We had quite a few things in common with Bob from the get go. First of all, he is old, (even older than us if you can imagine!). He is Canadian. And he is a non-smoker. He also was crazy enough to be doing the full 82-day trip! But the most amazing thing about Bob, we soon learned, was that he had been travelling around the world four to six months at a time for the last six years — and after all of that, he still had a smile on his face and was looking forward to any kind of adventure Dragoman could throw his way. And I have to say with complete honesty and admiration, that the smile never left his face all through our trip in India. Even through all of the — shall we say — trying experiences that I described (in detail) on the pages of this blog, even through all of the interpersonal reality show like drama on and off the bus, Bob was always the positive glue that kept us all connected and grounded.
I often had to ask myself if he could possibly be human. No one could be that positive and so genuine.
But when you hear the stories he has to tell about his experiences around the world (and personally see them happening in real time), the connections he has made and the unique encounters he has had, you can see that he is — very human and very special. It became my goal to learn from this man. Be more open, I tell myself. Be nicer to people, if I can. Take chances. Believe in people. It is impossible to be as good as Bob, but we should all try, because life according to Bob, is so full it overflows.
As I mentioned, Bob spends part of each year traveling around the world. When he retired at 55 after a successful career as a high school teacher (literature was his subject), and after some time volunteering his services to a variety of causes, he decided to take advantage of his good health and prepared to see the world. When he is not travelling, he spends most of his time at his cottage on Lake Huron; two hours drive from Kitchener, Ontario. When we said our tearful farewells in Bagdogra, India in February 2012, we promised to rendezvous at “Bob’s Place” in July. And that is exactly what we did!
Bob picked us up at the bus station in Kitchener, and we spent the two-hour drive to the cottage catching up on the last few days of the Dragoman trip (Marc and I left the trip a few days early), Bob’s trip to Hong Kong and the rest of our adventure in Southeast Asia. Bob, of course, had been to all of the countries we visited this trip, so there were many notes to compare and experiences to share. Before we knew it we had arrived at “Bob’s Place” nestled among the trees, on the rocky beaches of Lake Huron. I had to laugh when I saw the sign. We all thought he was kidding when he called his cottage “Bob’s Place”. But there it was, the sign at the entrance to his drive way. “Bob’s Place” indeed!
True to his persona, Bob was the best host anyone could hope for. He had all of our meals planned to be as quick (but of course healthy and delicious) and easy as possible so that we were not wasting precious time on food preparation. He had tentative plans for outings each day and even a selection of movies (all based in countries we had already travelled in or want to travel to!) to keep us entertained each evening. And we of course sat outside each night to see the sun set over Lake Huron. Bob was quick to tell us that National Geographic has rated the sunsets over Lake Huron to be the most beautiful in the world and we definitely agree.
After 70 odd days together through sickness and health, endless 12 hour bus trips over harrowing roads, mystic experiences in India’s holy sites, private city tours in Calcutta, climbing mountains in Kerala, dining together on the beaches of Goa, tiger sightings in Bandhavgarh (and the harrowing jeep ride afterwards) and endless other shared experiences — Bob is family. He didn’t let us leave without a promise that we will be back next summer, this time for a longer stay, so that we can fit in an overnight canoe trip and a long hike or two. We promised him we would be back — and really, how can we stay away? Because being with Bob is, well, not only enjoyable, entertaining and educational, but always an inspiration!