Editor’s Note: Everett Redus, 21, of Baytown, Texas, now one of four surviving brothers, will travel south to Patagonia next week, carrying and spreading the ashes of his slain older brother, Cameron, a senior honors student at the University of Incarnate word who was fatally shot by a campus policeman outside his off-campus apartment on December 6, 2013. The Rivard Report has invited Everett to publish periodic dispatches as he makes his way south and awaits word on the outcome of the criminal investigation into the shooting and a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his family against UIW and the police officer. Read more about Cameron’s life, death, and the aftermath here. Donate to Everett’s trip via his GoFundMe campaign here.
The more journeys I take, the more aware I become of things I don’t need. Trip after trip, I narrow down my supplies, and have discovered that my happiness can be measured by the size of bag I carry – or whether I have one at all. I’ve begun to embrace simplicity above all else, realizing that achievement is decided by ability, not by the equipment used. Also, since my brother Cameron’s death, I have realized the power of solitude, and how important it is to spend time alone.
I can clearly remember my first experience of traveling alone. The airport shuttle made its last stop in Buenos Aires and I stepped off onto the pavement. The sky was overcast and the area was industrial. Steam rose from the street where city buses growled by, passing alarmingly close to pedestrians as they turned down narrow avenues. The volume and immensity of it all left a deep impression, and I would never admit to myself that I didn’t like it – after all, this was the beginning of my big adventure, and I needed it to be perfect.
I pointed myself in what I figured to be a good direction and started walking. I had hardly made it half a block before I was brought to a halt by an unusual spectacle. An old man approached me in an intercept pattern. His clothes were tattered and his gait was uneven. A lifetime of hardship was written on his leathery skin. There wasn’t even time to process his image before his scarred face met mine. He had one eye and there was something ancient about his hazy gaze. With a worn voice, in gravelly Spanish, he bade me warning. He said to go no further in the direction I was headed, that it was a very dangerous place. He imparted this wisdom and hobbled off into the distance. I’ll never know if he spoke the truth or not, cause I took his advice immediately.
I think about that man sometimes, about the irony. He appeared as someone that most people would avoid, yet he was genuinely concerned for my safety. It may be that he often helps strangers, or perhaps something about me specifically caused him to act. Whatever the case, I learned a valuable lesson from that encounter. I learned that help can take on many shapes, and come from unlikely sources. Keeping this knowledge in mind is necessary when traveling – especially when traveling alone. A full experience cannot be had if prejudice and fear are used as tools. Better to keep an open mind and open schedule, allowing the path to form itself.
The lesson of the one-eyed man stays with me, as do all other lessons and the mistakes I had to make to learn them. With every insight gained, a part of the self is altered, and I have changed almost wholly from what I used to be. I was green and unspoiled then. I had known fear and surely known danger, but I didn’t know death and suffering, hate and heartache. These are the things that shape you most intensely, and they have been thrust upon me.
I see a different world now. I have become painfully aware of the pollution, corruption, and injustice that runs the civilized world. But this exposure has also brought me to a higher understanding of the natural world, a more vigorous lust for adventure, and a deeper love for life.
I also have a new understanding of travel itself. The easiest mistake to make is to think of travel as a vacation from real life. This creates unrealistic expectations that are not usually fulfilled. A trip is not a special thing set aside from everyday life. It is simply the path that your everyday life takes for a while. Its not always perfect and its not even always fun. The beauty of travel is in its freshness – visiting some place for the first time, with no pre-formed impressions, open to unpleasant experiences as well as good ones. Life at home should be lived like this as well. Nothing can truly be appreciated unless it is always viewed as if it were new. Going through the world with this understanding, there is no beginning or end to a trip. Life becomes an ever-changing stream of new discoveries.
I try my best to see through though this mindset, but frustration with society sometimes becomes unbearable and I’m pushed into my mind, imagining and anticipating all the things to come. Delay after delay has set me back, but the time to leave is finally here. I pack my bag and mentally practice boarding the bus, the whole time my stomach straining between the far ends of excitement. So many buses I’ve boarded in the past, so many times with Cameron at my side. I think of him and realize that this trip started long ago. I’m just entering the next phase of it.
*Featured/top image: I’ve packed extremely light for my trip to Patagonia: two changes of clothes, rainshell jacket, down sleeping bag, bivy tent, headlamp, camp mug, water bottle, hiking shoes, sandals, toiletries, camera, journal(s), knife, ball cap and, of course, the ashes of my brother Cameron Redus. Photo by Everett Redus.