Creating A Family of Friends1
Creating A Family of Friends
By Sandy Borden
We all know the golden rule that blood is thicker than water, that family is first and foremost in life. While this is true on many fronts, we also know that as time goes on, our chosen family is ever growing and strengthening. Combine these friends with your given family, and you find yourself truly gifted and loved. Through our travels, we’ve been fortunate enough to forge some amazing bonds, enriching our family of companions and mentors not just for us but for Jack as well. It took this new journey abroad, the idea of traveling into new territory to help us realize just how valuable it is to share ourselves as well as create a global family for our son.
When we closed the door to our little mountain home over a year ago, we were already part of a very strong family unit, some we chose, others chosen for us. Our family of friends had grown and changed over the years but was always there no matter how much time had passed between visits or conversations. We were welcomed into their homes as we made our way south to Mexico, enjoying one last hurrah before another year or so was to pass. There was laughter and hugs, tears and promises of gathering once again upon our return to share stories of life on the road. But, there was one question – Could we forge such relationships with those who did not always speak the same language? Though we had read stories of lifelong friendships forged with nary a word spoken, it was now our time to prove the theory correct.
In early October of 2014, we crossed the Arizona border into mainland Mexico. We had heard all the usual stories – be aware of robbers, don’t let your guard down, the usual array of scare tactic scenarios. What did we actually find? Kindness. Smiles. Genuine laughter and delight. We had entered a country where music and spontaneous gatherings happened daily, where groups of locals ate, talked and danced in the streets to random musicians and 10-piece bands. There was no drinking. There were no street fights or arguments. Everyone was arm in arm, holding each other tight, leaning in to hear the newest story or exploit. And, this was all happening at 11PM almost every night. What we were used to being shown in the states, what we were told was a dangerous and fear driven country was not what we were experiencing. Sure, we could wander down a dark street in a local barrio, but that was looking for the bad in a land that was inherently good. Along our travels in Mexico, we met up with other motorcycle friends, Mike and Shannon, whom we had met many years back. They, too, were off on a grand adventure to experience the world and all she had to offer. We shared their home and food, spending nights circled around the table with maps and highlighters, other friends and travelers joining in on the energy that surrounded our group. This was our first entry into international family waters.
Who knew that our time in Guatemala would bring so many new friends into our circle. A home-stay with a local Mayan family along the shores of Lake Atitlan will stay with all of us always. Even with a 3-year old son and 20-day old daughter, we were welcomed with locally grown and prepared meals at every meal. Chickens and puppies roamed the family compound as we helped care for the little one’s, learning about native life outside of the city. Their children became ours to care for as well. We also found ourselves adopted by the matriarch of the family; she insisted on making our camp chairs her temporary throne during our visit. When it was time to leave, we were given gifts of candles and fabric with promises to use both to keep our tortillas warm upon our return home.
A little house tucked behind a school in Antigua became another on of our homes, each night our hosts bringing out a table and chairs for our nightly swapping of stories and adventures. Cuba Libre’s were the drink of choice as we noshed on plates of goodies, our hosts leaning back in their chairs and taking a long drag of their cigarette with each memory they shared. Their 3 German Shepards quickly made their way into our hearts, making their way through our front door each morning to greet us with a slobbery kiss and waft of the tail. We spent Christmas Eve in their backyard with their friends and family, shooting fireworks into the cool night air to celebrate another holiday come and gone. Can you imagine what kind of heaven this was for a 13-year-old boy? Fireworks AND Christmas?
This kind of scenario was repeated as we made our way through Central America and into Colombia. Our Aussie girl, Mishka, became an instant soul sister and honorary auntie to Jack. I mean, really, how do you explain running into her completely at random not just in one country but in 3!
The hosting tables were turned on us as we stayed with fellow rider and traveler, Alison, and her boyfriend Carlos. Just as we had fed and housed Alison over the years, it was our turn to have the favor returned. She insisted, and, reluctantly, we let her. Alison was going to teach us how to receive as well as give.
BMW riders from most every country would see us riding along and flag us down to make sure we were well taken care of. Did we need anything? Could they point us in a certain direction? Days were spent with our new friends as they showed us around their lovely towns, proud to share in the in the history and culture of their country. Always, food and a local beverage rounded out each day.
It was Claudio and Betty, mom and dad to a Colombian friend back home, that took us in even though I was extremely ill and bed-ridden for a few days. It was the random strangers who saw our confused faces and helped us find lodging and a meal for the night. It was the indigenous men and women of the Andes who always had a relative that owned a hostel or had an extra room in their home. It was almost the entire country of Bolivia taking us by surprise with their extreme kindness and generosity. Memories of Fernet and Coke bring instant grins and a chuckle every time.
It was Jack climbing into a boat along the shores of El Salvador with Tom and Bonin in search of dolphins while Cheryl and I hung on the beach awaiting their return. It’s our new band of brothers and sisters in Brazil who road with us, fed us, insisting we stay though it was time to press on. I believe the emotion of our departure was a little more than some of us could handle. Sure, there were verbal language barriers, but those quickly became a small part of the equation as smiles and warm hugs took over. During our time in Latin America, we had created this family network, securing places to revisit for future travels. Do you know how many doors have opened just in Jack’s world? Multiple offers to host our kiddo came in with most every encounter, all wanting to watch Jack grow and expand his knowledge of their country and lifestyle. Can you even imagine where he will land in the next 5 years?
It takes a person who is willing to let down their personal barriers and beliefs who is willing to open up and be vulnerable that finds such treasures across the borders. Disregard your notions that you will never find people greater than those that bind you by blood or name. Open your mind to new experiences and languages and people. One of the best pieces of advice I received before we left was from our friend, Ken Duval. When I asked how he dealt with new situations, his answer was simple – “Just open up your helmet and give a big smile.” And, you know what, it’s just that easy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some exploring to do and family to embrace.