We need to take life seriously. We’re all on a one-way ticket that can expire at any moment. We came with nothing, we should leave with nothing. We need to be serious about life. We need to dare to be ourselves.
The thoughts behind those words are not new. Pick up any book on visualisation, actualisation, or realisation and you’ll find the same sentiment couched in self-help rhetoric. But when they wrap up a fascinating account of how two young people finally ran out of excuses and set out in January 2000 to fulfil their dream, they take on new meaning.
Their dream was to drive from Argentina to Alaska in six months. It would take them nearly four years. On a budget of $20 a day, they started out in a vintage car and headed north. Just 55 km into their journey, they ran into trouble. One of their vintage wheels needed specialist attention. As luck would have it, the next town had a blacksmith who knew what was needed. As he did the work, they got to chatting. Herman and Cande Zapp told him about their dream to drive to Alaska. When it came time to pay, he wouldn’t take their money, saying simply that he wanted to be part of their dream.
In a compelling couple of hours last Sunday at Lumen Café, as the Zapps told us their story, we also became part of their dream, a dream that continued beyond Alaska. Before they had set out, friends and family had warned them of the evils that lay ahead. They could be robbed, hurt, even killed. But no one told them that people would help them, take them in, listen to them, teach them, share their worlds with them, and want to share their dream.
A man printed 7000 calendars using their photos for them to sell one Christmas. Another shipped their car from Central to North America. Some others clubbed together to buy them much-needed new tyres for their car. In North Carolina, expecting their first child, they were inundated with strollers and car seats. In Costa Rica, they glued the covers on their hastily printed book at a table at an international book fair as they autographed and sold copies to pay for petrol. No one asked for money. No one asked for anything more than to be part of their dream. The stories, all told with humble appreciation for the good in the world, mounted up.
And while at face value, it might seem as if the Zapps are the ones to be grateful for all the kindnesses others have shown them, I think the reverse is true.
Just 16 years into this new millennium, our world is a pessimistic one. We are wary of each other, distrustful, constantly on our guard. We expect the worst to happen and so inevitably it does. We are too proud to ask for help and too often deny others the opportunity to do us good, to show us kindness. We are so mired in a subsistence reality of our own making that we have forgotten how to dream.
Some might wonder at the sanity of staying on the road with four children. Some might question what those children are missing in terms of formal education and stability. Some might look askance at the idea of asking for help for what to a cynic might seem to essentially be to fund a whim. But the short time I spent in their company convinced me that the world needs people like the Zapps to restore our faith in human nature, to remind us of the innate goodness of people, and to spark the dreams inside us that have lain dormant for far too long. We are our dream.
First published in the Budapest Times 13 May 2016