Monthly Archives: August 2013

Lo siento

I ask my new German friend of approximately 16 hours why on earth the Barcelona girl who just passed us on the street would be wearing a shirt of the U.S. flag. My friend didn’t even notice, let alone find it weird. In fact, she mostly just finds it weird that I find it weird.

I tell her that nobody likes Americans, and she is genuinely baffled.

I think of American girls as open-minded and nice, she says. That’s how they always are in movies. Is it true?

———-

I’m not a good traveler yet.

My socks still aren’t dry after being hand-washed two days ago. (They also probably still smell dirty.) I did such a good job hiding my valuables in my backpack that it took me ten minutes to find my passport when I checked into my second hostel. My iPhone only takes terribly dark pictures of me blinking. Apparently, you’re only supposed to tip between seven and ten percent in Europe. I’m still thinking in English, which I think is rude even as I’m automatically saying sorry for accidentally doing something else rude. And I may have drunk an entire bottle of Spanish tap water, which I guess I maybe wasn’t supposed to do.

Still. I have already made (and said goodbye to) new friends. I have walked miles (kilometers) and breathed in history. I’ve already written more than a dozen pages in my new Moleskine, and as incredibly cheesy as it sounds, I feel inspired. La Sagrada Família makes me want to both convert to Catholicism and study under an amazing architect. The weather has been beautiful and if I could eat tapas forever, it might even win out over food truck tacos. I am smiling, mostly. And while I’m realizing that long-term travel will be far from a relaxing holiday, I am learning.

It’s 1AM right now, and my new hostel-friendly vibrate-only alarm will (not) sound at 6:15AM so I can catch the first (and cheapest) train to Pamplona.

I can’t wait.

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this is for real.

photo

This is the very last thing I wrote in a journal I kept last year. I don’t think I could’ve imagined that it would lead me here, but I am so glad that it did.

My to-do list is empty. My goodbyes have been said. My bag is packed. I am ready.

like a drum

My dad and I drive three hours up to Boston primarily to pick my brother up from his job. It turns out that this primarily consists of us waiting around.

The woman shuffles out of the exit about a half hour before my brother does. She is struggling with two of the biggest rolling suitcases I’ve ever seen, in addition to the three large tote bags that weigh down her arms.

I notice her passively as she stops to collect herself in front of the bench we’re sitting on, almost as if I am watching her through a TV screen.

And then I see my dad, walking over to her, asking her if she needs help, taking half her load, and following her down the street to the bus. It is a simple gesture, but for those few minutes, he was able to make someone else’s life better—and doesn’t that still mean something?

So I want to scream at the doctors that they must be mistaken, because there can’t possibly be anything wrong with a heart that big.

———-

I am making promises that I’m not sure if I can keep. That I won’t worry. That I’ll stop liking him too much. That I’ll keep in touch better. That I won’t wear my expensive-looking watch. That I’ll be back by May. That I’ll always be safe.

I am leaving tomorrow. Promise me that you’ll still be here when I come back.

A poor planner’s guide to packing

I have found that travel packing is a skill. And, unfortunately, it does not seem to be a skill that I possess. For days, I have been staring at a far too large pile of things spilling out of my 60L backpack, feeling like I am slowly losing my mind as I realize that I’ve misplaced (or don’t even own) yet another item that I’m not sure how I’m even going to fit anyway.

So this is mostly for me. But with all the questions I’ve been getting lately, it seems like far too many of you are far too interested in learning exactly how I’m fitting a whole year into one tiny bag… oh right, and then carrying that bag 15 miles a day.

Almost comprehensive packing list, subject to tons of changes. Bold items are being sent ahead to be picked up in Santiago after my walk.

Optimistic walking weight: approximately 16lbs before water

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tell me, do you still believe in me?

“I’m going to worry about you.” He looks me in the eyes as he says this and I lean into him, because I know what it really means is that he loves me. My roommates and I used to say “be safe” to mean the same thing.

We are standing on his roof at midnight, and I have to admit that the Manhattan skyline might be more impressive than Houston’s… and maybe, just maybe, I could see this being where my world tour ends.

———-

I am back where I started in every sense of the word. And as my history bubbles up in the form of people who at one time or another once held my heart, I feel myself transported back to those past versions of me.

I see myself through their eyes: when naivety propelled my boldness and I was innocent to a fault; when I was selfishly unaware at the expense of others; when I was fiercely and unconditionally loyal; when I took risks and let curiosity guide me; when I honestly opened up and began to search for more.

I was always so different, I think, though it’s possible that I am the only person who thinks this about my progression.

I expect there to be a disconnect when I run into these people, an awkward lull when we realize that everything has changed. I am surprised to find how much this is not the case, how many of these people also say they will worry about me, and how easily we still fall together.

I really need to be more aware of the staggering number of people who care about me.

Sometimes it’s good to go back.

definitely, maybe

I am back on the East Coast.

My Houston goodbyes were simple, another reminder that my life is, in fact, not a movie, and sometimes good things just end without fanfare or drama or the perfect amount of closure.

Newly returned, everyone has questions for me, and for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m in the middle of an exam that I didn’t study for. My answers change constantly and I hold my breath, waiting for someone to catch on, and for all of my half-truths to unravel.

I am anxious more often than not. Anxiety feels kind of like sadness, except stickier. It follows me, gets caught in my throat and my stomach and my mind and my dreams, clings to my skin like an extra weight I must carry—and despite having felt like this on and off for months, I have yet to find a surefire way to shake it.

Beyond the questions, there have been many much-needed heart-to-hearts with good friends. And consequently, I have been thinking a lot.

I have said that I am searching for meaning, but now that my former life is gone, I am worried that maybe I was wrong, and I already had exactly that in the people and the career that I left behind—maybe I just couldn’t see it.

Maybe timing has more to do with happiness than I have been giving it credit for, and maybe my adventures are only causing me to miss out on creating the stability that I crave.

Or maybe I am—and always have been—more in control than I thought. If so, this past year has been full of arguably too many mistakes on my part, and maybe all I am doing now by giving up everything that I know and love, is tempting fate.

And of course, there is always the possibility that I am just thinking too much.

I spent four days in the woods hiking with my sister, and felt more in tune with the universe than I ever had before. Maybe in the end, it’s all about trust. In everything and everyone around me, but most importantly, in myself.

Easier said than done.