Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Five years ago, I embarked on a journey that would change my life for the better.  I left with an M1 license, a helmet, and a jacket, bound for Ecuador and determined to ride a motorcycle around South America.  Mission accomplished.  What I never realized was that in the process of planning and along the way, I would meet at random (or was it?) the most amazing, friendly, compassionate, talented people that left you feeling warm and fuzzy for a variety of reasons.  Even in the aftermath of my journey, these connections have spurred new ones and continue to bring me joy...all from one journey of faith, of a desire to see more of the world than my immediate surroundings, and to do it all my way.  I guess I never really did talk much about those people.  

Glen wrote a book, which I read before I left California.  Through the power of the internet, I was able to hunt him down, email him, and he was nice enough to respond to me and give me the guidance I needed and provide valuable connections down south.  After I returned, we met in person at an ADVrider event coinciding with the International Motorcycle Show.  I am blessed to call him a friend.  He would hate me calling him wise, but I have a feeling he gets that a lot, being the sort of old soul he is and mentor to many riders and people in general.  Glen continues to be an international man of mystery; you never know where he's going to pop up next.

While posting my travels on ADVrider (a motorcycling forum), a Detroit native chatted me up as he was planning a trip on his overloaded KTM through Central America.  From those forum chats, I met a friend of his in Cordoba, after my journey was complete met his fiancee (whom he met on his motorcycle trip), was a witness to their wedding, and am now a godmother to the most beautiful girl on the planet.  Josh and Andi are two of the most impulsive people I know and no matter how often I scratch my in amazement as to how it all works out in the end, it just does.  They have a beautiful partnership that I envy and an unparalleled sense of wanderlust.  The privilege of being a godmother is awesome albeit being 10,000+ miles away means I chart growth in terms of feet and advancement in vocabulary. She already speaks more languages than I do.

While gallivanting in Buenos Aires, I decided to leave the bike and take a little backpacking trip to Uruguay. In a bus stop at the border waiting to head to Montevideo, I met Madame V.  I thought she was a French tourist and had mixed feelings about that, but she opened up into English and onward our conversation went all the way to the hotel we stayed for a night in Montevideo before both going our separate ways. Little did I know that brief chance meeting would lead me to a friendship I hold dear five years later.  It's hard to classify Madame V as one thing as she falls under several categories: friend, my forever cheerleader, favorite aunt, mentor, and one of the most intelligent people I know.  She continues to teach me so much about life and by example has shown me how to handle life's abundant experiences with grace, humility, and appreciation.  She enjoys her retirement outside of the US, dabbling in projects here and there, but every couple of years she sweeps through California with the gale force winds of a hurricane and I stumble along trying to keep up.  I love her dearly.

Upon recommendation, I stayed at a hostel run by an American expat, who also happened to be a biker, in Medellin, Colombia.  That detail isn't as important as the man I met at the hostel, a freelance editor hiding behind an Apple laptop, which allowed him the freedom to live wherever his heart desired.  We were about the same age, and coincidentally raised about 10 miles apart back in California.  I stayed in touch with Jeff after I left Colombia, and often when he came to visit, he looked me up.  Since then, he has developed his writing/editing talents into running/editing a local magazine in Medellin.  Music, his passion that seemingly took a back seat to his main source of income at the time we met, quickly evolved into something much more significant when he started a radio station, which through the glory of the internet has become a launch pad for local bands to reach audiences well beyond their hometown and something of a Colombian version of KCRW (sans lowtalking and subscription drives). A man of many talents, he never sits still and just recently along with the band Explosion Negra, wrote the soundtrack to a musical and will be touring the East Coast shortly.

And the snowball effect...

From that first meeting with Glen, I met beautiful Nicole, who effervesces a contagious optimism and a gorgeous smile. And from reconnecting with Jeff in California, I have since had the pleasure of knowing many of his friends who live as close as five miles from me (Coach, Leigh, and Corin come to mind).  

I continue to be amazed by the chance meetings and friendships that have evolved as a result of an impulsive decision to step outside of my comfort zone and take a chance.  I am so very blessed and fortunate to have so many amazing people in my life and am in awe at how different my life has become as a result of that single journey.  Most people just revel in the fact that I didn't crash or die.  Now they can appreciate a different perspective.