Shortly after reading her comment I got a what'sapp message from "la morena de andalucia" (please refer to my post from las fallas in Spain and Rome, Italy as to who this dear friend is). La morena quickly began explaining things to me via text.
La Morena- Did you see what happened in Panama?
Me- No, what's going on? I just read something about a tragedy within the group
La Morena- Well.... you know there was a group meet-up in Panama. It seems that there was a bus accident and 2 of the members died
La Morena- Yea, it was pretty bad and there were a lot of injuries. People have started making donations to help.
Me- I had no idea, I saw something had happened but couldn't figure out what. Awh man!
La Morena continued to tell me that she was very close to joining that trip at the last minute but the only thing that had stopped her was the $1,000 airfare price. My first reaction was:
Me- If you were on the trip I would have come for you. I would have been in Panama kicking asses!
La Morena- I know, I thought, if I would have made it to Panama Echo would join my parents to interpret and make sure I was OK.
Me- Ya damn right I would!
Before ending our what's app conversation I asked her to text my mom to let her know that we were safe and happy in Hong Kong. My mom's new phone was having a viber issue and I was unable to contact her like I had everyone else. La morena agreed and I decided to try my best to get back to sleep before the rest of the family woke up.
I laid there for a while just thinking about the tragedy. I have only been a part of the Nomad*ness Travel Tribe for about 4 months. I have never been a "group person". Despite offers, I never joined a sorority, I never hung out with a large group of friends for social or even political reasons. I'm not part of a church or even a religion. I always kinda just did my own thing and didn't know many other people like me. That was until La Morena added me in this crazy, fun, one of a kind FaceBook travel group. She had recently been added by a black american friend she worked with in Spain and she thought I too would also enjoy it. Enjoying it is an understatement. This group of self- proclaimed "black-packers" (black back-packers) was 8,000 people strong and ALL. OVER. THE. WORLD!!!!! Some had been to 80+ countries, a few over a hundred and more than a few having traveled to all 7 continents, yes... including Antarctica. They are a vast majority black, but also included Latinos Asians, and White Americas. The group is described as a meeting place for the underrepresented travel demographic of urban millennial (and older). They are all amazing. They offer the best tips and travel advice. They know the feeling of taking to a new country and being the only black person on a train in Tokyo, how to enter and exit Cuba illegally, the best hostels in Africa, and the best flight deals to anywhere in the world. I was instant love. We received a warm welcome into the group and I'd even gone to 2 Atlanta meet-ups in the four months after joining. I'd never felt like part of any group until now but it was amazing because, I'd finally found my people. With them there was no need to explain WHY you would want to take your kids to Hong Kong, or the middle east, or Africa. There weren't afraid of "those people" or unsure of where a certain place is located in the world. As a matter of fact of the 8,000 members only one country hadn't been conquered and that was Comoros. I even met people who were on their way to Bhutan, one of my dream destinations.
Nomadness Travel Tribe logo with Family insignia
Even though many of us had different back grounds we all shared an addiction to travel,, not tourism, not vacationing but authentic travel. We all share the same adventurous spirit that entices us to step of the beaten path and to go see the world for ourselves. We are different but all cut from the same clothe. So to hear about the tragedy hit home, HARD. The two members who had lost there lives in the accident were active at posting and commenting. They were vets in the tribe and positive happy leaders in a sea of world wide new unfamiliar friends. I was torn between the sorrow and fear of dying while traveling, while at the same time happy for them that they ended their journeys that we call life, living life to the fullest. I have had experiences that cause me to strongly believe that before we come to this earth, while still in spirit form, we choose our allotted amount time to be here on earth. Our departure time from our bodies and life on earth is set, it is up to us to learn what we are supposed to learn and experience what we are supposed to experience before that time is up. Although I've never met the two deceased members I like to feel that they had done just that, and even though I mourn the loss of beautiful spirit here on earth and I can imagine the pain of loss their families must feel, a part of me recognizes a job well done and gratitude for having crossed their path, even is only through social media.
Before drifting back to sleep I meditated on their gratitude for their lives, comfort for the crash survivors, and strength for their families and Tribe founders who had just arrived in Panama to help the situation on the ground there. Even in their deaths and at the survivors toughest moments they inspire us to live fully and the importance of family, even when that family is 8,000 strong reaching out to you via the internet. May they rest in peace and may the survivors recover fully and completely, physically and emotionally. Ase!