To others, maybe you were only a tent, but to me, you were a home for about the last three years. I remember the first day we met. You arrived a few days before my cycling trip from Germany to Pakistan. I set you up in the empty room of my apartment and slept inside you. From that moment on, you protected me from the outer world so many times. The first time I pitched you in pure wilderness was on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan. It was on a grassy slope and the night was full of stars. I was a bit scared but you comforted me and asked the distant dogs to sing a lullaby song to me and you eventually put me to sleep. Another time, I was caught in a snowstorm at an elevation of 4000-m in Tajikistan close to the border of Kyrgyzstan, but you protected me like a bird wraps its babies under its wings in a warm nest.
You were my home in the wilderness of Patagonia when no other dwelling was in sight. I clearly remember the evening when once I pitched you next to a river and was terrified because the river was flooded during the night and the tent was submerged; thankfully it turned out to be a nightmare.
Cycling in the vast and lifeless desert of Atacama desert I knew I would always have a place to sleep because you were with me. At the end of each day, when I pitched you in the middle of nowhere I felt like a knight who had just conquered a castle and now stood in the watchtower looking in the distance with pride and awe.
In Chile when I was camping near the Pacific coast and was raided by an army of rats, you kept me safe from the monsters. And how can I forget that night in the bitterly cold and windy Bolivian Altiplano, when I pitched you inside a ruined building. In the night the temperature was -20°C, my water bottles were frozen but you kept me warm. Remember the night in front of Paranal Observatory where we both looked in amazement at the laser light that reached out to stars? Or the night in the Atacama when it was too windy and we took a shelter behind the giant Hand of the Desert?
There are simply too many memories. Even when I had a roof and it was hot, I preferred to sleep inside you to protect myself from the mosquitos and other creepy insects. By the way, I haven’t forgotten the camping inside the rustic chapel in the Atacama desert, or in particular, inside the ruined theatre in an abandoned town. I had read so many stories about that ghost town and was feeling frightened but you ensured no harm was done to me.
You have been with me everywhere. From endless roads to cities, and sea to 4900-m passes, you have seen it all and you were there when there was no one else to help. You were an incubator which I didn’t want to leave even when I had to answer the call of nature during the night. You were a healer. When I entered you I was tired after a long day of cycling but when I opened the door zippers the next morning, I was motivated to cycle again. You knew all my pains, the physical and the emotional ones. The nights I spent turning sides and the tears I shed under your roof. You knew all my secrets, and you protected them like a best friend.
In the face of cruel realities from today when the planet is being divided along the border lines and countries are erecting high walls, and people are building fences around the vast pieces of land which they cannot even put into use, your 2-metre square space meant a world to me. Your thin walls were like a womb for me, the safest place for me on earth.
The only complaint I have about you is that you were a bit too small, but that too turned out to be an advantage in cramped places.
The last time I slept inside you was in Tepelmeme in Mexico when I camped inside a municipal office, but my last memory of you is from Tecamachalco when I hung you on the window panels of the guardhouse to block the light. In the morning my phone, and GPS were gone. You must have witnessed who stole them, though you never told me.
But now I have lost you! Two days ago, you slipped away from my bicycle and fell off without me noticing. Perhaps, you gave a shout but I couldn’t hear you. My mistake, I was wearing headphones. Tell me, is this an appropriate way to depart after such a long friendship? Did I bother you so much that you decided to leave me, or was it hard for you to say goodbye? Who will now protect me in the desert of Baja California? Did you not want to be with me when I reach Alaska one day? You were there since I started the trip through the Americas two years ago in Argentina. How will it feel to be at the end of this trip and not have you by my side?
Yesterday when I was cycling out of Ajijic, I went back on the same road I had taken a day before and looked out for you for twenty kilometres but you were not there. Someone must have found you on the road and taken you away. I hope that person is an outdoor lover, just like you. Knowing your selfless nature I am sure you will be a good home for them as you were for me.
Many will say, just go and buy another tent, but only you know if I am able to afford this or not. And even if I were, it will not be the same, and as they say, you can buy a house but not a home. My friends used to laugh at me and call me a homeless guy, but with you on my side, I always laughed with them. But, today, I feel homeless for the first time in three years and desperately miss you. But let’s not let this separation tarnish our good memories from the road. I am so grateful to you for being my home for all those years.
You are not here, but your companionship will always be remembered!
P.S. Did I ever tell you how much I loved your green colour?