With school starting last week, I’ve had some time to reflect on my summer and the interesting people I’ve met from my time on the road.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Kauai and Maui (where I was able to better understand the homeless epidemic), Philadelphia and New Jersey (where I was able to witness kindness from those closest to me), while finishing the summer at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
My trip to the Grand Canyon lasted about fifty hours- not including the twenty-four hours spent on the road. While there, I was lucky enough to have three encounters with strangers, and with each one I was reminded of the kindness in the world.
The initial encounter came on my first full day in the park. My buddy David, who is a park ranger at the North Rim and graciously let me camp outside of his cabin, informed me that I was there during monsoon season. Being from the East Coast, I felt like I could handle anything Mother Nature threw my way. It poured most of the morning, but I was determined to hike so I set out on a short, three-mile hike to the lodge. After about five minutes it began to thunder, lightning, and dump rain at a rapid pace. As I’m trudging along the trail I saw this man who was also hiking by himself. I screamed out to him, and soon we were on the run together. His name was Sam, and the poor guy was only visiting the park for the day. We talked sparingly on the hike, but when I asked him what he did I was surprised with his response. “I volunteer with a company that focuses on helping homeless youth in London.” Go figure, I thought to myself. Of course I would run into someone with a similar passion in the middle of a rainstorm on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The second encounter happened as I was seeking shelter from the rain. As Sam and I split, I went into the lodge to dry off and warm up. As luck would have it, I sat down next to a young lady reading Happy City. The title caught my attention, and next thing I know we were off in conversation. Her name was Amy, and she works in San Francisco as a city planner. We talked for an hour, and during that time she talked about her passion for the environment and how she was working on a major project that would increase the number of "green roofs" in the North Beach and Chinatown area. Surprisingly, San Francisco ranks last in green roofs among metropolitan areas, and because of people like Amy, that will not be the case for long.
Lastly, my third encounter came during my final hour on the North Rim. I was walking around the rim trying to soak up all of its beauty when a man smoking a cigarette approached me. I didn't think much of it, said hello, and went back to staring at the rock formations. Before long, we began talking about the beauty of Arizona, and when I started to ask him about his journey, I was surprised with his response. "I'm traveling across National Parks for the next two weeks. I wanted to hitch hike my way around and work off the generosity of others. If they want to pick me up they will, and if not I will just continue to walk and wait for someone who will." I told Davi (who also happened to be from London) his plan sounded crazy, but he was quick to refute that. "It doesn't matter how things work out. I'm on a journey and whatever is meant to happen will." That's quite a mindset to have, especially because he only had a set amount of time on the road. (He's a psychotherapist who managed to squeeze two weeks away from the office, and this is how he decided to spend his time.) I'm not sure how comfortable I would be if I had two weeks to travel and no set itinerary, but once he began sharing stories of his trip, I could quickly see how rewarding this experience must be for him. There is something genuine and real about putting yourself at the mercy of others and hoping they lend you a helping hand. For Davi, that was an experiment and risk he was willing to take.
All three encounters were reminders that you never know where you can find happiness. I was only in this position because my friend David was gracious enough to let me camp at the North Rim for a few days. Not to mention how welcoming the rest of the park rangers were. They all come from different backgrounds, work together for 6 months, and at the end of the season they go their separate ways. In the meantime, they embrace different cultures, people, and adventures.
Being on the road can be unpredictable, but it was reassuring to consistently find people who were striving to make the world a better place.