"Out traveling I have met some of the most wonderful, friendly people in the world. Like musical notes, they sounded in my life with unutterable beauty and left a great poignancy when they were gone. I have learned as much from an acquaintance of nine minutes as I have learned from other relationships of nine years.

Yet there is a sadness that lingers from travel. All those good-byes to old friends, to new friends, to five-minute friends, to two-day friends. Travel, as life, is always full of good-byes. . . travel itself has mellowed my life and let me loosen my hold on others. It has taught me to let my hand open for the swans to come and feed and also to fly away." Jan Haag, "Last Minute Terror" quoted in Travelers' Tales: A Woman's World collected and edited by Marybeth Bond

One of the changes that has happened with us on this journey is our approach to people. We have become (we think) good intuitive judges of like minds and character--and because we are on the move, we act on it quickly. We cherish every moment with a new friend, every scrap of news from an old friend, and approach each new or renewed relationship with an odd intensity.

We value old friends and family left behind--especially those who write. This trip has caused us to renew some old, seemingly lost friendships and strengthened existing ones. And it has also caused us to lose others.

But we have also made several interesting friends in very short periods of time as we move along our trail. Some we think we'll be soul-partners with for a long time to come, some we will stay in touch with for a while, and some we will lament the loss of contact by the time we get home. Already some have become e-mail partners. Others we will see again before we get home.

It is people--all of them--who make up the tapestry of proper travel. From a shy child glimpsed behind his mother's skirts to the people (especially women) from we felt like we'd known all of our lives after only 10 minutes.

It comes from people who have gone out of their way to host us. From old friends to new ones.

It comes from the kindness of people (was Blanche DuBoise right? The "kindness of strangers" can be a miraculous and life-giving thing.) who have helped us through tough times emotionally--like Joan in Bangkok who threw the I-Ching, let us cry and counseled each of us as we moved through our first passage of true change. Or Moira from England who infected us with her intellect, good cheer and wise counsel on travel and life in general. Fiona (Australian) who became an adopted "daughter," showed us the good food stalls and night bazaar shops in Chaing Mai, taught the girls the song "My Highland Goat" to keep them entertained on long train, bus and truck rides and was always smiling. Or Margie and June (Australian) who treated us to a day at the pool in their upscale hotel in Bangkok, just because we looked like we needed it. Or Sorn and Da (Thais) who took us in for life on the Soi and our Bangkok Christmas. (When Cassidy says she wants to go home, half the time she means she wants to go back to Sorn and Da's).

Or those who helped us in tough material times like Joe (Indian) in Bombay who made sure we got out of our hotel room to see some sights, and helped us find a way to cash a check so we would not only have some money for our next stop, but would ensure that I could keep my father's "good luck" $20 bill and still check out of the hotel. Or Achal and Anika Kakkar (Indian) of the Hotel Aravali in Alwar who insisted that we not pay our hotel bill until our journey is done, opened their home to us, let us stay in our hotel room until nearly midnight at no extra charge, and then gave us a bag of food for the road and took us to the train station. And innumerable travelers who offered to cash checks or give us loans--although we'd only know them a few hours--when we discussed the vagaries of the ATM system and how tough it was to get money when we needed it.

It is people who just took an interest in us, our travels and adventures even for only a few minutes. People who allowed us into their lives for little off-hand glimpses, or more intimate pictures. People who shared what their lives are like in the country we were visiting, or fellow travelers who gave us stories not only of themselves but of their lives and adventures in places we may never visit.

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