Meet Theresa. She is a 55 year old woman from Ontario, Canada who just recently retired and decided to travel the world. I met her as I was hiking today on Mountain Nebo. Conversation arose just after I was scaling down a winded, rocky path. From which I had started to slip and fall just as she was passing on the trail a few feet below me. It was as if out of no where I heard, “Oh, be careful now!” in an accent that was incredibly unfamiliar to me. Not paying much attention, I quickly hollered back that I was okay when I glanced up and saw a tall, slender woman dressed in your typical hiking tank and boots, accessorized with a black backpack and water bottle. It took no time for me to notice that she was by herself.
“Are you by yourself?” I asked, out of breath and frankly- out of shape.
“Yes, actually I am on my way to Muskogee and decided to make a pit stop.”
Over the course of the next twenty minutes, me and my friend questioned and admired all that this woman had ventured to do just within the last 5 months. I was in awe at how she nonchalantly stated that she had just retired and decided to travel first the United States then Europe starting in mid-November. She began to elaborate how she is from Canada, retired from her job in California, and set off across the United States. For thirteen years she sat at a desk which she then stated “felt like shackles.”
At this point I really began to tune in to what she was saying. I shared with her how it was shocking that on her journey across this country she decided to make a pit stop in my home town. A town that is so often regarded as “small”, “a good-bye town”, and “boring.” To this she responded that, “Arkansas is such a hidden treasure.” After several more question and moments of bewilderment, I finally got up the courage to ask her why; what her purpose for leaving her security blanket behind, and deciding to explore vast amount of the world. Her response?
“Me and my boyfriend actually had plans to explore the Ozarks and much of the rest of the world but now he is dead.”
Just like that. She so abruptly dropped this heart-breaking news with a slight giggle, as if she did not quite believe this news herself. If I reflect on this exact moment, I am sure she saw my facial expression go from intrigue and happy to heartbroken and the beginning of tears. Here I was, meandering along and admiring this woman’s spontaneity when in reality, she’s enduring adventures meant to be spent with the man she loved. And in doing so, she was sporting a smile and a positive attitude that was contagious.
Let me just add a side note that I could have talked to Ms. Theresa all day. We exchanged apps that aid in the traveling experience and she quickly gave me a few tips from her experience thus far (I had previously told her that I intend to travel as well). Trying to be polite, I wrapped up our conversation by asking what she intended to do after she finished traveling, or did she plan to live the nomadic lifestyle from here on out.
Her response was,” I have no home, no job, and my boyfriend is dead. I have family all over that I have not really gotten a chance to visit so after all of this, I guess I will just buy a van. I don’t really have much to go back to. I am figuring things out as I go and I am not really sure where I go from here.”
Yet again, I stood frozen in shock and amazement. To endure such adversity yet still be able to have the courage to try something new, is inspiring to say the least. Quite often have I ventured up the mountain for many reasons, but never have I left with such an eye-opening experience. That whole cliche of “Life is short, Live it to the fullest”? Yeah, not so much of a cliche after all. After this unexpected conversation, I realize the true value in many things. For instance, tell people how you feel while you have the chance. Perhaps the biggest risk is not telling someone how you feel while you still have the chance. Also, take time for yourself. If someday you wake up and you are 55 with nothing to lose (or everything to lose) and you aren’t happy, make the necessary changes. Even if that means those changes are scary as can be. Take every opportunity to network and strike up conversations with a welcomed face…You never know how much perspective you will gain. Last but not least, always enjoy God’s creation. That, in itself, is life changing.