People travel for many reasons. Chickens cross the road to find out why people keep making jokes about them. Sir Edmund Hillary went to the Himalayas because they were there. Dora the explorer’s reasons seem self-explanatory. Over the last couple of years I have travelled a little because I’ve no idea how long I have left on this planet and because I’ve wanted to spend time with old friends.
In a week’s time I shall be in the air above the continent of North America headed for San Francisco, California. When I was younger I felt drawn to San Francisco because it was once the centre of the counter-culture. I’m no hippy, I’m more of a beatnik, which is fine because before SF went all flower power in the sixties it was a favoured hangout of Jack Kerouac. And before Jack had headed a few hours south of the city to hear the waves from on high at Big Sur, Henry Miller spent some years in retreat there.
I’m not following in the footsteps of writers I devoured as a youth, however, nor do I want to replicate that iconic shot of George Harrison strumming a guitar as he strolled along Haight-Ashbury, I am going to meet someone in 3D for the first time.
The woman in question is a friend of friends of mine from Ohio (they used to live in San Francisco) and we connected via social media on Thanksgiving last year. Facebook is the sort of place all manner of connections can be made: some people you share interests with and maybe swap a few stories; some you bond with over politics; some you follow because they have the best cat pics and funny memes.
Sometimes deeper connections can be made despite distance and time zones. When my Californian friend and I began corresponding I don’t think either of us expected it to be any different from the examples cited above and for some months that’s how things were. When I returned from Ohio in March, however, we began to open up to one another and to communicate more often.
In different ways both of us have been seriously challenged by 2017 and quite unexpectedly we have become one another’s greatest confidantes.The support, and trust we have built between us has grown important to me – and to her – over the course of these surprising months.
If we lived closer to one another we would have met up long before now. Perhaps younger folk than I find nothing unusual in people from different countries finding connections almost six thousand miles apart from one another?
Whether is unusual or not, I am travelling across those miles so that we might spend time together actually in the same place for a while. Two weeks isn’t a very long time – finances and health make it tricky for it to be any longer – but it will surely be long enough for us to confirm what we already feel we know about our connection.
Fittingly, I shall be with her for Thanksgiving this year. Wish us well, wish us fun, and join us in spirit in hopefully having a great deal to be very thankful for as an otherwise tough year draws to a close.