“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
By Dawn Onley
Twenty three years ago, I met Tobias in Cape Town, South Africa. He, like I, came to this young democratic nation to experience the country’s first free elections and ultimately the electrifying moment when Nelson Mandela would become South Africa’s first black president. On this same trip in 1994, I met Sagren Moodley, too.
In Egypt, I met Amir. He was a young man originally from Sudan who came to Egypt in search of opportunity. He worked in a small jewelry shop in Cairo, and he left me and my friend, Sandy, to sit unattended in his shop while he ran out to get us tea and soft drinks and to offer up midday Salat.
I met Cheryl in Paris. She worked in a clothing store and we chatted about fashion and what it was like to live in the city of lights. Originally from Africa, she hoped to one day make it to New York and to carve out a singing career in the United States.
In China, I met Asia and Angela, two close friends who live in Los Angeles and who enjoy planning exciting excursions. On a safari in South Africa, I met Debbie, Domenico and Howard, and we discussed everything from baking techniques to life as a rocket scientist.
Last year, I met Paqui in Greece. Full of personality and energy, we jumped from topic to topic, talking about politics, our love of travel, our relationships, our jobs and our families while on an island ferry to Hydra, Poros and Aegina.
I have met so many wonderful people from all walks of life while traveling — both domestically and around the world. I’ve met people who have enriched my life with their stories and experiences and who have expanded my understanding of religions, cultures, world views and beliefs. These relationships are so important and valuable, even if only for a season. They help to show us who we are and where we fit in this vast, beautiful world.
They help us to see how alike we are and how we basically want the same things out of life as everyone else.
They show us that we are never alone. We may feel isolated in our neighborhood, in our small town, but on the world’s stage, there is someone out there who has been exactly where you are now, and they may have a word to help get you over the doldrums of your situation.
I hope one day you will meet them. I wish you a boundless curiosity, new friends to share life’s joys and struggles (and hopefully another trip), and a desire to want to learn more than your neighborhood or town, more than your state and even your country.
Travel remains one of the best forms of education and enlightenment. It helps to open the mind and heart. As Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
And as Rumi said: “Travel brings power and love back into your life.”
Go somewhere new. Meet new people along the way. As Augustine of Hippo said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”