Followers of our Trans-Americas Journey travel blog know that we are not into oversharing–or undersharing for that matter. Ours is a travel blog not a personal blog. Our job is not to tell you about us. Our job is to inform and inspire your best trips in Latin America. And that’s exactly what our friends Megan and Barrett helped us do.We met Megan and Barrett in 2010, way back in year three of our little road trip, when the four of us were attending the IMAC Spanish school in Guadalajara, Mexico (Barrett, typically, was in the Advanced AP Honors class while the rest of us struggled with the difference between por and para in the equivalent of 1st grade). After class, we’d hang out eating street tacos and drinking tequila. Someday we’ll tell you the story about how Barrett nearly fell into a human-sized hole in the sidewalk after another late night at a bar called Bariachi (bar + mariachi = Bariachi). We quickly came to admire many things about these Harvard graduates from Oklahoma including their honest curiosity and ability to find adventure everywhere. Plus, laughing. During our five weeks of Spanish school, we became friends and explored areas around Guadalajara on the weekends until Megan and Barrett had to return to the US. Unlike “travel friends” made years ago on earlier trips, email and Skype made it possible to stay in touch with Megan and Barrett and we did that with pleasure, keeping up with milestones like the birth of their daughter Alex (which created joy that we could feel many thousands of miles away). Though serious about and delighted with their growing domestic responsibilities, Megan and Barrett did not let the building of a new house or the starting of a new job or the raising of an epic girl dampen their desire to travel. They could do it all and they did. While a number of our friends have threatened to come travel with us, few have actually done it. Megan and Barrett, on the other hand, traveled south to Latin America annually (and sometimes more than that) to travel with us on six trips through four countries.
Trip planning went like this: broad strokes–including trip duration, goals, and must-haves–were hashed out during enthusiastic and rowdy Skype calls before we fine-tuned the details on the ground to ensure maximum enjoyment from the moment our friends arrived. We also prioritized plans to make our paths cross during our return trips to the US including a cross-country Amtrak trip (which we took in large part because it allowed us to stop in Oklahoma and spend time with Barrett, Megan, and Alex in their natural environment) and an Ellis family trip west while Eric and I were in Portland, Oregon.Their daughter Alex, now a very wise 10-year-old, got a passport basically as a baby and she traveled with her parents to Peru when she was just 5 years old. We were honored to be part of her first international trip which she made extra awesome with the on-demand awe of a child–something we hope she never ever outgrows. We traveled easily together and these joint trips helped our friendship grow and kept us connected even if weeks (and weeks and weeks and weeks) went by between emails or Skype calls. As full-time travelers, it’s not easy making friends and even harder to nurture friendships. We valued having Megan and Barrett (and Pipsqueak) in our lives and in our truck and the more we got to know and love them the more we valued having them in the world.
Megan and Barrett charmed us, as they did so many, by being a magical combination of smart, open, generous, surprising, complicated, determined, creative, curious, brave, and funny as hell. Perfect travelers. Perfect people.
And now they’re gone.
When we were exploring Buenos Aires together in 2022, Barrett was very excited that he’d just begun taking lessons to get his private pilot license. And we were excited for him. A few months ago, also with great mutual excitement, we got a sneak peek at the lovely small aircraft he was buying. In early October, with tremendous pride, Barrett shared the news that he was officially a licensed pilot. Dream fulfilled. Adventure awaits.
On December 10, 2023, Megan and Barrett did not survive after encountering a problem shortly after taking off in his plane. Thankfully, Alex was not on board.
We choose to think of her future–which we intend to make as bright as possible in any way we can (for the record, Alex, there’s always a place for you in our truck–anywhere, anytime as we used to say to your mom and dad). We choose not to focus on the past which looks and feels pretty black right now as we try to process the shock and pain and confusion and anger of this sudden tragedy that has left a hole in so many lives including ours.It’s a hole that we will try (and fail) to fill with memories and bittersweet moments of silence for Megan and Barrett as we encounter situations through the Americas that we know they would have loved (chance encounters, excellent coffee, a great meal), hated (bad internet, eating anything that swims, sunbathing), appreciated (meeting people, a good shower, snapping up local art), and made so much better (absolutely everything even when dealing with passport theft and missed flights). In early December, just a few days before the crash, Megan and Barrett returned from their delayed anniversary trip to Paris and we all agreed it was high time for another one of our epic Skype video calls to begin planning their next trip south to meet us for adventures in Argentina or Brazil or wherever. We will go forward with those adventures, but we will miss the easy understanding of traveling with Megan and Barrett. We will miss the even easier laughs. We will miss the intellectual and emotional growth. We will miss watching their daughter discover the world. We will miss our friends. And we will think of them often even when it hurts. In that way, we will take them with us. The memorial service for Megan and Barrett was streamed live earlier this week so that those who could not be in Oklahoma could watch from afar (we are very thankful for that). We watched on a creaky bed in a cruddy guesthouse room in the town of San Jose de Jachal in Argentina with fingers crossed that the internet would hold out. We’re sure Megan and Barrett were laughing their asses off at that.
During the memorial, there was much (warranted) talk about how Megan and Barrett made the world a better place. This is incorrect: Megan and Barrett MAKE the world a better place. They are still traveling and spreading their joy, we just can’t see them. But we can feel them and you can believe us when we say that we’ll be looking for their presence around every bend.
It’s fitting that the University of Oklahoma, the undergraduate alma mater of both Megan and Barrett and the place where they were both working when they passed, created the Barrett and Megan Ellis Study Abroad Scholarship to honor their memory in a meaningful way.