Eulogy for a great young man

Posted on March 31, 2014


I am awake at 4am, utterly shocked. I just found out an awesome person I briefly knew, a good friend of my brother’s, died yesterday in Cambodia.

Last year I was introduced to this super handsome bearded guy who had walked the Comino in Spain with my brother. He was a really good laugh, was from Philly and worked in a similar field to me so we instantly got on. He was a gentle soul whom you could imagine anyone would feel an instant connection with. I knew there was a chance we might meet again – then it turned out we were going to be in Thailand at the same time, and my brother had hooked us up.

Turned out we were not going to cross paths which was a shame, but when you’re travelling it happens quite a lot. But then I changed my plans at the last minute, found myself momentarily in Bangkok and saw on facebook that James had just landed in Bangkok. I had a few hours to kill before my flight. And I’m so glad I did. As a result I had the privilege of spending a laughter-filled couple of beers with him on the Kao San Road with his best mate from back home. They’d just got off the plane, and were fresh with excitement for their 3 month tour round SE Asia. They were such a joy to be around.

After they left me they stayed in Bangkok for a bit then travelled north, all the way through Laos and then south through Vietnam on motorbikes. They’d been in Cambodia for a week or two by the looks of it – beautiful photographs on facebook showed pristine white sand beaches without electricity and internet which they both described as ‘paradise’.

Tragically James got ill in the last few days, and then died suddenly after he collapsed yesterday. They don’t know yet what it was unfortunately.

James was an amazing guy who loved travelling and lived every moment to the fullest. I’m honoured to have shared those few moments laughing about Thailand’s idiosyncracies and the many highs and lows of travelling. I’d reached a point in my trip where I’d not really connected with many people for a while and hadn’t really found my happy place as a solo traveller yet. That couple of hours laughing, as if I was with old friends, was a familiarity I’d longed for. And i’d followed their trip on facebook since, imagining all the amazing adventures they must have gotten up to. 

I think James can be best understood through this post he wrote last year on facebook… it really makes you sit up and think ‘am I really living my life or just thinking about living it?’, which was the theme for the majority of our discussion that day in Bangkok.

You Can.

18 June 2013 at 09:08

Did you know, you can quit your job, you can leave it all? You aren’t legally required to stay, it’s a social pressure and expectation, not the law, and no one is holding a gun to your head. You can sell your house, you can give up your apartment, you can even sell your vehicle, and your things that are mostly unnecessary. You can see the world on a minimum wage salary, despite the persisting myth, you do not need a high paying job. You can leave your friends (if they’re true friends they’ll forgive you, and you’ll still be friends) and make new ones on the road. You can leave your family. You love them, they love you, it’ll be okay. You can depart from your hometown, your country, your culture, and everything you know. You can sacrifice. You can give up your $5.00 a cup morning coffee, you can give up air conditioning, frequent consumption of new products. You can give up eating out at restaurants and prepare affordable meals at home, and eat the leftovers too, instead of throwing them away. You can give up cable TV, Internet even. This list is endless. You can sacrifice climbing up in the hierarchy of careers. You can buck tradition and others’ expectations of you. You can triumph over your fears, by conquering your mind. You can take risks. And most of all, you can travel. You just don’t want it enough. You want a new degree or a well-paying job or to stay in your comfort zone more. This is fine, if it’s what your heart desires most, but please don’t envy me and tell me you can’t travel. You’re not in a famine, in a desert, in a third world country, with five malnourished children to feed. You probably live in a first world country. You have a roof over your head, and food on your plate. You probably own luxuries like a cellphone and a computer. You can afford the $3.00 a night guest houses of India, the $0.10 fresh baked breakfasts of Morocco, because if you can afford to live in a first world country, you can certainly afford to travel in third world countries, you can probably even afford to travel in a first world country. So please say to me, “I want to travel, but other things are more important to me and I’m putting them first”, not, “I’m dying to travel, but I can’t”, because I have yet to have someone say they can’t, who truly can’t. You can, however, only live once, and for me, the enrichment of the soul that comes from seeing the world is worth more than a degree that could bring me in a bigger paycheck, or material wealth, or pleasing society. Of course, you must choose for yourself, follow your heart’s truest desires, but know that you can travel, you’re only making excuses for why you can’t. And if it makes any difference, I have never met anyone who has quit their job, left school, given up their life at home, to see the world, and regretted it. None. Only people who have grown old and regretted never traveling, who have regretted focusing too much on money and superficial success, who have realized too late that there is so much more to living than this.

James Hart. 29.

Died 30th March 2014.

Posted in: Journal