Hitchhiking is like stepping into a confession booth. When I was twenty-one I hitched hiked from the Jersey side of the George Washington bridge to Madison Wisconsin. During those epic five days I slept in open fields and in the homes of complete strangers. I talked for endless hours about some of the hard and ugly truths of life. I had never before experienced such open and honest conversations. People told me things they had not even told their spouses. Rides from truckers, the milkman, single mothers, hard scrabble players, Vietnam vets. It was life randomly thrown before me.
The road seeped into my soul those five days. I was never the same again. Since then I have lived on the road for a year rarely sleeping in a bed, working and hitching and sometimes jumping the occasional freight train across the United States. I hitchhiked and walked through Mexico with very little money, settled down for some wonderful years, then took on a pattern of traveling every winter for three months in Central and South America. After five years of being a tourist I wanted to take it a little deeper, so I started doing volunteer work teaching carpentry to children in Guatemala then in Nicaragua, Bolivia and Thailand.
Through these travels I have laughed myself to pieces looking into the shiny eyes of youth. I have swum in hot springs in the jungle with cascading waterfalls, climbed pyramids and active volcanoes, seen many wonderful sights and some ugly ones as well. But now I travel more for the conversation. Shoot I will travel half way around the world for a decent conversation. I don’t mean the intellectual kind, more like the spontaneous kind where everyone is present. That is where the magic is, being present. Travel brings me front and center “in the moment.” I love it.
I have met some really wonderful people from all over the world. There’s so much heart out there, compassion and love. Nations are dividing us but people are people the world over. They want to love and be loved, feed their families and have a healthy roof over their heads. I have written about some of these people through the years and my experiences with them. For the last fifteen years I have only shared these stories with family and friends. A couch surfer from Poland challenged me by saying my stories needed to be out in the world. So I am being very brave here and throwing them out into the world.
Enjoy the ride.