I bet that if you close your eyes, you can easily and vividly relive specific times from your life. Be them childhood memories, mischievous adventures in teenage years, emotional flashes in adulthood. In the split of a second, we are taken aback. No matter what scientists say about the possibility of time traveling, I am confident we all have this amazing skill, sometimes with the help of a song, a smell, or even a taste.
For me, it’s hard to have a day go by where I don’t get a trip down memory lane. Usually with a book in hand, music bumping in the background. Building little by little the person I am today.
I come from a time when Marlboro-man showed how amazing the great-wide-open could be, Coke and Pepsi were in the midst of a refreshing war, and a tiger was responsible for helping to sell frosted cereals and petrol. Zombies filled TV-screens at the sound of Thriller, Bob Geldof was busy arranging a two-country concert, and Madonna was in love with a guy who made her feel new. And I… well, I was eager to get my hands on anything I could find about what I perceived as the greatest adventure of all time: the Camel Trophy in Borneo. Little did I know I was molding my way of going through life. Team spirit, with a wing and a prayer.
Following those almost-40-year-old experienced men, I dreamt of seeing the world, through my almost-12-year-old eyes. I could almost breathe the humid air of the forest, hear the sounds of unknown animals, feel bare arms and legs scrapping through the trees. The forests of Borneo, the sands of the Sahara, the icebergs of Antarctica. The pine trees in Canada, the tracks of the Rocky Mountains, the green fields of the Emerald Isle. I wanted to see them all.
Taking the Time Express, I clumsy land over the sofa at my grandparents’ farm, on a sunny winter afternoon. I smell the recently brewed coffee, the freshly-popped pop-corn, and the wet grass outside. I snuggly hide under the covers, book in hand. A pile of old Reader’s Digests lies on my side, patiently waiting their turn as I devour the new release in a genre I lovingly call “Life Instructions”: Adventures in Camel Trophy: Two Brazilians in the Hell of Borneo (unfortunately, only published in Portuguese). As I turn the pages, I cheer with them as they get selected, tip over down a cliff, try to escape mosquito bites. Get teary-eyed as they go back, after being the only team able to cross a river with very strong currents, to help other competitors whose cars got stuck right in the middle of the challenge. By the time I turn the last page, I’m lost. I decide right there that I will have a Land Rover, I will live a life of adventures, and I will see the world.
In that month-long winter vacations, all I wanted was to learn all I could about distant lands, and National Geographic soon became my best friend.
Days were filled with bicycle rides through coffee plantations, chasing snakes and insects, climbing trees, helping grown-ups around the farm. Attentively looking as someone adjusted the tractor gearbox, plucked a chicken, or fixed a fence. Nights were spent reading about the life of far-away people in National Graphic or articles on various subjects from my grandpa’s huge collection of Reader’s Digest, spanning over forty years of facts. From the couple camping in the forests of Canada who survived a bear attack to the magic of Budapest streets; from the life in a war camp during the Korean war to the rice fields of Vietnam; from the Kon-Tiki expedition to the Klondike gold rush. Building the knowledge I was sure to be essential to get me ready for a life of adventure.
Just as I believe those who first-hand watched mesmerized as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon somehow have a fascination for space and science-fiction, I am sure that those who grew up reading about the adventures of Amyr Klink, sailor and explorer who was the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean by himself in a rowing boat in one hundred days, somehow develop a passion for adventure, for the unknown.
However, as I grew older, my passion for the wild started to fade, little by little giving room to new interests. I still wanted to see the world, but now focusing on its history. I wanted to feel the cold of time, the shiver up my spine entering old buildings or ruins, thinking of the thousands of people who came before me, ending up at the same exact spot. I wanted to learn about its people. Not only those great names everyone knows about. I wanted to know about little people, ordinary people, just like you and me. As I traveled around, I liked talking to the elderly, asking to hear stories from times-gone-by. I visited churches and cemeteries, honoring those people and imagining their lives, creating a story for each boy and girl. I went to libraries, looking for local information that could give me a view other than those easily found in best-sellers and magazines.
According to Asian legend, couples that are meant to be are tied by an invisible red thread. No matter how tangled this thread might be, it’s impossible to be torn.
As I dived into new adventures, I realized I could see the world from a different perspective. I know lots of people travel looking for wildlife, natural beauty, astonishing views. Others go after the grandeur of architecture, human-made wonders, magnificent spaces. As I said, I chose the people. All people. Legendary, historical, powerful people. Ordinary people. And the force that binds all of them. Love.
I want to see these couples, get to know them. And there is no better way to do that than visiting the places where their love story flourished.
I still want to see the world. But now through the eyes of love.