An hour into my ten-hour bus ride to Lima Peru, the young woman sitting next to me pulled out a small baby bottle filled with milk. Earlier I had noticed a strange odor seeping in my direction, but thought little of it. I was surprised she had an infant because I hadn't noticed anything when I sat down next to her. She smiled gently and went about her business. Then, from inside her winter jacket a white head popped out, except this head was covered with fur. Both of my eyebrows rose up as I suddenly discovered she had a five-day-old baby lamb stuffed into her jacket. Apparently, she had sneaked it onto the bus and was taking it home. She put a finger to her lips signaling to me it was a secret; smiling, I nodded in agreement. It was hard for me to imagine that in a few days I would be sitting back in Fremont, Nebraska enjoying a beautiful summer, where everything is clean, orderly and fairly predictable.
Arriving home I was greeted by a post card sent to me from my friend Rose while we were at the Galapagos Islands. It was no ordinary post card. In Post Office Bay on the island of Santa Maria, there is a tradition that dated back to the seventeenth century. During the time when sailors roamed the sea, they would stop in this bay and check a large wooden barrel full of mail. If they found mail that was addressed in the direction they were heading, they would pick it up and deliver it. Well, I never thought there would be someone coming to Nebraska, and imagined it would take years to get here. Before I arrived home my brother got a phone call from a woman who had a delivery from me. She was from Maryland and was attending a meeting in Lincoln. Driving up from Lincoln, she hand-delivered the postcard, fulfilling the tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years. He never got her name, adding to the lore of this kind and adventurous person. For me, it strengthens my faith in people.
Over the last five months (yes, where does time go?), we crossed 11 countries, hopped over 15 international borders, added Guinea pig and Lama to my cuisine list, saw breath-taking scenery, looked nature in the eye, discovered ancient civilizations, encountered countless numbers of ordinary kind people that will never make the news and a couple of bad ones that make good travel stories. One of the things I love most about travel is the sense of discovery. Few things provide it on such a grand scale as traveling to a foreign place for the very first time. These moments have offered me the greatest opportunity to learn about the world and at the same time, about myself. The more I travel, the more I discover how little I know. But knowing is small in comparison to experiencing. In the experience it becomes a part of you and you become a part of it, creating a whole new relationship to the world in which we live. I have an enormous gratitude for the country in which I live and an even larger one for the world that we share. Thank you for coming along to be a part of this amazing journey.
Shortly after returning, I went to see the doctor. They are running a number of tests on my blood to search for any signs that something is wrong with my health. Even though I've lost 12 pounds, he's confident that I will live, which is good because there are a few more countries left yet for me to see. The other day, the Union Pacific had a large steam engine in town. I raced downtown to see the engine the morning it left to go west. My heart raced a bit as I watched the impressive locomotive steam out of town; suddenly all the memories of the trains I've taken traveling around the world came flooding back to my heart. I had only been home four days and I was already dreaming about the next adventure, prompting the question, would I ever be done?