It was liberating to escape for an evening with a friend I have known forever – sitting on the roadside in a fat sofa with coffee and cocktails and watching the traffic – human and vehicle, strange and ordinary – passing by. Its those evenings when an hour turns to three and you can feel yourself physically melting into the night air, as your conversations – like a good book – start to straddle that space between talking about things and reliving those memories. This was a friend I had been to Laos with, during our Southeast Asia adventures last year, and the conversation invariably returned to the magical places we had seen. The reckless things we had done.
Memories of the endless bus rides through the Laos mountains. Not being able to find a backpackers just before christmas and my brother’s witty repartee about that other famous chap whose parents had a similar problem. And wanting to kill her as we toured Angkor Wat with me hungover as a very dead thing and she with all the energy and enthusiasm of life, clambering up and down the monuments while I pined for water, shade and a peaceful death. The more we talked, the more the memories became just yesterday, as the peals of laughter from the first stories gradually faded to thoughtful retrospection on an amazing, beautiful journey so recent and yet feeling as if it was lost to another age.
That we can go the places that the world has never heard of and not just survive but rejoice in the places and experiences that are dangerous, that are silly, that keep nothing between us and the lands we travel.
Reflecting on it later, in the quiet moments later in the night, I realised something interesting. Though the memories may fade and become exaggerated, and photos will inevitably be lost to a crashed harddrive or the four winds, something will yet persist. And that something is how we have changed.
It was a night that you couldn’t have with the material set (for lack of a better word). The people who have mapped out careers, ambitions to fine automobiles and prestige homes and jostle with their peers for the top of the paycheque pyramid. It was special because there are things that we came to share out of that common experience. The destruction of belief in status and a destiny of material things and the realisation of how much we are capable of doing. That we can go the places that the world has never heard of and not just survive but rejoice in the places and experiences that are dangerous, that are silly, that keep nothing between us and the lands we travel.
Looking back now, a year later, at those who I was fortunate enough to share those travels with, I can see in each one that little growing seed of ‘what if’ – the beginnings of a confidence in themselves as travelers in a rich and varied world of experiences. And when I feel like I am tiring, or losing my grip on the path that inspires me, I need only to revisit the sections of the path we have walked together to find that energy once more. It lacks the precision of a photo, and will never be as easily communicated as the wild and woolly tales we will share for years hence, but those feelings of memories, that energy that passes between us when we revisit those places – that will stay forever.