Lisa is 49. She comes from Sacramento California. She always had a dream of going around the world. She teaches in school and for the past 30 year she has been dreaming of going around the world. Not in 80 days, but in 7 months. When you are traveling, hearing of someone who is going around the world starts to become common. I still remember the first time I heard of someone who had crossed Mongolia by horse. I was amazed. Now I have encountered so many people who have done it that it seems banal. But of course it is not banal! It is crazy and amazing.
I met an Israeli in India who told me he used to feel it was heroic when people told him once they returned to Israel that they had traveled in Asia for 7 months. Being in Asia himself he concluded “There is nothing heroic about it, it is actually pretty easy and pleasant.” He is right and wrong at the same time. It is easy and pleasant and at the same time heroic. It challenges it all, but the challenges of our notions eventually become normality to the point that cows and monkeys in the street don’t make you take out your cameras, and at some point not even notice them. And then it is mainly just pleasant.
For instance Roxanne who works here with me was reading the BBC news and she spotted an article where the man had been arrested. She asked me to go through the article with her to see if I could spot anything wrong. “Man riding a bike on the sidewalks” (standard practice in Thailand), “No helmet” ( standard), “ Carrying one baby in front of him” ( one baby??? We see whole families). It was a joke, we laughed about it, but yes it is actually true.
But back to Lisa, she had a dream. So after 30 years she organized herself to go. And on the first day of her vacation she found a lump in her breast. It turned out to be cancer. I look at her as we float on the Mekong. “How are you Lisa?”. Lisa is joyful, on my birthday she made me a balloon and a card with a poem. She gave me chocolate. Lisa goes to the orphanage to play with children here in NK and is about to take a job teaching for 2 months in a little rural village. “I guess growing old is overrated. I was not going to let cancer get on the way of my dream.” And so she went through surgery, and radio and rented her house and left. In Bali she fell and hurt a leg but she would not let that stop her either. I watched her recover here. Listening to her made me remind me of my own determination to live well when I was in hospital. It is just amazing how much more resilient than we imagine we can be. “I could not do anything better right now. I am seeing the world.” As we both float on the Mekong I agree with her. Yes going around the world is both heroic and pleasant.