Two years ago, I walked across Europe in a brand-new pair of Converse sneakers. Though they provided me with (what seemed like) innumerable blisters, they also gave me a myriad of memories. As I traveled through each country, I asked at least one person to sign my shoes—someone who stood out to me as unforgettable. In many of the countries I visited, it was impossible to choose just one person to sign them. And by the end of my trip, not only did I have over 50 signatures on my “new” shoes, I had even more memories to go with each one.
Each person who signed my shoes influenced my life in some way. From that journey, I learned that one person can stick out in your mind forever because of your experience with him or her—like Beat in Switzerland, who showed me how to fly and see the world, if only through paragliding; or a kind street vendor in Prague, who knew seven languages and was surprised to learn that I knew only one. Even the people I traveled with became close friends and taught me life lessons—like Phil, who was not afraid to serenade us in Italian on the gondola ride, even though he couldn’t speak a lick of Italian.
When all is said and done, all you have left are your memories—and whateveryou did to help preserve them. The capacity to remember is one of the greatest gifts we have as humans. Memories give each of us the ability to unlock emotions and find new ways of learning. For me, those signatures on my shoes are a reminder to break out of my comfort zone, try new things, and meet new people. They remind me of the importance of face-to-face interactions and of the impact a single person can have.
As you peruse this issue of Stowaway, you will read about a mother who advocated change and equality for many people, even while coping with the death of her daughter. You will travel across the United States with two cyclists who not only accomplished their extreme cycling dream, but also had an unforgettable experience and met extraordinary people along the way. You will journey into the mind of a Nepalese boy as he recounts his experience with his mother at the Boudhanath Stupa. As you read the experiences and memories of others, I encourage you to explore new cultures and countries, new cities and states. Visit the lovely city of Montréal. Learn what it means to CouchSurf. Create a life worth living and a memory worth reliving.
Remember that no matter where you go, what you learn, or who you meet, your travel experiences will benefit you nothing if you forget what you’ve done and learned. Use Stowaway as a springboard to explore, dream, and discover—then go and create memorable adventures of your own.