Wednesday, December 26, 2012

the sister (and brother) hood of the traveling firefighters

It's the off season, so chances are that the person next to you on that tropical beach, climbing that mountain, or hiking that trail is a firefighter. Many of us disperse like ashes on the wind after the last fire goes out. I usually know at least two firefighters who are lounging in Indonesia, a couple in Thailand, and a few in South America.

I don't know if we travel more than anyone else, but a lot of us have restless feet, unable to stay in one place too long. During the summer we are always moving from one fire to the next, from state to state, following the smoke. Our bags are always packed and ready. We lock our cars at work because we might not come back that night, or for 21 days. You'd think we would want to stay home after all that, to hibernate. But a lot of us don't.

The people I meet when I travel plan their trips 6 months to a year in advance. They pore over the gear lists and, on their office computers, google their destinations. Not me.  I usually make my decision about a month in advance, probably paying way too much for airline tickets and out of time to brush up on my Spanish. I stuff things in a bag and wonder if I spent too much time sitting at a helibase to haul myself up a mountain. I throw myself into the void and hope for the best.

And it all works out, except when it doesn't, but even then it kind of does. Whether it's a whiny travel companion ("can't we just go to a beach?" he complained, halfway up a glacier in Ecuador), gale force wind in Patagonia, or Cheyne-Stokes breathing in my tent at 19,000' in Nepal, it all seems to end up okay (ditched the travel partner, braced myself against the wind, stayed awake till morning and climbed the peak in fine style).  I'll see you on the fireline, fellow travelers. We'll share stories of where we all were and where we're going.


  1. Like the places you've been and the photos you share!

  2. Oh, the places you'll go, said Dr. Seuss!


I try to answer all comments, so comment away!