The State of Our Union

In 1978, we had a truly awesome idea. 
“Why don’t we travel across Asia in back of a Bedford army truck with a bunch of strangers and an insane driver?”  Yeah.

Encounter Overland called our three month vacation their most disastrous trip ever. In spite of that, or because of it, we bonded. It might have been a survival mechanism. Or a strong desire to sing with other desperate people. But in the face of hunger, cold, Turkish vodka, flirtatious shepherds, breakdowns (mechanical and mental) stonings (both the pot and rock kind) we raised our voices together. Occasionally shouting each other down, we Wild Rovered, went Blowin in the Wind, and dreamed of a White Christmas. Unfortunately, the snow insisted on covering our tents long before we reached Kathmandu.

If the long and winding road from London to Nepal was neither smooth nor melodic, our reunion this past week made up for it. In the many pieced puzzle that makes up a life, I’d long noticed something missing from mine. After thirty-seven years, in the city of London, the missing piece slid neatly into place when I hugged my fellow intrepids once again. There were only nine of us, plus our distant adventurer, Len, on the phone from Australia. But it was an affair to remember. 

We reinvented laughing. It involved blowing first class Scotch through the nose while being slapped on the back. Having the neighbors plead for the noise to stop. Getting Lynn out of the tub after I thought she’d died in there. It meant a connection that had been formed under the weirdest circumstances, with the most wonderful, annoying, stoic, sucky, terrific people I’ve ever had the privilege of surviving with.

There’s a saying attributed to the Chinese that, if you save someone’s life, you’re responsible for them forever. This is a debt we all owe. Every time another Overlander held your hand, politely looking off into the distance while you crapped your brains out, or stopped you from killing the driver, (I can’t take it anymore! I know. (back pat) I know!) or put up with your egg burps, unwashed body, fits of temper, late arrival, fear, tears and frantic reading of Lucifer’s Hammer so they could use it as toilet paper, well. Its like we all exchanged our souls. It felt that big.

So here’s to you, my fellow survivors. I salute and love you all. In two years, just in time for our next reunion, we’ll track our missing travelers down. I have a few more puzzle pieces left, and I won’t rest easy until everyone is in place. Thanks for the laughs, the hugs, and all the memories. Until we meet again.

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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