In early July, I went to Sunset Beach, North Carolina for my family’s 30th annual beach vacation. It’s a time for us to relax, drink margaritas, eat double scoop waffle cones, and best of all, just sit together and talk. It’s that week of the year that we all cherish and absolutely hate to miss.
At dinner one night, I sat on the “kids” side of the table with my siblings and cousins who really aren’t kids anymore – the youngest being 15. After eating two too many hush puppies and as we waited for our food, my brother-in-law asked each of us to go around and say who inspires us the most.
I immediately thought of Dan, but felt silly. Of course Dan would be my first thought because I spend 40 hours per week thinking, writing, talking and reading about him. But who else will I say? Why can’t I think of anyone else? I can’t say Dan. That’s so cliché. It’s my turn. I can’t say Dan.
“Dan Eldon,” I said.
The truth is that this past year has changed me. I get to work for the Dan Eldon Legacy and I have gotten to know a guy who always saw the best in others. He was a courageous explorer and a fearless lover. He was silly, yet wise. He had a way of allowing people to let their guard down. Dan has widened my perspective of the world. He is a reminder that beauty and adventure surround me; I may just have to go find it.
That opportunity came rather quickly post the revelation. Somehow in May, I found myself on a flight to Zambia. I was alone and anxious, taking three different planes over the course of 28 hours to arrive in a country I had never been. I took my economy window seat, squeezing past the boy already sitting there. We started talking, and I came to find that he was born and raised in South Africa with a pilot for a father. Flying didn’t faze him; this boy was actually sitting fearless. At that moment, I thought of Dan. If he could lead a road trip of 12 teenagers from Kenya to Malawi, I can fly from Los Angeles to Zambia to visit my best friend and meet all the people she has fallen in love with there. No need to fear. Be strong and courageous.
“…Dan was killed when I was only 2-years-old, so I never knew him, but I feel like I know him. His legacy has encouraged me to take risks and enjoy the adventures. He truly has inspired me.” I finished explaining to my family.
I stared back at the 14-some eyeballs looking at me after answering each one of their questions. There was a brief pause; and I could see in every person’s face, the desire to know more about this young adventurer. But no one said anything else. My cousin then took a breath and shared who inspires him. We all laughed and enjoyed the rest of dinner.
Dan taught me about adventure, clearly. But at that moment, he reminded me of something else, something so beautiful. He reminded me that life is to be lived with the people we love. It’s for talking, drinking, laughing, and spending time together. Life was happening right at the dinner table, with the people that sat around me. And that made me smile. Thanks Dan.