Miami Beach, United States
My Canadian friend Shoel, whom I met in Honduras in 2006 (and ultimately became my diving buddy and traveling companion for a spell), finally got around to posting his travelogue from his last two big journeys (which included our 2007 reunion in Thailand, almost a year to the day after meeting each other in Honduras). Now, about a year after that, I'm getting a chance to read his entries, and find myself smiling from our little adventure together on the other side of the world.
I enjoyed his thoughts about meeting up with me again, and thought I'd share:
Craig had told me where he was staying, apparently in an abandoned guesthouse under construction, convincing the owner to let him stay there for 200baht a night, in true Craig as I remember him fashion. Speeding up and down the streets, trying to make some sense of the address he'd given us and the street names which meant nothing to else, at first making the mistake that one of the words on the sign of the road we were on meant "east," when in fact it simply meant "street." After trying a while and giving in to checking the map we'd been given by Ning of all the beaches we discovered that we'd already passed the place he was staying at threes times before and in a short time found the JT Guesthouse no problem.
Getting off the motorbike we were greeted by the owner whom I asked if "the white traveller? Upstairs?" Which he replied, "Samson, yes." and motioned into the door, "room 7." I had forgotten that Craig donned a travelling alias, after someone had told him he reminded them of Samson after he'd grown his hair out. Whatever works I guess, he was still Craig in to me. Walking through the deserted guesthouse, an odd feeling, thinking this it's like to be in a hotel, empty, left to the insects and animals to move in. After a short rap on the door of room #7, it swung open and low and beyond there stood Craig, hair grown out from the buzz cut I remember him having almost a year ago exactly, the last time I'd seen him, but the same dark tanned skin, same smile, same Craig.
Craig is truly someone I greatly admire, both as a person and backpacker, someone who redefines the term 'global thinker' or 'worldly'. He is both sensei and samurai of the backpacker's world and beliefs, having travelled continuously 2 solid years, his ultimate goal is to continue travelling, he always states a decade as a nice round number, but hones the backpackers philosophy of travelling for as long as he feels the desire to, whether that ends tomorrow or 20 years from now. He has been able to travel from having saved up and selling all his belongings before he left his home and everything he knew back in the United States, and by travelling on a budget that would make most backpackers blush in awe. Back in Utila, we called our dive team Delta Force, and upon travelling together we nicknamed ourselves Money and Time, as I had the money, and he had the time. A year later little has changed and we still represent the ying and yang of backpacking. While I travel in short spurts, usually about 2 months at a time, trying to see as much as possible at a fast pace, in doing so spending a fair amount of money to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, Craig has all the time in the world, in a very literal sense, often stopping and savouring the tiny towns in between cities that most people would zip through, hardly offering a glance or a photograph let alone a couple days or weeks of one's life. When you plot two points on a map, Craig has plotted 50, and taken the time to stay as far away from the tourist path and bubbles for as long as he can, taking the time to understand and get to know the people of every town let alone every culture and country. He is basically the Lonely Planet, Let's Go, and Rough Guide travel book of wherever he's been on steroids, and he's taken the time to write and photograph his journeys to share with others through his increasingly popular website www.travelvice.com which I've been lucky enough to be a part of, twice, I highly recommend a visit to his website to those that want to travel, are travelling, or have travelled.
As I stood and watched Craig sort out his stuff back in his room, I realized that his time in Central and South America had changed him, not for better or worse, and certainly understandably, but certainly different. He had become more hardened, wary, and leaving less up to trust and assumption as I know from travelling in those areas of the world, where in a moment's notice and the blink of an eye someone could very easily steal everything you own. Returning back home from some of my travels I found it hard to let down that guard that, while travelling on your own as we both had, was often your best defense. Only he hadn't returned to adjust, and while I was regaining it, he had honed it to a constant mental state of being. Making sure to secure and lock his packs, taping over the outside of his guidebook so that for an onlooker it appeared to be nothing more than a book, little tricks I knew and had used at times, were a way of life for him.