A great and terrible consequence of the nomadic life is that for each place you visit, you must make new friends or die of loneliness. The further we travel, the further we come from the social norms to which we are accustomed. I feared that it would become increasingly difficult to make friends. I worry no more, thanks to Don Kendrick.
Don and I met at Burning Man 2010. I’ve described him earlier on this blog as a grease-monkey cowboy with a propensity for bodily harm. We were instantly attracted to each other and spent a few magical days exploring the desert. Returning to the US a year later, I’ve now spent several weeks with Don.
What fascinates me about our friendship is that it exists at all!
Don is a Christian; I am an agnostic. Don does not believe in evolution; I believe it is one of the most beautiful scientific breakthroughs of our civilization. He votes republican; I vote for the liberal or environmental parties. He thinks the tea party is a force for good; I believe they are at best misguided and at worst evil. He refutes that humankind is causing global warming; I believe it is proven beyond reasonable doubt. He believes Fox News to be ‘fair and balanced’; I call their reporters a bunch of manipulative demagogues. Don believes that the public have a right to arms; I want to live in a society with as few guns as possible.
Let me save some time and bandwidth. Don believes x; I believe ¬x.
(I should point out that Don does listen to the other side of the arguments [e.g. the liberal news shows] far more than I do, and in this, he puts me to shame. The fact remain that he and I come to wildly different conclusions on most things.)
This is not where I will cop out and say that everyone is right ‘in a way’ or that everyone’s views are equally correct. I believe Don is flat-out wrong on each of the points above. The point is that this did not stop us from becoming the greatest of friends.
I adore Don. I’ve never met a man with greater strength of character and integrity. He is a loving, kind and generous man. His personality is complex, multi-faceted and deep. He is admirably adventurous and free-spirited. I envy the way that he is present in every moment. I love the way he talks and plays with his dogs. He is practical with both feet firmly on the ground, yet emotional and spiritual. In short, he is a man that I am proud to call a friend, and to hell with his political ideas. We differ, but not in ways that matter for whether or not we can respect each other and be friends. We can and we do.
Here is the punch line. If you want to be a nomad, then you must be able to make friends in the places you visit. If you can only make friends with those you already share an ideological background, then your destinations are very limited. You might just as well stay home, for you will never be able to explore new cultures if you can’t make friends there.
This goes beyond just exploring the alternative views and lives of others. My friendship with Don has been one of the most rewarding in my life because he has revealed new sides of my own personality. He pushed me to compete in the rodeo and he introduced me to country-western dancing, to mention only a couple of things that I am grateful to Don for. Perhaps it is only when we make unusual friends that we make new discoveries, both external and internal.
Don has been a perfect guide, and it is thanks to him that I‘ve seen Mono Lake, the ghost town Bodie, Lake Tahoe and Palms Springs. The last place he took me before we bid adieu was Big Bear, a gorgeous mountain town. We spent a night in a cosy little cabin, and during the day we drove in search of Don’s old family cabin lost somewhere in the wood. I loved the mountain scenery with its crystal blue lakes, and thought I’d share those pictures below. Enjoy.