The trip began with the waterfall hike, which was a steep uphill climb through the mud on a hot, sticky day. The wise tourists stopped partway up at some pools where you could go swimming, but Yony and I were determined to reach the top, and I was trying with all my might and main to keep up with his faster pace. I was tired and uncertain of my footing, so I didn’t follow Yony to one of the viewing areas that looked difficult to reach. Because, you see, I was being careful. We eventually made it to the top and took some photos.
Soon after we started the climb down, I rounded a corner, slipped (whether on mud or slick rock, we will never know), and took a very bad fall down the slope. Yony was behind me, and from his perspective, I might as well have fallen off a cliff–I had fallen out of view and he had no idea how far I might have tumbled.
Luckily for me, I stopped at the bottom of that particular slope where the path veered to the right and didn’t continue on past the trail. Otherwise, I might not be writing this today. I was okay except for an extremely muddy backside…and a very injured ankle. And remember, we were still at the very top of trail, in Thailand where, as far as we knew, there was little chance of outside aid.
We walked down that mountain together, Yony and I. He encouraged me onwards, he helped me past the narrow and slippery bits, I leaned on his shoulder as I limped downwards, every step sending pain shooting up my leg. I held it together for him, and he held it together for me, and after an endless walk, we reached the bottom.
When you travel with someone, you get to know them. Yony and I got to know each other better that day. He saw my levelheadedness in a crisis (one of the first things I did was to ask for the ibuprofen in our backpack), my determination, and my courage. I saw his devotion, his strength, and his patience. He realized how he’d feel if he lost me, and I learned how to trust him more than I had before. That day we became a team.
Of course, it’s not only through travel that we get to know people. We learn more about people by facing adversity together. Through grief and disappointment, hardship and disagreement, conflict and fear, we get to see deeper inside. We get to share the parts of a person that are weak, fearful, that make mistakes and have regrets. I said last week that travel can make or break a friendship, but in the bigger picture, it is those hard times and the hurt places within us that will test a relationship. And upon being tested, that relationship may fracture, fail, or grow stronger than ever before.