We met her on the bus ride from Inle to Bagan. A middle aged woman. She had once cared about her career as a managing director at one of the big investment banks in Midtown Manhattan. Then one day she went away and began traveling the world. She didn’t cite anything philosophical or mundane about her decision. Maybe she was fired, or her employer went bankrupt, or she read the memoirs of Sir Edmund Hillary, or her husband left her.
But we didn’t care about the real reason. We just admired her being there in an overcrowded bus, looking out the window, being in the moment.
We asked if she had a website or a blog. She said she did not.
The bus stopped at a food station for 30 minutes. She never came back.
This woman reminded us of many nomads and world travelers who decided to leave everything behind and explore the planet.
She also reminded us of Dimitrios I (the Besieger), king of Macedonia in the 3rd century B.C. He was deserted by his troops who joined the camp of his opponent, Pyrrhos, king of Epirus. Dimitrios, too, went away quietly.
Here’s Kavafis (a.k.a. Cavafy) representation of the episode.
When the Macedonians deserted him
and showed they preferred Pyrrhos,
King Dimitrios (a noble soul) didn’t behave
—so they said—
at all like a king.
He took off his golden robes,
threw away his purple buskins,
and quickly dressing himself
in simple clothes, he slipped out—
just like an actor who,
the play over,
changes his costume and goes away.