was hot and sweaty as I heaved my boots up the giant stones of the Inca Trail. I looked up toward the highest point we would reach on the trail—Dead Woman’s Pass at 12,500 feet. This was the hardest day of the trek—or not, depending on how you looked at it. Tomorrow we had to tackle the killer Gringo Steps descending into the valley. I wasn’t sure which was worse, going up or going down. All I knew was that I was having a ball—celebrating my ten-year anniversary with my husband and accomplishing one of our lifelong dreams, hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru.
On this adventure of a lifetime, I fell in love. But not with Kerry. I was already in love with him, and this anniversary trip gave us much-needed time away to celebrate. But as we joined the twenty or so hikers who were part of our group, I fell in love . . . with our international travel mates. Hailing from Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Wales, England, and the United States, we were an eclectic group, for sure. When we got in our sleeping bags the first night, Kerry and I laughed quietly at how different we seemed from the rest of the crew. We were definitely the elders of the bunch; most of the others were in their twenties, passionately politically liberal, and seemingly amoral in their religious beliefs, if they had any at all. Yet, despite our differences, we felt a tight bond and affinity with them.
Travelers share a common DNA. They are usually sojourners in search of meaning, memories, and adventure. I think of the people I met at the Christian youth hostel in Amsterdam where I worked one summer in college. They were fascinating, open-minded folks who were seeking new experiences, enjoying the differences in others, and often searching for the spiritual significance of life. These, I discovered, were my kind of people.
As the trip to Machu Picchu drew to a close, I felt a burning desire to start a Christian youth hostel. Winding through the streets of Cusco in a cab, I mentioned this idea to Kerry. He smiled. It wasn’t a joke. I was serious. I wanted to open a place on the order of Gladys Aylward’s in China in the 1930s. At her Inn of the Sixth Happiness, she fed and housed travelers and told them about Jesus after supper each evening.
Change of Plans
If you live in North Arlington, Virginia, where we live, you know that residential neighborhoods are not zoned for youth hostels. So my passionate proposition was really dead on arrival, and Kerry and I both knew that. He said, “We can’t have a youth hostel, but at least you have hostile youth.”
Not one year later, another exciting opportunity to interact with international travelers—and actually live overseas—presented itself. Here was my chance! My heart raced at the thought. To prepare to move, I began weeding out old medicines from the bathroom cabinet. But then, as quickly as it came, the opportunity changed, and we were staying in the United States . . . in Arlington . . . in our very house with the now winnowed-out bathroom closet.
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