Why We Travel

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.

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The Day We Climbed Long’s Peak

My good friend and climbing partner Meg was in a serious mountaineering accident last week. She was struck in the head by falling rock while attempting to climb Martha’s Couloir on Long’s Peak, a mixed ice and snow route. Her helmet saved her life, but by all accounts from those back home, she faces a long journey to recovery. Meg’s a strong person; the strongest I know, probably. But a traumatic brain injury is not a small thing.

When I saw the news on Facebook, I felt powerless. Here I was, halfway across the world in Morocco, while a good friend lay in the hospital on the verge of death. Had I been in Colorado, I might even have been on that mountain with her. I felt guilty.

My first instinct was to see how I could help.

I have a platform here, an audience that cares about what I have to say. I dashed off a post about the accident; imploring people to donate to the GoFundMe her family had started to pay for the sure-to-be-staggering medical bills. It felt good to be doing something. I was even going to send a message to my neglected e-mail list. I might lose some subscribers, but someone would probably donate. I wanted to help. I almost pulled the trigger.

But then I hesitated. Something didn’t feel right.


Rif Mountains Chefchaouen

I went for a walk in the mountains. Here in Chefchaouen, mountains rise right outside of the town—their powerful presence is a big part of why I have lingered in this sleepy Moroccan pueblo for so long. Mountains have always been where I find my peace; where I find my best self. Meg, I know, is similar.

I walked out of town, accompanied by a new friend from the hostel, doing her best to distract me from my morbid state of mind. Admirable effort, but I still found myself thinking about the times Meg and I had shared together as climbing partners. I thought about the reasons we go into the mountains. I thought about why we do these things which we know could kill us. And I thought about what Meg would want.

Here it became clear to me, the story of a broken person in need of help wasn’t the story she would want told. That’s not Meg’s story. I wouldn’t dare to write it.

Instead, I want to tell the story of the day we climbed Long’s Peak.

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Nepal 92: Insignificance

[This is a chapter from my travel book. There are lots more chapters posted on the blog, but if you’d prefer to read them all at once, sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re available in a condensed form!]

We woke up the next morning to blue skies and crisp morning air — by now an expectation, not a surprise.

I brushed my teeth in the brisk dawn, standing outside and taking in the vista while doing so. The mountains in front of us, here, were wonderfully staggered, creating an illusion of movement. Probably the movement of the glacier caused that, I though, before realizing that I really had no idea how glaciers worked. The shape of the mountains could have been the result of anything.

It was true, I didn’t really know much.

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70+ Entries and 60,000 Words: Nepal One Year On

Wow. Today is Feb. 25, 2017 (ed. note: this piece got pushed a week b/c I wanted to publish my Iceland essay, ‘Travel in the Age of Trump). Exactly one year since I was left alone and heartbroken in the Hong Kong airport. I won’t lie, it was a painful anniversary for me, personally. I’ve been writing the story of my subsequent travels in Nepal for more than six months now—much, much longer than I spent in the country, in real time.
In that time, I’ve seen the audience on thisisyouth explode— and I can’t thank you all enough for that. It’s a huge motivation for myself to keep writing when I know there are people reading it.

To be honest, if I hadn’t taken the step of publishing these entries, I would have given up on the story long ago.

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