‘The Journey in the Destination’ — Dan Eldon
I have had that quote as my email signature for years. My first email password was journies, spelled incorrectly (don’t worry, I don’t use that anymore!). I first read Dan Eldon’s journal while still in college, just 3 or 4 years after he had died. It inspired me. Not just his adventurous spirit but the way he viewed the world and how he embraced it. I applied to the Peace Corps and in my interview told them I wanted to go to Africa. When asked about eating a village goat sacrificed to celebrate my arrival, as a vegetarian all I could say was that I would try it and then likely find the bushes to be sick or even get sick since my body wouldn’t know how to process the meat. The interviewer suggested that I start to prepare myself now. Begining with chicken for dinner. I decided not to join the Peace Corps. Not because I was a vegetarian but because I wasn’t 100% sure that what they were doing was always helping.
I didn’t make it to Africa until I had become a mother and a wife to a journalist. My role was much different than I imagined and the Africa I found myself in was closer to the Middle East that the savanahs in the stories I told my son when he became restless while waiting. For anything.
The last time I saw my brother Josh I was heading out the door with our brother, Bill. Josh was coming in and he stopped us on the steps to apologise to Bill for taking something. He was sincere in his apology but I still believed that he wasn’t. His heart was good. He fell in with the ‘wrong’ kids. The kids that would be unable to save him from drowning at the river just hours later. Bill and I would drive by the bridge where the sirens went blaring towards and the helicopter which lifted our brother to U of M, unbenownst to both of us. The last time I saw my brother Josh I didn’t know it would be the last time. How could I? He was only 15. And my biggest regret was that I didn’t say I love you. I didn’t hug him goodbye as we left. I didn’t forgive him for whatever teenagery think he had done.
In the last scene that Dan and his mother – Kathy – share together, they say I love you. They accept each other and understand that they are similar. Even though it is difficult for her to let him go she is happy that he is doing what makes him happy and he too now understands why she left Nairobi for London. I can feel that this is their final moment together. I know what is coming and I am reminded of the last moment I had with my brother Josh and wish that we had an interaction like this. I wish I had opened my heart so I could see the honesty and love he was putting toward our brother Bill.
At the ceremony celebrating Dan’s life back in Africa I flash back when his sister, Amy, comes forward to speak, as I did at my own brother’s funeral. She tells him ‘I love you.’ and I recall the early days after the loss of Josh and my own grief at not getting to say those words to him until one night I met him in a dream and did just that. She releases that love out into the world for him and feels it come back. Once I was able to do that in my own way, in my dreams, I found the closer I needed and also learned to put that love back out into the world two fold.
Years later I would be in the only grocery store on Saipan Island (in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and Phillipine Sea) and be browsing through the few books on the shelf. There I would find the Angel Catcher Journal and I would open it up to see the forward by Kathy Eldon. As I would read on I would remember Dan Eldon and his journal, which I had read 4 years earlier. In the middle of an ocean, a world a way, I would find a connection and I would embrace it. I filled it out here and there and struggled with remembering some of the memories I had of my brother, so I wrote more so as not to lose them. And I started a new tradition where I did something fun on his birthday and even his death day to celebrate him and his life. Josh always used to occupy our younger brother, Jake, when I was painting so that I could paint. After Josh died I stopped painting. On one of his brithdays I went to the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Tate Modern on his birthday to celebrate him by doing something that I loved that I knew would make him happy to and now I always remember his 25th birthday.
When I first saw The Journey is the Destination listed in the special presentations for TIFF, I felt goosebumps wash over me. I hadn’t thought about Dan or his story in a long time, even though his mantra has stuck with me (and my email signature) over time. While I knew the tragic death that awaited him while watching the film, nothing prepared me for viewing it. Seeing the relationship he built with the locals only to be running for his life, and losing, was devastating. As the wife of a journalist, and myself a wanderer of the world, I reckognise the important job of telling the world the stories that some governments don’t want told. Seeing Dan and his colleages risk their lives to do so is inspiring but also necessary for the world to see.
I loved the way the film celebrates Dan Eldon and his journey while doing great justice to his artisitc merits. The film does an excellent job bringing his journal, The Journey is the Destination, to life.
Thank you Kathy and Amy for sharing Dan and his story with all of us. I also bought the Angel Catcher Journal for my mother. You have made a difference on many levels in many lives.