I'm writing this one in a semi-stream-of-consciousness fashion, so apologies in advance for any rambling that may occur in this entry.
Earlier this year, at the same time that I started my trip north from Patagonia, a guy named Harry Devert climbed on a motorcycle in the USA and set off for South America. When I first found out about Harry's trip, I was particularly struck by the similarities between us that stretched beyond our travel experiences; how he preferred a neat beard to a clean shave, the bike he chose to ride (KLR 650), and even his work in the finance industry before he started the trip.
Despite never meeting Harry, the parallels between our lives stuck with me. Over the last six months I have found myself--albeit with some difficulty--reading his past blog entries time and again, and even when I didn't agree with his conclusions I could see how he arrived at them. Confirmation bias can probably account for some of this, but not all of it. Only today did I notice that Harry has a Thoreau quote at the end of his "about me" section on his website. It so happens I ended one of my latest blog entries with quote by the same man.
There haven't been any updates on Harry's blog since January, but it is still of the sites I check most often while I am on the road. The lack of activity is an ongoing update in itself, with supplementary details provided by local Mexican news sites or US national outlets.
Harry was last seen near Zihuatenejo, near Mexico's southwest coast, in late January. In the past six months there has been a search effort spearheaded by Harry's mom, Ann, billboards and advertisements were put up in Mexico with a reward for info on Harry, and news organizations at every level have covered Harry's disappearance. A steady stream of condolences, criticism, and speculation has poured forth from social media sites and forums. Despite the chatter, rumors were the only evidence to emerge for half a year.
This morning, while taking a break from an online search for KLR replacement parts, I decided to do my weekly fly-by of Harry's site and his mom's facebook page, Help Find Harry. I'm almost ashamed to admit how off-handedly I remembered to "check on" Harry Devert this morning, how habitually I had expected to read about another false sighting somewhere in Guerrero or a press release from Ann or the authorities that had all come to sound the same since January.
By now several sources have picked up on the news from Mexico, and what has hit me the hardest are the pictures of a motorcycle lying mangled and muddy on the ground in a forest. Reports state the bike was exhumed from the same shallow grave as a body presumed to be Harry himself. Despite its condition, I can recognize the bike as a Kawasaki KLR 650, same as Harry's bike, same as mine. On a trip like mine, like Harrys, the bike is such an integral part of the trip, only superceded by the person riding it. You tie your entire well-being to a motorcycle when you set off on such a trip, and I felt the truth slowly sink into my gut when I saw pictures of the broken form of his motorcycle lying in the mud and leaves. By almost everyone's estimations, we now know the end of Harry's story.
I'm not sure what if any meaning I should glean from Harry's story to apply to my own life. It's not the time to do that in my opinion. So many questions about what happened to Harry in the meanwhile need to be answered before that is possible, and even though I know it's an extremely unlikely thing to wish for nowadays, I would hope that people might reserve their speculations and criticism at least long enough to acknowledge the tragedy of the loss of this life.
If you were to read Harry's writing, you would quickly find he is a person who celebrates every person, place, thing, and experience for its own inherent beauty and uniqueness. So far as I can tell, he was so enamored with the "good" in everything that he felt compelled to see as much of the world as possible so he could know all the forms of "good" that it has to offer.
I'm sure Harry's legacy will play a future role in my own writing and travel plans as I head north toward Mexico in the next few months, but for today I can only let myself consider the tragedy of a beautiful life that meets an unfair end.