Danny first used the term Travel Magic in Santa Fe when some friendly guys having a going away party turned a wasted rainy day in a boring city into one of our trip’s best stories. After that, the magic dusted us at seemingly random intervals. Sometimes we both felt exhausted and burnt out, and it was nowhere to be seen. Other times I had no idea how much I needed it until it alit on my shoulder and whispered comfort in my ear. It made an appearance at a swanky New Years party in Brazil where I met someone from home just at the part of the trip when I started to feel most homesick. It returned when that passing friendly comment I made to a British girl named Orchid in line for the ATM turns into an invitation to join her friends on an adventure to a postcard perfect beach we never would have found on our own.
Travel Magic is forgetting all about the extra day you scheduled in Cusco, Peru and spending half of the bonus time in a bar with Ben and Charlie, catching up on the month of traveling that has occurred since you met in a hostel in Salta, Argentina 6 weeks ago. It’s visiting the chocolate museum you swore you read about somewhere, but could find no information about until a lady offered you a paper on the street and you actually listened to her (even though she was the 5000th hawker to shove something in your face that day) long enough to process that her flyer was about the free Choco Museo. It’s stumbling across the one bar in town that is showing the Superbowl, and getting a seat even though you’re late. It’s arriving in tiny Sao Miguel too late for the bus out to the farm, and being offered dinner, a ride to the farm, and another dinner by the friendly couple who noticed your huge backpack in the grocery store and realized you were from out of town. It’s that couple with their Fiat who showed up just in time to save you from a second harrowing ride falling out of a 5 seat jeep that was stuffed with 11 people and almost flipped over on the first leg of the trip. Not only did they offer a lift, but they provided beer to sip along the way. It’s waxing in the airport about your love of Argentine alfajores and Brazilian pao de queijo, only to turn the corner and find a café selling both for exactly the amount of Reals you have left in your pocket. It’s walking into a bar in the biggest city in the biggest country in South America, and almost colliding with Orchid, the girl from the ATM line and the beach.
Travel Magic is a confluence of the friendliness and hospitality of strangers, your trust in their goodness, and your openness to accepting and acknowledging each wonderful event. Once all of those volatile elements are in close enough proximity, all it takes is a spark of curiosity to set them aflame. Travel Magic doesn’t just happen to you—you can’t be passive and expect it to occur. But you also can’t force it. It comes when you are inclined to allow it but aren’t seeking it. Like most magic, sometimes you really want it but it doesn’t show up, and sometimes you don’t realize how much you need it, and there it is.