A reader left a comment on my 2017 in Places post:
“The more you travel, the more you will find that it is the people you meet along the way that matter most… Keep on travelling!!”
I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to share just one small story from this year about some people I met on the road. You saw them last week, at the tail end of my 2017 in Photos post, and you see them again, above.
They are Patty and Jeed. I met them on Koh Lanta, a Thai island, at the end of 2015.
The first night my ex and I spent at Patty’s Secret Garden, Jeed’s guesthouse, heavy rains caused our room to flood. The toilet backed up in the middle of the night and water rushed in. We were only saved from total ruin by the fact I happened to be up in the middle of the night, working for my US-based company. I caught the water in time, and we were able to rescue our stuff and evacuate the room.
We were unable to find Jeed or her husband Julian though, and so we spent a very damp night sleeping in the bar attached to the guesthouse.
Normally, this is the type of event that would lead to us leaving a very bad review, moving on, and only looking back at Patty’s Secret Garden when comparing travel nightmares.
And yet, we ended up staying there three weeks.
Written out like this, we sound like crazies.
If you had met Patty and Jeed and Sally and Julian, you would understand.
These were the nicest people, understanding and so apologetic over what had happened. They made things right; and beyond that, made us feel welcome. As we continued to stay, we got to know Patty: Julian and Jeed’s young girl.
“I’m Patty and this is my garden,” she said to us one morning, as we ate breakfast in the café. Our little hearts just about broke.
When we left, after three weeks, she refused to say goodbye.
“She doesn’t like goodbyes,” Jeed explained.
A lot of people must come and go in that little girl’s life.
Like everyone else, we left too. The staff gave us gifts: a necklace to my ex, a Patty’s Secret Garden T-shirt for me… some other things I have lost to time.
We got the mailing address; I wrote a postcard from Nepal, but never mailed it. Covered in coffee spills and wrinkled from neglect and shame, it still sits somewhere on the floor of my car. A reminder of people passed; of promises not kept.
Nonetheless, a year and a half after I was in Lanta, I saw on social media that an old friend was in the south of Thailand. This was March of 2017.
“Are you planning on stopping by Koh Lanta at all?” I messaged the friend.
“Actually, yeah,” she responded. “Any recommendations?”
“Not really,” I said, “but I have a favor to ask of you. Could you swing by this place and say hi?”
A few days later, I woke up to this message:
That’s why this is the best photo from 2017, for me. It’s a representation of everything that’s great about travel. This photo, this message, and this story are the reason I wanted to leave home, two years ago.
Getting this photo, that cold March morning, was like a big hug from halfway around the world.
Travel is fleeting, yes. And the relationships we form so quickly, so intensely, often fade away. But not always.