When I left my home state of Kentucky back in 2019, I hit the open road with dreams of going to places I’d never been, and seeing things I’d never seen. I was brand new to the nomad life and didn’t really know what to expect—which is one of the best parts of the adventure.
It’s closing in on three years since I began living this way, and I’ve seen beautiful mountains, high plains and desert, and lush green forests. As much as I love seeing new places, one of the highlights for me has been the people I’ve met along the way. Some encounters lasted a few days, others only a few minutes, but each one has left a beautiful impression on my soul.
One such encounter happened in August of 2019. I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the second time that year. My first visit was a solo trip a couple of months earlier, but my second time there I was traveling with a small group. It was summer, hot, and so beautiful. The sights, sounds, smells, and the people—I loved every second of it!
My second time in Santa Fe was much different than when I had traveled there alone. I’m a writer, and that’s also my only source of income, so when I travel I do so as a minimalist. It’s my choice and I do it because I value experiences over material things. I’m not “anti-material things” I just choose to not have a lot so I can do a lot. The people I was traveling with at that time were not minimalists, in fact they were quite wealthy. I got involved with them through writing and hung out with them for a couple of months. On my first trip to Santa Fe I staid in a modest Airbnb, ate tacos from street vendors, and visited locally owned coffee shops. The second trip was five star luxury hotels and high-end restaurants. They had invited me along and paid for everything, so I thought, “What the hell?” New experiences, right?
It was great, but I must say I rather enjoy the minimal approach better. Still, it was fun. One down side was that while I loved mingling with the locals, buskers, and street vendors, my companions favored a more fast-paced visit and hanging out in the luxury hotels. I remember walking through the Plaza, gazing at the many storefronts, as we rushed (why, I didn’t know) back to the hotel. As we walked on the sidewalk I could hear music coming from somewhere up ahead. Soon, an older gentlemen playing a flute came into view. There he stood, his long gray hair and beard flowing, as he poured his heart out through his music.
My heart leaped in my chest as I stopped in my tracks. The energy that flowed through him was palpable and gave me such a sweet peace. My companions kept walking, but I didn’t care. I was enamored by the sweet soul before me, and not even the beauty of the four-hundred year old Plaza that surrounded me could draw away my attention. I stood in awe as he finished the tune he was playing and I stooped to drop some money in his basket. I told him how much I loved his playing. He thanked me graciously and asked me where I was from. I told him, and also mentioned that I had a couple of Native American flutes. My flutes are played from the end, but the bamboo flute he was playing was played by holding it horizontally. We discussed the different ways to play a flute, and I told him I wasn’t sure if I could play the style that he was playing. Before I knew it, we were deep in conversation as he demonstrated the proper techniques and I listened. It was plain to see how passionate he was about music and the joy he felt in talking about it with someone who felt the same. It’s not unlike walking into a room filled with unfamiliar faces, and then suddenly seeing someone you know.
Words fail to adequately describe what it feels like to make a genuine connection with another person, but me and this busker were instant friends. We talked with one another for fifteen or twenty minutes, and the time flew. Remembering he was busking, I felt the need to move on and allow him to continue. I asked if I could snap a quick picture with him, and he humbly agreed.
As I was about to leave, it struck me that we hadn’t even told each other our names. We had immediately dove into the deep end of the pool and started sharing like nothing else mattered, and in those few minutes, nothing else did.
“My name is Keith, by the way.” I said smiling as I extended my hand.
He grasped my hand and returned my smile with his own. “Dennis. It was nice meeting you. I like your vibes.”
I liked your vibes too Dennis, and I hope you’re still there playing your music in the heart of Santa Fe.