Sunday, January 29, 2012


I could sit here and describe to you the rocks that I have been climbing. I could mock myself more by telling you about how scabby my hands are and how lofty my goals are for  these rocks. But in all honesty there is nothing more beautiful and inspiring than the people I have met. So that's what I'm going to talk about.

Traveling alone is an exceptional opportunity. It is as if you are always holding a standby ticket. You might end up anywhere, for any length of time, in a tight space with any and all kinds of peoples. The only situation in which I can imagine a solo traveler would fail, would be the situation whereby they impose rigid expectations on their time. As a solo traveler, you have to play the odds, be opportunistic and sometimes, you really have to trust strangers.

I really was  going to sit down in this Starbucks ( ahem.. my current office) and tell you how horrible I am at trusting new belayers, and how " T..T...TAAAKE!" has become the crutch of my rock climbing performance. I hang on ropes and work out moves and rarely commit to a fall on a new partner. But in reality that has nothing to do with my faith in strangers and that is the skill I am nurturing in many ways.

Walking back from the bathroom, once upon a 7am, a  old rusty hatch-back truck caught my eye. There was a mattress folded up in the back with the entrails of a duvet seeping onto the flatbed. A drip- coffee maker sat on a pot on a camping stove out the tailgate. In the shelter of an open back door was nestled a stool and a guitar and a  man. He was  sitting, gazing into the sunrise. There was steam rising from his coffee in the early desert air. All I could think about was making a photo of this. This was the essence of 'the dirt bag life'  I romanticize so freely. I didn't stand long enough to be able to describe it fully, but long enough to absorb it.

Later on, after a few more days in the driveway of D and R,  I was back on my own.  I cautiously approached this fellow traveler, whom I had since introduced myself to and spent a few nights enjoying his voice and guitar. "hey, are you interested in having a site mate?" I asked. Fully aware that many a strong silent type prefer to camp alone. But Tate welcomed me in.

He is a busker. He plays songs about the California gold rush and Mexican folk tunes with a voice that glides like silk over his chords. He travels south western America, living out of his truck and making enough money to keep smiling. This is the last time though, he claims. As his conscious weighs heavy with consequence of his exhaust fumes on the world he loves. We talked  well into the dark ( neither of us having the foresight to buy wood)  shooting the shit on hippys and politics, on the finer lessons we had each received from time spent out of doors. Sharing beers and life experiences. He has thirty years on me, but there is a common ground in our ideals and our interests.

We were both the youngest in our families, both holding the title of most unconventional, both living out of our cars. Tate's smile is genuine which is rare. He is settled in who he is and what he does. He loves his home in the Sierras, he loves the mountains. He lives simply and welcomes opportunity.

I feel like there is a lot to learn here. I talked long about my goals, telling him about my recently embraced, long standing skill of inviting strangers to talk. He listened, patiently as I told him story after story of my encounters on the streets of Toronto, and tried to justify why I think I will be able to use this skill in some of the more dangerous parts of the world.

The thing I now realize though is that I was the wanderer who came to talk to him.  - for some of his tunes!

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