Wednesday, September 2, 2015
My dear former wife and I were shopping for a travel vehicle in New Zealand many years ago. A delightful Kiwi named Andrew had picked us up hitch-hiking the previous day and given us a ride to Christchurch on the South Island where he lived and dropped us off at the youth hostel. It had become painfully apparent that hitch-hiking was going to be very difficult on the sparsely populated South Island of New Zealand where a car only comes by once an hour on some roads and once a day on the metal (gravel) back roads. I imagine things have changed in the past 25 years but back then It didn’t matter that you were traveling with a cute blonde woman. It took forever to hitch-hike anywhere. So Andrew volunteered to pick us up the following day and drive us around Christchurch to look at cars. After looking at a Volkswagen Camper van that was too expensive and a cute Morris Minor woody station wagon that was a tad cramped and historically unreliable we arrived at the next driveway in our car buying tour. It turned out that Andrew was quite adept at car buying and the bargaining process so I gladly let him take the lead. He explained to me that I was never going to see any of these people again in my life so not to feel bad if he took advantage of them in the bargaining process. I still felt a tad guilty as he bargained his way down to 1300 New Zealand dollars ($800 U.S.) for the older Toyota van that we eventually ended up buying. The depressed looking musician we bought it from had to sell his drums and band equipment separately as well. His girlfriend was pregnant and expecting a new baby any day. The van that he had used to drive the band equipment around was no longer needed. Andrew was not correct about not seeing any of the people in the future. We ran into the folks who were selling the VW van a few months later in Bangkok, Thailand. It helped that they were a blonde Swedish couple that stood a foot taller than the Thai foot traffic on the sidewalk, but still quite an amazing coincidence. And while you will likely never see 99.99% of the people you meet on the road of life in a foreign country, it can be quite delightful when you happen to run into the other .01% later. And today with the internet it is even easier to stay in touch with people while you are on the road. I no longer mail traditional postcards and letters from the road. (Although I made a valiant effort while I was in jail). Postcards and letters were the only method of travel communication a few decades ago.(Getting an operator and making a call from India if you didn’t speak Hindi was out of the question even if you could afford the astronomical rates back then). I hardly wrote letters back then. It was difficult and cost money. Whereas this story took fifteen minutes to write and one click to post on the internet for thousands of people to read.