ Story
On the long bus ride from Vancouver to Seattle, for the most part I was largely comfortable with two seats in the aisle all to myself. Until we reached Mt. Vernon and man with longer tangled hair, wearing a loose fitting shirt, jeans (and while this all sounds normal), his arms were covered in grease holding a circular metallic contraption with both hands down in front of his abdomen. While this may well have been a regular site to see, as a lonely traveler this of course was a little intimidating. Of course, of all the empty seats around, he chose the one next to mine. To be honest, nothing about his demeanour was off-putting, but the way in which he carried the contraption hovered closely bundled next to his body, immediately sent mental thoughts eluding along the lines of “Bomb? Wtf!”. I caught myself mid thought and decided that this would be my first test towards understanding the world with loving perception and so I did. Jeremy, was a resident of Seattle and was the proud owner of a Peugeot, whose alternator broke down on him (hence why he was on the bus), and found the most reasonably priced part at the junkyard in Mt. Vernon. Of course, an alternator. We spent the next two hours talking about our own individual journeys in life and what I should go see in Seattle and just like that, I made a new friend. A smart friend once told me, strangers are friends you just haven’t met. And from that point on, I truly believe it.
Whether it’s the compassion for traveling souls with larger than life backpacks that has people turning their heads, the confused traveler with the day pack holding a map at each intersection or the fact that I might look just absolutely helpless when I am walking the streets of each city alone – I have had so many random encounters and interactions with strangers that have truly restored my faith in the human population. Walked into a T-Mobile store to get a new US SIM card in Seattle and spent the next two hours speaking with local sales rep, Sarah – who also happens to be a large Yelp user and foodie, and marked along all the restaurants and places worth eating and spending time at. While looking for a place to stay in Portland while at the Seattle hostel, another traveler heard I couldn’t find any hostel beds and suggested I look up his family friend for help in which he made the introduction immediately. In Portland, while traveling with my new Japanese friend Yas from the Seattle hostel, a local woman approached us asking if we knew how to get to our hostel and asked us if we needed any help finding it. In San Francisco, I met Luke Kilpatrick on Twitter months prior to my arrival and as soon as I arrived, helped me buy my new surfboard, took me to meet the shaper of my board and took me to surf three counties in three days. This is just a quick shortlist of all the amazing interactions thus far on this trip. What is most profound to me is that while people are inherently good and help is always a question away, most of us might not be as receptive to it as we think we are when a stranger approaches us. Let’s face it, we are all a little apprehensive when someone we don’t know starts speaking to us. But, when you’re traveling alone, you take all the help you can get and allow for these interactions to occur – and when they do, they usually make the highlight of your day.