By Nicole Hennessy
Min Keung’s mother always wanted to travel, but could never find the time or the money. The days were filled with errands and appointments, and lists. Until Keung and her father lost her.
Remembering how much his wife loved the idea of traveling, her father said, “That’s not gonna happen anymore.”
“You make choices; you make priorities,” he told Keung as a teenager. And since then, both he and his daughter take a trip together each year.
Photographs in Tanzania and Kenya show him in worn-out jeans and an old red sweatshirt. Pointing to him smiling with a smile on her face, Keung explains he doesn’t spend his money on anything other than basic necessities and seeing the world.
Right now he’s in China, where he went somehow for only the few hundred dollars. Keung says this with a hint of admiration, but as if she’s not surprised at all.
A naturalist, she’s still wearing her work uniform of khaki. Standing at 4′ 10”, her personality seems bigger. She seems comfortable at the Rocky River Nature Center, sharing her photos and stories with faces she can put names to.
Images of Kenya flash on the screen: monkeys, hippos, elephants drinking, zebras clumped together, trees with low branches against the sky. Then, coming to a slide of her posing with an elderly man, Keung stops, remembering tour guides and locals telling her stories of an 88-year-old who asked himself what he wanted to do with the rest of his life and decided to see the world. They told her he’s still nearby, traveling on his own through Africa.
Keung knew it was him as soon as she saw him and introduced herself, falling in love with the subtle romance of his story.
“I wish I would have started earlier,” he expressed to her after she congratulated him. To which she replied, “At least you started.”
Though he didn’t seem totally satisfied with her sentiment, the two posed for the photograph on the screen, Keung standing behind him as he sat, now in his mid-nineties.
Proving it’s the little things in life that matter, she sees meeting him as one of the highlights of her trip. Letting go of the notion that the calendar is too crowded for an adventure, is something she, him and her father know is rewarding. Even if all you own are worn-out jeans and an old red sweatshirt. The hardest part is leaving in the first place.
This lecture is part of a series called Friday Nights With Nature, which takes place at the Rocky River Nature Center every Friday night in January and February beginning at 7:30 p.m. There is no fee for admittance but seats fill quickly, so people are advised to arrive early.