Since before I can remember, my brother Adam has been one of my best friends. Eighteen months younger than me, he was my childhood playmate, my partner in building book houses and watching The Land Before Time daily, and the one other person in this world who knows what it was like to be a child of our parents in the ’80s. No one else knows how amazing it is to sit in front of a Mitsubishi TV at a Fisher Price plastic table in our family room on Saturday mornings with a bowl of Frosted Flakes waiting for the Muppet Babies theme song to start playing, not even our little brother Luke who was a baby during the heyday of the early ’90s cartoon years.
Adam and I are very different in many ways. He is waaaay smarter than me, one of the smartest people I know in real life. He doesn’t care what people think of him, which is a trait I admire to the extreme and yet can never conquer myself. He is assertive and logical and can remember anything after reading it just once.
Despite being inseparable in our childhood, we didn’t spent as much time together in our teenage and early adulthood. Since I moved south to San Francisco seven years ago, we have hung out only a few times a year, when I visit home or he visits the Bay Area.
When I decided to quit my San Francisco job and travel around the world, I convinced Adam to join me in Africa. I knew it would be fun to hang out with him, but I had no idea what a profound positive effect it would have on my Africa experience.
These past six weeks in Africa have been life-changing for me. I’ve met people who live without what I think are the basics for living and yet are sublimely happy. I’ve become friends with people from all over the world with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, ideas, and beliefs. I’ve seen parts of the world that I never could have imagined exist, and I’ve learned about cultures unlike any I’d known about before.
In addition to the insight I’ve gained from those things, experiencing Africa with my brother brought to the front of my mind something that I hadn’t let dominate my major life decisions since I became an adult.
I hadn’t spent such a significant amount of time with Adam since we were kids. Yet, it was like no time had passed and we were kids again, sharing the feeling of excitement that the grocery store had Oreos and Twix, the extreme disappointment that our football team lost to the Ducks that week, the annoyance that taking down our tent at 5am was “the worst, Jerry, the worst.”
Years of leading different lives couldn’t fracture the sibling bond we’d formed as kids.
I was amused that so many people couldn’t believe a pair of siblings could get along well enough to travel together for six weeks. Our own parents even asked during a Skype session five weeks in if we still liked each other. The fact that not only did I still like my brother, I was really dreading his leaving, exemplifies just how much Adam’s companionship mattered to my Africa experience.
Our overland tour of Africa is over, and Adam is back in Seattle. I am going to tackle the continent of South America without the comfort and fun of having my brother around.
One thing I know for sure, whatever I ultimately decide to do when I return to the States, my family will play an important part in that decision.