“I never thought I would see you here,” my daughter cried out when I turned up in the hodgepodge town of Banepa. The great Himalayan range soared above a narrow thoroughfare that eventually wound its way to Tibet. My daughter was here on an eight-week internship as a physiotherapist in a local hospital, and seemed genuinely surprised that I had come.
It almost made me think that she didn’t really know me.
Upon my arrival, memories of my past travels – of seizing any and all opportunities to embark on an adventure – arose in my mind. Whenever a chance to go on a trip has presented itself, I’ve taken full advantage – ever since the age of sixteen, when I took the train across Canada with a friend to stay with her brother in Vancouver, then continued south to visit my uncle in Los Angeles.
The memories brought me back to London in 1968. The same friend and I had attended “Indiaman,” an event aimed at bringing Australians overland from Delhi to London and back. It was only ten years after the overland route to India had become pioneered. We told organizers that such a trip was too much for our shoestring budgets—I was barely getting by as a temp worker.
“Today, camping across Iran and Afghanistan may not be the carefree exploration it once was. But different adventures, and more of them, are waiting for anyone willing to reach out and act.”
But the next day, we received an unexpected phone call. The trip organizers needed to get a Volkswagen camper to India to meet up with a scheduled photographer. Would we, they asked, join four others and pay for the fuel? A driver and camping gear would be thrown in at no cost. And so, for fifty quid (at the time, approximately $100 U.S.) we embarked on a six-week adventure through Europe to Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and finally to Delhi.
What an adventure it was! All along our journey, the unaccustomed sight of westerners camping in roadside tents like nomads, as well as our strange customs and dress—at the time, women could wear mini-skirts even in such countries as Iran and Afghanistan—incited curious stares and attempts at conversation, but none of the controversy that might greet these strange behaviours today. We chose not to follow the most direct route, but instead took side trips—from Tehran to the holy city of Isfahan, and from Delhi, between carts and bullocks and all the chaos of an Indian road to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, and then to the pink city of Jaipur.
In Afghanistan, a beautiful country of wide-open landscapes and soaring mountains, jagged blue peaks outlined the sky; each night, the sun would set magnificently below the serrated horizon, coloring the sandstone a brilliant red and the distant hills a deep purple. Along the road we sampled many of the forty different varieties of melon. One restaurant in Kabul, the Khyber, even served apple pie and ice cream. And while such foods may not seem exotic, along our travels such a touch of home was rare indeed. There wasn’t a single office in which to pick up mail between Istanbul and Delhi. Phoning home was an extravagance, if you could find a working line.
So during our time in Kabul, we spent a lot of time at the restaurant simply appreciating the cleanliness and food – and exchanging stories and experiences with the few other travelers who had ventured here. But we also explored: we visited market streets crowded with carriages decorated with brightly painted designs; we watched bakers making bread, and freshly butchered carcasses hanging amidst swarms of flies, and daily routines that never make it into today’s headlines. But eventually, we had to leave, bouncing up and through the Khyber Pass and down to Lahore, in Pakistan.
I could have ended my adventure in Delhi. But instead, I decided to take a teaching position in Sydney, Australia. When the time came to contemplate returning to Montreal, I decided on the least direct way home—a ship to Djibouti, a detour to Greece and a wandering route across Europe.
And then I became a working professional—albeit, a professional who always sought out positions with ample holiday time. One summer, after being invited to visit friends working in the Canadian embassy in Costa Rica, on a whim, I headed north towards Guatemala by bus. On the way to the town of Panajachel, I encountered an American who was writing a travel guide to the country. We began to talk. I fell in love with the lake, the volcanoes, the weaving – and the writer. After several more trips, the country became a second home – and the writer became my husband.
Our marriage led to many explorations throughout Central America with our three children – children who got to explore the temples of Tikal and Copán for their summer holidays, had a “country house” in the special town of Panajachel, and continued our tradition of seeking adventure.
Today, camping across Iran and Afghanistan may not be the carefree exploration it once was. But different adventures, and more of them, are waiting for anyone willing to reach out and act. By saying Yes to every opportunity, you will reach nearly any corner of the world, and meet an unimaginably diverse group of people along the way. By saying Yes to various offers and prospects, the course of your life will be forever altered.
When the time came to contemplate returning to Montreal, I decided on the least direct way home—a ship to Djibouti, a detour to Greece and a wandering route across Europe.
Before my arrival, I had thought that I would be travelling alone in Nepal. My daughter’s supervisor, however, gave her a week off. And so a new family adventure began, a Yes-saying adventure in which my daughter and I would better understand each other through our shared experience, a journey in which we would go farther – and grow closer – than we had ever been.