Bryce Casey Felstead. My younger brother… died on September 22nd 2015. He was 33 years old. Today, June 2nd, would have been his 34th birthday.
I never said a eulogy at the funeral. After the events surrounding his death I couldn’t quite bring myself to find the words. My older brother and sister said great things… but I left my part out. So today, on his birthday…. I’d like to write my part. A Tribute to my Brother… The Avid Traveller.
In 2012 I went travelling with Bryce. My older brother Anthony and I met up with him in a little town called Santa Marta on the north coast of Colombia. From there we embarked on a two month or so adventure up through Central America, before meeting up with our older sister in Vancouver. Quite a few people we met along the way thought it was kind of strange, three siblings travelling together… but that’s just the way we were. We were close, my brothers were among the best people I know…. and we never mentioned our reason for embarking on the adventure in the first place.
We found out that Bryce had a brainstem/cerebellar astrocytoma in November 2011. Anyone who knows anything about medicine and the human body knows that that diagnosis will stop life short… how short you don’t really know, but life will be shorter than expected. At that point, other than being slightly off balance when looking up to catch a cricket ball, you couldn’t tell he wasn’t as healthy as any other person. But that’s all you really need to know about that, this is about a life well lived and not what brought it to an end. So my little brother, in the style that only he could do… set off to live life as thoroughly and intentionally as he could. His plan was this: fly to Chile and travel north… see where the path took him. And to go alone.
In early 2012 Bryce flew into Santiago, Chile. I remember chatting to him about it beforehand… “just write down the name of the hostel on a piece of paper and give it to a cab driver, thats the most difficult part done”. He did just that, and what do you know… Bryce never actually had to travel alone after that, not if he didn’t want to.
You see my little brother had a thing about him… something that people gravitated to. He was fun. And when I say fun I mean… FUN. No matter if he was in the office, at a bar, or on the edge of the world… he made life fun. When he was a kid he even use to laugh in his sleep. Cool without ever trying to be, he was a strong, loyal friend. He exuded a presence, a quiet confidence with a cheeky edge, and people just wanted to be near him. There was more than one occasion when I heard the words “Ooooh you’re Bryce’s sister” with a glimmer in the eye…. everyone loved Bryce. And I was lucky to be his sister.
So when he set out on the open road alone… I knew that he’d meet people everywhere he went, and have the option of not travelling alone on any given day.
From Santiago in Chile he travelled north and made his way to San Pedro de Atacama and experienced the magic of the Atacama Desert, which he said was one of the most incredible places he’d ever been to in the world. Then he travelled into the salt flats and up through Bolivia. He crossed over into Peru, hiked to Machu Picchu, and continued travelling north into Ecuador and the Amazon rainforest. The details of his trip are sketchy to me… I know it took a good few months, he met awesome people along the way, and had experiences that make the soul shine. I always planned to ask him the detail and write it all down, but I left it too late. Then came the day when I flew down from Canada to meet him. He was meant to be on my flight from Bogota, but he never arrived. Turns out he had his own misadventure the night before in Quito, got mugged, fought the offenders off, missed the flight, and landed on a hostel couch for the night with a smile on his face and a few additional bruises.
I still remember the first time I saw him after that. He’d become a tanned and rugged traveller, full of life experiences that the road had given him and wearing clothes that had been thoroughly travelled in… standing tall in a dorm room at La Brisa Loca hostel in Santa Marta. He gave me a big hug… “It’s good to see you sis”.
So off the three of us went… ‘Journey 2012, the freedom days’ is what I called it. None of us knew exactly how short lived our freedoms would be.
We travelled through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. I wrote about some of our travels, and have others sitting in drafts. On long bus rides we would play a game… the rules were never spoken, it’s something that just kind of happened. Bryce would say a line from a film, usually Point Break but sometimes other old school greats like Coming to America, and you’d follow on. We’d be sitting hunched into a sweaty chicken bus for a long journey and all of a sudden you’d hear “I caught my first tube this morning, Sir” and turn around to see Bryce’s cheeky grin. You’d reply with “Punk, quarter back punk” and the bus ride would go on, that much lighter. He was a gem to travel with.
I left the boys in Guatemala and they continued on through Mexico and into the US and had some incredible adventures… some to be later laughed about and others that will stay on the road they were made on. We met up again in Vancouver, Canada, along with our older sister and the four of us had our last adventure together. You’d have thought that Bryce would stop there and stay home… but he didn’t. He went on to live in Canada, something he’d always wanted to do, and only came home when he really had to.
Bryce Casey Felstead died on September 22nd 2015 of an aspiration pneumonia secondary to the tumour. It was only after he passed that a lot of people found out that he’d even been unwell. I guess that says a lot about him, he was a proud guy and did everything in his power to live one more day. When it came to the end, he only really struggled a few months. Life didn’t drag him around half limp, and of that I am glad. He stood tall until the end, and was even the best man at Anthony’s wedding a month before he died.
My younger brother was determined to live his life to the fullest to his very last breath. Among many amazing things, Bryce was also a traveller. When life threw him a massive curve ball he strapped on his backpack and off he went. Intent on Living. And I couldn’t have been a more proud sister. I would have given anything to take his place… I really would have… even if just to see what magic he would do with the rest of his life.
I feel his presence sometimes. When I walk down to the rock pools at Cape Woolamai beach… when my son laughs in his sleep… times like that. And he reminds to live intentionally.
Bryce, you made the ordinary extraordinary.
“I’ll see you in the next life…”
If you knew Bryce or travelled with him, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
In memory of Bryce, and in an attempt to make up for not writing down his travel stories in time, I’d love to publish any stories of travels with Bryce that people might have. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org