May 7, 2010
I had leaned my bike against a tree to fix a flat in a little town in Colombia. A small boy wandered up and watched my progress. I glanced up and was taken aback. He wasn't laughing or poking at my bike, or doing any of the typical things kids do. He was just looking at me. Through me. His peaceful facial expression didn't change when I smiled at him. People talk of old souls. This kid had one. I have been entertained and/or annoyed by children all around the world. Rarely have I been transfixed by one.
I remember thinking, "The moment I reach for my camera, that expression will disappear." But it didn't. I took three or four photos and then finished pumping up my rear tire. Kat and I waved goodbye as we pedaled away. He gave a little wave back.
His face haunted me. I found myself thinking about him, in the same way I (and so many others) thought about the "Afghan Girl" in National Geographic. I wanted to know his story. And I wanted to be able to meet him as a grown man and find out where his life's journey had taken him.
It wasn't until two years after I'd taken the photo, that I looked close enough to discover the reflection of Kat and me and our bicycles in his eyes.
Does that little boy remember the encounter? Will he wonder about us when he is a young man, wishing he knew the fate of the bicycle travelers who stopped near his home?
Our travels, our actions and our encounters are reflected in the world around us.
Travel lightly, with wonder, awe and respect.
Photos by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.