As a child I would ride a Schwinn stingray bicycle painted John Deere green that had a long lime green plastic seat. This bike would often carry me down the flat brown gravel roads between Fremont and Arlington in eastern Nebraska.
Riding on the tire-worn groove of the road where the gravel was packed hard, I would wonder what things might I discover between home and there. My eyes were always glancing to the horizons for impending danger known as farm dogs that seem all too eager to set chase.
It never occurred to me what I might do had one of the thin tires went flat or if one of those dogs had actually caught me. But you see, all good adventures have elements of the unknown and the unforeseen. It is what you do in the face of these circumstances that ends up being the fabric of the journey.
The other day I was speaking over the phone to an editor of a western Nebraska newspaper inviting him to consider printing my column and stories. His reply was interesting; “the people in our community don’t really care about the rest of the world.”
I responded; “OK, goodbye.”
I was so shocked, that I wasn’t quiet sure what to say.
Now, not only do I believe this not to be true, I know it’s not true. I have spent the better part of my life traveling, whether it was across the United States, or around the world. From living in large cities, to scraping out an existence on a small plot of ground far from any road, I have met people from all walks of life. I have spent time with the wealthy and the poorest of the poor. Everywhere I have been people have shown curiosity, intrigue and interest in other people and places. They want to know what the humanity of another part of the world is like; I believe they look for things like hope and kindness.
I contrast my conversation with the editor with a moment I had in December 2002 in northern Kenya where I encountered three guerilla fighters walking through the bush. Miles from nowhere, I walked alone down a long brown muddy dirt road waiting for the truck I was riding in to get unstuck, when suddenly three individuals dressed in army fatigues carrying ancient guns appeared from the brush. Around their waist was a belt with five hand grenades attached, and a criss-cross of bullets across their chests. They smiled and we walked together carrying on a conversation, which allowed me to put my concerns at ease.
They told me about the border war they were fighting with Ethiopia, a fact most of the world didn’t know much about. One of the parting words came from the youngest of the group, “I would like a radio, because even though we are out here in the middle of nowhere, I would still like to listen to the BBC so I can know what is going on with the rest of the world.”
With nothing to offer him, I wished all of them well with their goal and waved good bye.
People are people, all around the world, the best and the worst parts of humanity can be found everywhere, this is just one element of what makes a journey like this so fascinating.
So, please come explore long brown muddy dirt roads with me, as I go on a new Wondrous Journey starting with Ethiopia.