Once in a while I meet a person who has a profound impact on me. Larry the hitchhiker is one. Don't get me wrong, I have met many wonderful people whom I hope to have lasting friendships with and I don't wish to belittle our interactions by any means. Sometimes though, your path crosses with someone who changes your outlook on life forever.
Larry is a 35 year old divorcee who got tired of his desk job and decided to head to the Everglades from Kansas...on foot! He was tired of feeling like he was trapped, sold all his belongings and said so long to his friends and family, not knowing if he would return. He is almost completely off the grid. He has no phone or watch and only checks in when he passes a library to let them know he is still alive. I thought I had made a simple life for myself living in a van and then I meet someone like him who has chosen the most basic way of traveling. What I was considering roughing it was luxury to him. Perked coffee instead of instant, drinking from a mug and having fresh vegetables in a meal was a real treat for him and I was happy to share.
We talked for hours about the way the media presents the world verses how we have experienced it. We shared stories on the generosity and hospitality of complete strangers and how amazing it is that people are so trusting. We gabbed and gabbed about the lives and friends we left behind and what we hope for our future. Then we would travel in silence watching the towns whiz by. He was always up for doing anything or nothing at all, appreciating both equally. Nothing seemed to bother him and we traveled together like we were old friends. We also shared the same feelings of sincerely wanting to remain single. Neither one of us are bitter about love or relationships, I truly do love love, but both understand that our nomadic choices do not include another person. It was especially nice for me to not have to worry about the awkwardness that sometimes comes from hanging with guys. We were just friends. It was wonderful.
We had a great last day together in Gibsonton where we had breakfast and then sat by a river basking in the sun for most of the day. In the evening we went to a chili cook-off at the towns fair. I was to head east to my fathers and him, south. I drove him to the edge of town where we hugged and said our goodbyes then he disappeared into the woods. As I drove away I could feel a real sense of loss and got a bit teary eyed. This was partly because I knew I may never see him again and partly because he was off on another adventure and mine was coming to a stop for a while. I miss him but I know this is how things go on the road. Paths cross and then diverge but I am left with wonderful memories.