My houseguest of two nights (and 40 consecutive hours) just pedaled away. And I confess to having feelings of both relief and freedom. Who would have ever thought that I would be so majorly pleased in seeing a man with such immense experience in world travel, the rough uncatered off-the-map kind, ride away?

His presence in my house was really not such a totally unsatisfying experience but I deleted my warmshowers.org account this morning just the same. And for the record, my biggest disagreement with the guy was that things in my house tended to have gotten done his way while he was my guest; in that (and most things) he demonstrated a surprising lack of flexibility.

Overall he was a pretty cool guy. We are talking about a 42 year old Italian who has been pedaling all the way from Argentina. Two and a half years of bicycling; taking his time, not in a hurry. In fact twelve years of constant travel. Africa. South America. India.

The man was not a poser. He looked at a few of my photographs and quickly identified them. ‘That’s Balsa’ (the overland gateway between Peru and Ecuador). ‘That’s Cajamarca’ (Peru). ‘That’s Leimebama’ (a very small town in N. Peru). So the guy was the real deal.

After a couple of hours of listening to his so many fascinating tales of travel it got me thinking about travel. As in the nature of travel. Specifically, the nature of non-ending travel. Which could almost be viewed as compulsive travel.

I can’t say that I’ve ever met someone before who has been on the road – [not to mention] the international road – for twelve freaking years. A couple of years maybe and I’ve heard/read of those people who’ve been traveling for maybe seven or eight years. But twelve? And if this fellow is any what typical of his clan then unsurprisingly they pick up some traits that can seem somewhat peculiar to their lesser traveled brethren.

But my intentions are not to throw rocks at the guy but rather to ponder these next few days (weeks) over the nature of restless nomads such as himself.

I’ve flittered around a bit myself, to the tune that I also fit into a very narrow demographic band of traveler. The small slice of common ground that this Italian traveler and I share especially gave me pause; enough to make me wonder after those travelers that fall so far out onto the fringe as to be almost unrecognizable.

I discovered that apart from the fact that we’d both been to some of the same places – and he had some gray hair like me – that we mostly had absolutely nothing in common.
And it was my observation that this man liked biking (especially in wilderness places) but didn’t so much like traveling (yup).

He, just like me, has a problem with noise. But unlike me, he recently got punched in the face (twice) by a German woman in a Quito hotel for asking/arguing with her to turn her music down. Curious, the anger we can summon at the most inopportune of times.

After many hours and several conversations on diverse subjects it became my opinion that travel for him had become an almost unbreakable habit. From my place here in Mexico he started out riding north this morning in the direction of Guadalajara. They have some sort of international bicycling organization with an attached hostel where he intends to crash for a couple of weeks before continuing his bike ride north up through California and beyond. As I said before, he’s in no hurry.

Then it’s Mongolia next summer, then Southeast Asia for the next two years. Then Italy. Maybe. As he told me, there is really nothing back in Italy for him; the economy is in the toilet and one needs a network to get either a job or a decent apartment.

I’ve talked to many people over the years that would like to disappear, go on the road, and leave their predictably mundane lives far behind. But sometimes it is far better to go on dreaming then it is to overtake the full substance of that dream.

As for me, it was a pleasure to have met this man. But it was a singular pleasure and one that I don’t need to repeat.

PS – Ernani: Although I wouldn’t want to be on your road, I wish you well. Best wishes, safe rides and happy trails, amigo.

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