CHARLOTTE, NC, July 23, 2017 – No matter who you are, at some point in your life you discover something that becomes a personal passion. Whether it is fishing or golf or dancing or even something as simple as volunteering to aid others, each of us has our own personal motivation.
And, if we are lucky, there may be multiple passions over the course of a lifetime.
For me, the pure serendipity of travel has become the driving force in my life. At first it was little more than a semi-voyeuristic process of observing other people in other countries living out the daily rituals of their lives within the culture that surrounded them.
As time progressed, I too evolved. Travel, no matter how often you do it, is a life-changing process. Travel enough and gradually you morph into someone far beyond the person you once were.
It doesn’t mean that every new experience is pleasant or joyful, but it does define who you become and who you are. No matter how many times you visit a place, each visit is a new adventure. And whether they are good or uncomfortable or just plain terrible, they change you, making you wiser and savvier in understanding the complexities of the big blue marble we call home.
Over the years I have come to meet and know people who are now lifelong friends. People from all walks of life who live in every corner of the planet. Some are rich, others not so much. But they, too, each share a passion for living and being part of our complex world.
My first international journey was to Spain. In those days drinking the water was a gamble at best. That’s when I acquired a taste for beer, and each afternoon I would walk a block or two down the street to a ratty old local pub and sit outside in the afternoon to watch the fishing boats arrive.
Every day one weathered old fisherman would stroll up the sandy beach to the tavern which was his regular routine to end the day. He aroused my curiosity when I noticed his massive hands. Hands that appeared to be about three times normal size. I guessed it was the result of all those years of hauling in nets full of fish.
I guessed it was the result of all those years of hauling in nets full of fish.
He was gnarly looking, unshaven and wearing one of those little black Greek-style berets with a bill that are so familiar in that part of the world.
I knew nothing about him, but he fascinated me because with him we were both probably looking at most of the only world he knew — the sea, the pub and his home which was likely nearby.
There is another aspect of travel that would not have occurred to me in the beginning. It’s the joy of escorting others to special places I have encountered over the years.
The magic comes in the memory of my own reactions on my first visit and the personal satisfaction that comes from knowing what is ahead, standing back and watching the “rookies” experience them for the first time.
In Amalfi, I remember coming through the tunnel that leads to the other side of the mountains. The tunnel sequesters the stunning coastline from the ugliness of Naples. As the view spread out before us looking down on a myriad of hill towns, churches and the expanse of clear blue water, one member of our group got so excited I thought he was literally going to push our bus over the mountain to witness the view.
There are others of course, too many to count, but like a well-orchestrated symphony, I never forget which corners and turns will lead to that sort of excitement. It is a personal thrill that has never abated.
Last week a dear friend and fellow traveler died of a stroke. Ann and her husband, Barry, had been on several trips with us. They, too, shared a similar wanderlust spirit and enjoyed the idea of traveling to new places.
Ann was a quiet sweet lady. She was a peacemaker, who shied away from confrontation. She was a member of the church choir and sang right up until the day she passed away. Barry is a gentleman as well as a gentle man. Every day he would come to breakfast with a corny joke to pass along to the table and then laugh raucously when he gave the punchline.
Barry also loved books and enjoyed passing along suggestions of travel books he had read during his absences from traveling.
Ann and Barry were compatible travelers who were open for anything and everything and just happy to be seeing the wonders of the world with friends. Together we journeyed to Switzerland, Germany, England, Italy and cruised up the Danube. Each new adventure brought with it something different, something unique, something special.
Though we all shared the same itineraries, my encounters were often different from theirs which led to marvelous “inside” stories that only we could relate back to each other because of their “you-had-to-be-there” nature.
My ALS has become God’s way of telling me that time is running out on my goal of traveling to 100 countries. ALS has compressed the quest to a degree that only my progressive limitations will know if and when I must cease the journey.
It is my intent not to be defeated. Come early November I should reach number 83. Whether I can get the final 17 is uncertain, but I am not planning to be denied.
In the end, Ann and I will hopefully one day be reunited in a new and different journey, only this time she will be my guide.
Rest well dear Ann, for you are now taking the ultimate travel experience.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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