On March 20, 2018 I lost my best friend Jeff Brown unexpectedly. It’s been a trying time to say the least, remembering all the good times. There are so many way to memorialize or speak about Jeff, but Jeff was the ultimate influence on my travel experiences, which I am grateful for.
Jeff was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that essentially makes your muscles weaker and weaker, day by day. We met in high school in an English class. He pulled his wheel chair right next to me, and we’ve basically been friends ever since.
Our travels together started closer to home. We’d go on day trips to places like museums, downtown San Diego, or Joshua Tree. We eventually started to do weekend or over night trips to San Francisco, Yosemite, Sacramento, and Santa Barbara. These were amazing times. We were young, had lots of support from our parents, and no worries in the world.
All of these trips were initiated by Jeff, every single one. I’ve been to most or all the places he approached me about visiting, so it wasn’t my personal top priority. I was agnostic about travel at that time. However, I was happy to accommodate for Jeff physically, and just enjoy spending the time with my friend. Ultimately, I was traveling for the sake of Jeff.
The real turning point into my outlook on travel came in 2005 while on our tour farther from home, Ireland and The Netherlands. Originally I agreed to go, like always, for Jeff, but Europe was fresh for me. Here I found sights, sounds, smells, and cultures that were exciting and fulfilling. Amsterdam was especially notable as it was the place I thought about the possibilities of living and working overseas.
Unfortunately, this Europe trip would be Jeff’s first and last major overseas excursion. The physical demands of long flights proved challenging for Jeff, something we experienced on our return flight. However we did manage more trips closer to home. Fishing out of La Paz, Mexico was a highlight. Jeff was also with me, in a way, on many of my trips; I have countless emails from him asking for updates while I was traveling. He had so many questions.
Without that unforgettable two weeks in Europe I would not be here in Oman writing this from the back of my Land Cruiser. Originally I traveled for Jeff, then he showed me that travel can be more. It was his adventurous spirit and determination that rubbed off on me, showing the way.
Today I am blessed to take that spirit with me all over the world and Oman. I travel to see and experience cultures, people, and places that are on the edges of popularity. I want to see it for myself, not through the lens of a guide.
It’s clear why I travel, this whole blog is devoted to that, but why do you travel? What do you like to have, see, or do while traveling? Let me know in the comments below.
There are so many stories I can tell about our experiences together, but I think the excerpt from my speech given at Jeff’s celebration of life is a good one:
Now let’s move forward to our next adventurous leap. Europe 2005. Jeff, Matt (Jeff’s cousin), and I spent two weeks visiting Ireland and the Netherlands. We had to figure out how to bring Jeff’s ever growing entourage of equipment along with us. But we did it, and had a great time along the way. In Ireland we visited churches and said our prayers. We ate horrible fish and chips. Viewed the famous Ring of Kerry. Drank a pint or two at St. Jame’s Gate and Temple Bar.
In Amsterdam we again visited church to say our prayers. I lost count to the number of churches we visited. We went to the red li…… ummmmm. We visited the Van Gough Museum. Jeff ate a whole box of….. ummm, never mind ….. then we went to the coffee shop and…..
Matt (speaking to Matt in the audience), do you have any stories we CAN tell?…. There was that church we prayed at….? Look, I won’t turn this into a roast….
I’ve got one, Jeff had a hankering for Indonesian food. What’s Indonesian Food? We had no idea at the time, but we went for it anyway. We asked the concierge for a recommendation, who promptly sent us across town to find the best Indo joint. It maybe took 40 minutes to reach and a bit of maneuvering to access the tram, but these three goofballs made it to the front door. Mind you, this was before iPhone and google maps.
Beyond the front door was a set of stairs like no other. No landing, no turns, and as tall as jack’s bean stalk. After a discussion of our options and a few choice profane words directed towards the concierge who sent us to the restaurant at the top of the world, we decided we didn’t come all the way to the Netherlands to eat Dutch food. Step by step, Matt and I hauled Jeff up to the world’s best Indonesian Resturant at the top of Mt. Everest.
What’s great about this story is it isn’t the adventure of overcoming dutch sized stairs, or trying unique curry. Rather it’s a story about Jeff’s fearlessness in allowing two goofballs to carry him DOWN those obnoxious stairs, all while heavily under the influence of Asia’s finest beer.
Look, I can’t stand up here and make meaning of Jeff’s life or give you peace in his absence. But I can stand here and tell you that Jeff lived an adventurous, amazing, rich, complete, and joyful life.
Jeff, I miss you greatly and I hope one day to join you on your new adventure. I just hope it’s not too soon. There’s more to see in Oman, and I’m not done yet.