I happily clicked on the email from the West End Hotel in Edinburgh Scotland. Pleasant memories of conversations with locals, live music with a Scottish brogue and a Victorian ceiling so tall you could stack bunks four high, led to my first smile of the day. The next email was a promo for hosteling displaying a photo of ancient ruins surrounded by a brilliant green pasture and another of a seashore framed by a traditional wooden boat with a tall curved bow. The captions read Koh Phanag, Johannesburg, Dublin… and prices ranged from three to fifteen dollars a night. Hum…what if… A blog post from Steve McCurry followed. He is the photographer that captured that incredible image of a young Afghan girl staring directly into the camera with piercing green eyes. It still ranks as one the best National Geographic covers ever.
McCurry periodically sends out a photo essay paired with quotes. The pictures are always excellent and combined with the captions you’re sure to finish the essay with a good serving of food-for-thought. Most days my email is not that stimulating but by the time I finished reading McCurry’s last caption I felt like I had just swallowed a pint of Speyside Scotch. My skin was tingling, eyes spinning and ideas flowing. I was stoked and ready to travel, explore and experience. Like a man with a dying wish I need to hear, see and live one more story before I pass. Whether it was the emails, the preceding night spent at Alistair Humphreys blog reading about adventures and explorers or listening to “The Bike Show” on Resonance 104.4fm London, my mind was reaching dangerous levels of wanderlust.
Stop! I have responsibilities, a house to sell near the Canadian border, an old car that needs the air conditioner rebuilt and a beautiful wife who’s head is growing heavy on my left shoulder as her eyelids drift closed. She’s as cute as a kitten and as cuddly as a newborn despite having hair as white as snow. Her skin is etched and body scarred from living a life touched by the sun as well as bad and good fortune. The decisions we make sometimes defy logic, similar to seeing beauty in the same body decade after decade after decade. My desire to visit unfamiliar places and hear a stranger’s story is part of my core just like the steadfast feelings I have for my wife. But despite my responsibilities and feelings I long to be elsewhere, a place with challenges, mishaps, unexpected acts of kindness and unavoidable moments of loneliness. My life doesn’t always make sense but thankfully my wife knows that and understands me well enough to let me go as long as I promise to return, decade after decade after decade.