Too Young to Die
Three days ago, I got word that Dr. Jeff Salz, my cultural anthropologist friend and adventure traveler died from COVID 19 in Ecuador. It shook me to my core. Today, a number of us who fell into Jeff's tribe through his seductive wit and inspirational spirit will gather remotely to share memories, stories, and our mutual grief as we celebrate his life.
The last 15 months have seen far too many deaths. Yet somehow, Jeff’s death not only caught me unaware but also prompted deep reflection about my own life. Perhaps it was because he was younger than I. Perhaps it was the tremendous outpouring from so many different parts of the world. Perhaps it was that the individual reflections demonstrated that each person felt that his/her adventures with Jeff were one-of-a-kind.
I met Jeff years ago through the National Speakers Association. We’d chat and catch up and then he proposed an adventure to my husband and me: come to India for two weeks and trek the northwestern portion of the Himalayas. From riding in a jeep on the highest dubious roads in the world to sitting on the floor of a remote monastery to hear the Dalai Llama—from crossing dangerous whitewater rivers on foot to trekking up 16,500 feet—from discovering hospitality in a yurt to relishing Indian beer at the journey’s end—it was amazing. Not anything one would find in a travel agency.
Two years ago, he came with another offer: explore regions of Ecuador that ranged from living with a native community in the Amazon to scrambling up the high active volcano in the Andes. Of course, we said yes.
That was Jeff’s magic: he opened our eyes to parts of the world few would see. He embraced all cultures, traditions, beliefs, and native foods. Yes, I have eaten roasted worms and crispy ants—the latter about 3 inches long! Along the way, his cultural anthropology mind would expound in ways to enlighten and engage.
I am now deeply pondering what would my death leave behind on this earth? Have I helped others see beyond the obvious to the richness of others? Do I approach each day with a curiosity to find the new and unique in my world? How easy is it to become mired in the Groundhog Day of repetition?
So, my friend, you journey to a place I cannot go. But I think I will follow the footsteps you leave behind in the way of adventure.
PS: Get Jeff’s book from Amazon: The Way of Adventure.