Encounters while traveling are most interesting and invigorating when they occur without plan. Random, haphazard, chance meetings of people always flavor our wanderings.
Here is an example from our recent trip to the far north: It was in Seward, Alaska. She sat alone in the coffee shop, studying a laptop computer intently. He was slightly disheveled, wearing pieces of bike riding togs. I gently inquired, "have you come here by bicycle?"
She regarded me quizzically, studying my face and uncertain of how to respond. Finally she answered, each word coming slowing, as if she were leafing through her mental dictionary. It was then that we began a halting conversation which left me scratching my head and wondering again about the human spirit.
Her name was Micky and she was Italian. She spoke very little English, but, she was somewhat fluent in Spanish, so we proceeded as best we could.
"Where did you begin?"
"Patagonia," was her astonishing reply.
"How long has it been?" I asked
"A year and a month," she replied.
Enter now another woman who had recently discovered her on an Alaskan byway and invited her to stay in her home. She had discovered Micky on a camping trip one morning, seeing her struggle out of the trees and onto the road. They connected, and Micky stayed with her some few weeks, taking a job washing dishes in a local restaurant to save money for a ticket back to Italy.
"Este Viaje, escribe?" I asked Micki, wanting to know if she would write about her experiences.
"No, pero esta en mi corazon, she replied. (It lives in my heart.)
Between the two women we pieced together the story. She made the complete trip alone. She bicycled from the tip of South America to the northern most road-linked point in Alaska, Prudo Bay. She did it for someone she loved and who is now gone. She did it in memory of them.
She was a remarkable woman, unpretentious, forthright, yet proud of what she had done. She and people like her are why I feel energized after traveling.
From her email after arriving home in Italy: "......thank you all if I spent an unforgettable year thank you for all the emotions that I experienced, and fortunately very beautiful thank you thank you heart micky"