I met my friend JP in Indonesia in September 2003. Back then, for the "first adventure of my new life", I had signed up to crew on an Indonesian schooner, which unfortunately wasn't ready to sail when I arrived. JP had signed up to crew on that same ship. An instant friendship was formed. We waited around the ship for a couple of weeks, did some short side trips, but when it became obvious that the ship wasn't ready to leave any time soon, we gave up the idea of sailing and decided to travel overland instead.
Up until that point I hadn't been a backpacker. In fact, I never would've considered that mode of travel. I had luggage with wheels for heavens sake, and lots of it! But I had recently made a lifestyle change, had left the creature comforts back in Canada, and since JP had so much backpacking experience, as well as travel experience in Indonesia, I decided to give it a try.
JP taught me everything I needed to know about backpacking. He introduced me to a style of travel that I now enjoy tremendously. I'm a good backpacker because of what I learned from him. What great adventures we had while traveling together through Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia.
The next summer I received an email from JP. He was thinking about traveling in South America for a couple months. Did I want to join him? Well, at the time I was actually traveling in Europe but I thought, what the heck, South America is on my to-do list, why not ease into a new continent with my best travel mate! So I made some itinerary changes, met JP in Rio de Janeiro, and we had another fun-filled time traveling through Brazil.
Then last year, when I was back in Canada for the summer, he drove to Calgary from Hood River, Oregon where he was living, threw my pack and bike into the back of his pickup truck, and we had more great times while hiking, biking, camping and basically bumming around together through some national parks in northern USA and southwest Canada.
Yes, it was always great traveling with JP. We discovered new countries and cultures, met interesting people, laughed over crazy memories from previous trips, offered advice on each other's lives, and planned new upcoming adventures.
Well, unfortunately those new adventures won't be happening now. At the beginning of January, I received word that my friend JP had been killed in Brazil. Basically, he was an innocent victim in a home robbery gone bad. His obituary said: "a burst of light left our earth on Jan. 7, 2007 ...". How true those words are. I've never met anyone who had such an amazing sense of curiosity, such unbounded energy, such zest for life.
It truly saddens my heart that we'll never have the opportunity to travel together again, to share new adventures and life's experiences. JP was a special person; someone who can never be replaced. I'm trying to find comfort in the wonderful memories I have of the experiences and adventures we shared, and I'll always remember him with great love for what he added to my life. These things give me strength...but I'd rather just have my buddy back.
I'm a better person for having known JP Harrison. I suspect that everyone who knew him would say the same.