• Feet DanglingPublius Syrus said, “An agreeable companion on a journey is as good as a carriage.” In other words, the travel partner makes the trip. And while my wife makes that true for me in the journey of life, I’m not so sure her accompaniment to New Zealand’s jump zones would have been equally true. I wish I’d had a ten spot for every time I got asked if she accompanied me Down Under, because the bungy jump would’ve been paid in cash.

    Crystal doesn’t dig danger. She doesn’t relax with adrenaline. She doesn’t do heights. She wouldn’t have flown half way around the world for a destination without a beach or missionary. And she didn’t have vacation time available—let alone two weeks’ worth.

    I could build the dream of this vacation alone, but I couldn’t live that dream fully without a partner in crime. While there’s a short list of people with whom I’d have enjoyed the trek, I only really had one other person in mind.

    Timmy.

    Timothy Caleb George, that is, my only brother and one of my favorite accomplices. He was the brother I didn’t want until he arrived, yet the 9-year-old best man at my wedding—an unlikely friend “closer than a brother.”

    A high school junior now, a cabin-fevered home schooler in a town with only a single stop light—a blinking one no less, Timmy had flown only once before: to my townhouse in Indiana. Timmy had never seen a foreign country other than a van ride into Canada. His world had been relatively small against his will, even if not on purpose. He’d never talked to me about travel, just a longing for more than Massey, MD.

    I wanted to fulfill at least some of that—for all of my siblings, not just Timmy. But this was a chance to open the world to Timmy and Timmy to the world . . . before he got to college, before he got tied down to a fianceé—while he was still writing his personal definition. I knew that, if travel quickened him as much at it has me, that this might be a once-in-a-lifetime event. And I might get to witness it first hand.

    I watched Timmy a lot during the trip—more like a series of curious peeks. I wanted to absorb more than what I typically “osmose” in instant messages and half-attentive phone conversations across five hours of driving. But I gave him his space, treated him like an equal as much as possible—even let him roam the streets and shops without me. No buddy system, no accountable cell phone, just intrepid freedom 10,000 miles from home.

    I cracked about the legal documents that said I was his temporary legal guardian, and I probably said more parent-hewn phrases than he deserved. But I think we managed to relate as brothers. The debates proved few and short and benign, the laughs abundant. I let him into my life and junk and short list of regrets, and he gave me a sliver of his reality.

    He lives where most teenage guys do, in the middle of the transition away from his parents and toward his peers. I wanted to make sure I listed on the latter—to prove that, even though my advice often rings similar to Dad’s, I was neither an informant for the dark side nor a double agent. Nothing says “I’m here for you,” like an expense-paid trip 16 time zones from his soybean-field, algebra-in-the-living-room boredom.

    It must have worked. I caught a couple glimpses into sweet success during our last day there. He told me that, after seeing New Zealand, he wanted to see more of the world. “I want to travel.” We talked about what would be next and what would be last on our must-do lists . . . safaris, polar explorations, cities. “I like city life,” he told me, “all the different people.” Auckland had a convert.

    I think I did, too.

    We were recording with pensive eyes out the window of the courtesy van from the rental agency en route to the airport. Like me, he was probably trying to seer The Remarkables and the quick-burned memories of the past 11 days—all the way into the subconscious. I was afraid I would lose the feelings, the lessons, even the nondescript smell. I don’t know what he thought, just what escaped to audible.

    “I’m going to miss this place.”

    “Me, too, Tim. Me, too.”

    This entry was posted on Saturday, February 10th, 2007 at 11:00 pm and is filed under Explorience. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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