"Anyone who tells you there isn't an element of luck is lying." A very straightforward statement that came flying at me like a curve ball. And it came at me from a very unlikely source - Jeremy Wade the intrepid fisherman of Animal Planet's River Monsters fame. He was answering a question he had easily been asked a hundred times before in one form or another, "What is the secret of your success?" Fully expecting the answer to be the stock "hard work, years of sacrifice" I was very surprised at the frank admission that comprised part of his answer. Like everything I had seen him do (survive a plane crash in the Amazon, wrestle an enormous sting ray from the bottom of a river, catch several bull sharks on the end of his line) this answer made me lean forward and pay closer attention to a man that frequently had me peering between my fingers and wondering "does his mother know he does this crazy stuff?"
Having hunkered down in my suburban existence long ago I have accepted that, for the time being, my travel adventures must be had vicariously through the "tell me all about your trip" talks over hastened lunches or the divided attention I might give to one of those "100 places your lame ass will never get to see" travel shows. That brought me to my accidental stumble onto Mr. Wade. I switched on Animal Planet one random afternoon two years ago and the rest is history that, well, explains why my DVR memory is always near capacity with episodes and specials I refuse to delete. Simply, he had me at "Hello, I am going to sit in this pool of piranhas to see what happens."
Over and over he has allowed me to be his silent travel companion and, being the nice bloke he is, has let me get away with not having to carry a single bit of gear. I was now able to trek to real places - not the antiseptic "slice of America" resorts scattered across the globe - but other cultures, other worlds, where Jeremy and I were the polite, soft-spoken interlopers. All the while, I watched this unique man pull fragile monsters from rivers, marvel at them and release them back to the murky depths.
Sometimes what stirs us, what awakens parts of us we did not even know were asleep, can be more unexpected than the realization that we were asleep in the first place. Fish? Not only fish, but fishing? The thing my aunt used to complain my uncle did too much of? No. Not the fishing. Not even perhaps the fish. Him. And I don't mean it that way - I don't mean the physical him, although - oh never mind. I mean the existential him. I have been told (as I think everyone has) that if you follow your heart and do what you love the money will find you. Funny, I always hear that from people who seem unbearably miserable with what they are saddled with doing day in and day out.
I don't think Mr. Wade would say that the money found him (although I am quite sure it has). I'm just not sure the two were even looking for each other. But I do think he would say that by staying true to his passion and being guided by his principles and his own happiness he has had his rendezvous with luck. And now, millions of people get to see him do what he would be doing anyway, with or without us. Lucky for me, he lets us watch.