“I just need something that packs well and I can wear a lot. Like every day, a lot.”
“…Every day?” The girl questioned, raising her eyebrow. Probably not something the salespeople at Anthropologie hear very often.
Which is how she became the first of many lucky strangers to listen to my Quit Your Day Job! See The World! Find Yourself! adventure on which I was a few weeks away from embarking. And to my surprise, she was into it. She asked thoughtful questions, said I was brave and inspiring, and through her college-aged eyes, she showed me that what I was about to do was way more awesome than it was scary. That was the moment the scale tipped.
Now I am much less reserved in telling absolute strangers about journeys I’ve taken, the journeys I’m about to take. Sometimes I subconsciously slip it in, other times, it sort-of-kind-of relates to the topic of conversation. Just the other day, while booking our boat ride to the backcountry campsite of Channel Islands National Park, the woman on the phone warned me that our actual site was over four miles from the boat landing and there was no potable water, so we would have to carry it all in, and could we handle that? My response was, “Oh definitely. We all hiked the whole Appalachian Trail last summer, I think we’ll be okay!”
A simple, yep, we’re good, would have been equally/more acceptable.
But she rolled with my unnecessary information, humored me even, and we chatted a little more about distance hiking.
And then there was that Starbucks run just before work. In general I’m not the best at standing still, and it gets even worse when waiting in lines. I’m antsy. I sway, I tap, I move in place. I heard a voice behind me, “You must be a dancer.”
Confused, I turned around and located the voice. “Me? Oh, no, sir. No one’s ever accused me of that before. I’m incredibly uncoordinated.”
Apologizing, he seemed as confused as me. “Really? Just the way you were bopping around, and the muscles in your legs were moving, I assumed…”
This isn’t as creepy as it might sound. The gentleman was in his 70s at least, the kind of fella who meets his friends every morning for coffee to talk about the way things were. Sometimes you can exchange one word with someone and know they are good people. He was good people.
To break the awkwardness, I offered this well-oiled goody, “But I DID hike the Appalachian Trail last year, so that might be a contributing factor to the leg thing. I’m more of a dancer on rocks.”
His eyes, his expression, his response, I wish I had a photo, a video. He hurled a series of questions as we inched toward my future grande flat white, extra shot and his coffee, black. How many miles did we walk, how much time did it take, why did I do it? He shook my hand and said congratulations, as plans for the PCT spilled out of my mouth. I wanted to stay, sit with him, talk more, but the cashier interrupted and work beckoned.
I slowly walked out to my car, clouds of happy memories beneath me. In less than two days, I’d managed to have conversations with randoms about very intense, meaningful experiences in my life. But…why? I don’t casually mention these things because I get a kick out of telling people all of the awesome things I’ve done. It’s not because I like hearing myself talk, or think I’m cooler than you. I have done some incredible things, lived amazing experiences of which I am very proud. But these experiences don’t have to be, shouldn’t be, mustn’t be unique to me. Just like the first time I heard about dogsledding through the Arctic wilderness from Emily when she randomly entered my relatively normal life, just like I sparked the interest of the sales girl at Anthropologie.
I tell random strangers my story because I want to plant idea seeds in the minds of others. I want kickstart someone to do something maybe they thought they couldn’t do, something they might not have ever thought of doing. I want to help people see beyond their line of sight.
It’s up to you to find the bread to put it on; I just want to spread the word.