Europe N to S: Sunshine (8/18/16)

Total Miles: 21.6

Total Miles: 1,091.2

Near Grannes, Norway – August 18, 2016

A family gives me a ride out of Tärnaby, the first of three I’ll need to reach the trail again. I squeeze into the back seat with my pack, trying not to bother their young daughter who sits next to me listening to music in her headphones.

I’d waited by the road for a few hours before they picked me up. I saw lots of polite smiles and averted eyes. My beard is growing too rough for most people to stop. 

The father tells me they are originally from Ecuador, but have lived in Sweden for a long time. His English is better than my Spanish, but we switch back and forth between the two, finding common ground to share our stories. 

I think about what it must have been like to leave Ecuador for Sweden, how that first winter must have shocked, how you’d have to have a good reason to leave your world behind. I think about my own grandparents piling everything they could fit in a car and driving onto a ferry to leave their lives behind in Cuba. I think of how they sacrificed all to give their children a better chance at life, how their grandson can only speak broken Spanish and only tell the story secondhand, but never forgets what they did for him. How he only stands here, privileged and free to walk across a continent because of their courage long ago. 

It feels good to speak Spanish even as I stumble through verb tenses and misplace words at the fringe of my memory. It makes me think of childhood visits to my abuela, of the smell of arroz con pollo simmering on the stove, of learning that recipe long ago. It reminds me of home, not in the sad, longing way where you feel an emptiness inside you, but in a warm, happy way where you feel life filling your chest. 

We say goodbye at a road junction. They wish me luck and I wave as they drive away. I stand by the road, waiting for the next ride back to the trail, the taste of my grandmother’s kitchen lingering in my mind, a smile on my lips, sunshine in my heart.  

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