“44, divorced, lonely?”
“47, obnoxious, rude and interfering!”, she said as she continued to read her book and ignore the stranger that sat in front of her at the coffee shop, in a no-name town, she was passing.
“Intriguing, bold and pretentious”, he said.
Although she wasn’t planning on engaging in any conversations, she closed her book, removed her glasses and look up at him calmly, “What do you want?”
“Nothing really. I didn’t find a spot to sit. I wanted to share a table. Looked around and found you reading a book that I have read years ago. Hence decided to chat up.”
Now he really had her interest. She had begun reading philosophy only lately. At 48, she had a double degree, a high-pressure job that paid very well and the boon and the bane that came with it. Her large home, manicured lawn, constant first class travels had given her comforts, but nothing beyond. To save her failing long-term relationship, she had tried everything – vacations, to golf trips, to hot yoga, to therapy. Nothing worked. When she reached a breaking point, four months after her relationship ended, she locked herself up in her room, switched off her cellphone, took her home phone off the hook, locked her doors and lay in bed endlessly watching garbage on tv. Three days later, something clicked. She walked into her office dressed in track pants and a sweat shirt. She could see jaws drop. She walked into the CEO’s office with confidence. The door shut for a good 45 minutes and she walked out with a grin on her face. Two weeks later, the house with all her designer furniture and the BMW sold. She packed her clothes in big boxes and hauled them to the nearest thrift store. Her trustworthy financial planner advised her on what to do. She closed all her bank accounts but one. She cancelled all but one of her credit cards. She hailed a cab to the nearest car rental and rented a mid size Sedan. Her large backpack had a week’s worth of clothing. She drove to the nearest store and bought herself a pop up tent and a good sleeping bag. She also bought a camping stove, butane cans and basic cooking utensils that fit into a medium sized plastic box. Before she reached the check out, she browsed through the book aisle and found herself a book. It was time to leave Maine. She drove through the coastline for a bit and then branched off towards Vermont. From there began her nomadic drive.
Music played for a while. When she got tired, the radio came on. Her cellphone barely rang. When she got tired, she stopped at a State park and pitched her tent. If she liked it, she stayed. If she didn’t she continued to drive. Along her route, she met some wonderful families that were camping. If they urged her to stay a day or two, she stayed. And when she thought, she grew to a point of getting too involved, she excused herself and drove away. It all began seven months ago and she had driven from Maine to Vermont to New York to Pennsylvania to West Virginia to Kentucky to Tennessee to Arkansas. Despite her agenda-free travel, she had developed a certain routine. Every sixth night was in a hotel that had washer and dryer. On the seventh morning, she woke up, took all her dirty laundry including her pjs from the previous night to the washer. She packed her folded laundry into her backpack and before hitting the road, found a donation box for used books, dropped her book and went to the nearest book store to find her next read. Some nights were in motels, some nights in hotels and the others in campsites. Life began to feel really different – very silent, yet so fulfilling. She had certain rules that she stuck to.
- No driving beyond 6 pm.
- If it felt unsafe, then it is unsafe.
- No forming relationships.
- Living in the now and moving.
She had seen State parks, brooks, rivers, windy roads, tall trees, stormy clouds and more. She had seen them before, but now she “saw” them. And here she was in a small town in Arkansas sitting in front of a stranger, willing to engage in a conversation.
“46, not 47. Definitely obnoxious and rude, but not interfering”, he smiled. “Your turn?”
“No, I am good”, she said firmly, as she looked away trying to pack her stuff up to leave. But she was definitely smiling.
“Okay. Sure. But how about a meal before you leave?”
She smiled and pretended to be in a hurry to get to her destination, “I just had coffee, thanks. But no thanks.”
“I know you just had coffee. I didn’t say let’s eat now. We could eat after we go for a walk by the stream near by. It could be a two hour walk and if you choose, certainly in silence”, he grinned.
She burst out laughing, “Persistent!”. Something told her to go along. He hopped into her car and directed her to the a bridge. She found parking close by and couldn’t help listening to the sounds of the flowing waters. And as promised, he didn’t say a word. They walked along the path in complete silence for over 50 minutes and she broke the silence, “why me?”
“Why me? Why did you choose to talk to me?”
“I thought I told you I found you reading a book that I had read before. Would you not buy the kindred spirit story?”, he grinned again.
“Sure I do!!!”, she said as she walked further. The 3′ o clock sun didn’t seem so hot at all. “Your turn. Tell me more”, she said.
“46, Divorced. One daughter. Is volunteering in Africa”.
“Okay, so what do you do?”, she asked.
“In the process of shutting down my business and selling off my assets and travelling”.
She stopped for a moment and thought to herself, “Is this some kind of a bizarre coincidence?” Strangely, he seemed very genuine. She felt no reason to suspect his intentions or his words.
And from nowhere came, “I have a guest room in my house, if you would like to stay the night and come back here for an early morning walk, it absolutely stunning to watch the sunrise.”
And he sure wasn’t kidding about the sunrise. It was breathtaking.
vitamin D soaked sun rays
He was rather different from many. He did not ask her anything more about her life, than he already had. Yet he told her about himself. He admitted to her about his part in his failed marriage. He talked a lot about his daughter and how he had missed many of her growing years. He was a present, yet absentee father, thanks to his business commitments. He told her how glad he was that life gave him an opportunity to think about it and rectify it before it was too late. He had prioritized her life shortly after his marriage broke and dedicated time to spending all his time with her when he could.
The short walk ended in a sumptuous breakfast and her asking and she spoke without taking a breath, “Would you consider being my travel partner? I am weird. I will become quiet all of a sudden. When I become quiet, I do not like any conversations. I don’t like to justify myself. I have routines and I have no interest in a relationship. I won’t be offended if you said no.”
He smiled back and thus began a relationship of two kindred spirits that enjoyed impromptu travel.