On the Road Again
|Raised on the road, the author's son still displays his early resilience.|
We enjoy lots of email. Occasionally a story comes along that we just have to share. With their permission, we share this story of a family that understands the beauty, power...and danger...of embracing the world through travel.
Dear Mr. Steves:
This is a simple story of lives spent traveling that you might find interesting. My wife and I have traveled relatively extensively, and in recent years have rarely touched base in the United States. Actually, we are subcontractors for USAID and other organizations so we mostly live abroad these days.
When our son was born in 1982, we stopped traveling for a few years, and then hit the road again with your early series of books. For many years, our family used your guides as bibles, exploring neighborhoods that are now on the beaten path but back then were still adventures. Our son learned the love and pain of travel adventure from your publications.
We had one packing rule: everything had to fit in a small pack on your back. By the time our son was 10 years old, he could pack everything he needed for the road in a few hours. Over the years he has lived in Russia, gone to high school for a few months in Bulgaria, visited southeast Asia, and traveled with us in Africa and the Middle East. He speaks Russian, French and Spanish in addition to English. He failed miserably at Arabic.
Last year, we returned to the United States from the Middle East to do some business and see our son who was then 23. He was preparing for a surfing trip through Mexico and Central America on the way to a job in Costa Rica. On a sunny day in August, we said goodbye to him on a train platform in Los Angeles. All he had was his pack and a surfboard. We almost never saw him again.
While traveling in Guatemala last November, he had an accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. We got that telephone call that every parent fears--he was lying in a hospital in Guatemala City in a coma. When we received the call, we were in Jordan waiting for a taxi to take us to the airport — my wife was on her way to Indonesia and I was on my way to Prague. If that call had come 10 minutes later, the caller would never have found us.
Within hours, we were making our way to Guatemala. The last time we were in Guatemala was 1979 and there was a civil war going on, and we didn't have good memories of the medical facilities there. But we never got there, as he was life-flighted to Houston, so we diverted there. Break time for advertising: never leave home without life-flight insurance — our son was a member of Medjet Assist and they saved his life.
He was in a deep coma for over a month. He slowly awoke, paralyzed on his right side, unable to walk or talk. For the past seven months, he has been in extensive therapy — both physical and cognitive. The pain and progress that we experienced, still experience, cannot be described. At this point, his recovery has been remarkable. A miracle, really.
But in our family, the true test of living is being on the road. So last week we put him on a plane to eastern Europe with a ticket to Prague, a Eurail pass, and his hosteling membership card. When he was a child, we had poster in his room that read, "Ships are safe in harbor but it's not what they're built for." It is not easy letting him go again.
We have a photograph of him. He is riding a bicycle along a street in Copenhagen — he must be about 16 years old in the photo. It is a sunny day; I snapped it while riding along next to him. He has one hand on the handlebars, and in the other hand he is holding up one of your travel guides.
Peace and Love