I am most myself when I am caught in the rainstorm of a new city: the shower of languages that converge like a harmony in my ears, the celebration of communication; brick built upon brick to form the shape of castles and rotundas our skylines are without; an expanse of local places to sit with a cup of coffee and take in the quiet pride whispering through.
When I feel lost — which, despite the certainty of many things in my life, is often — I unroll maps like accordions and trace streets like veins into the back of my hand. There is nothing that liberates the heart and mind like foreignness. To step into a city for the first time leaves your trail behind but, more importantly, trails behind you for eternity.
I fall in love with place and change. That indescribable rush of newness, of experiencing the “someday” now, of seeing and doing what’s out of your norm, tosses away any weight that may be pressing on your shoulders. I like to run away from myself and dive in somewhere that takes me away from trouble. It is an antidote for sadness; the sight of mountains and man-made cities is enough to weaken your knees and heal what has been hurt. Here, nothing of the past matters. What is ever-present is you, your eyes drinking in the sights, your ears attuned to the breeze and local grins, your heart beating fiercely at the opportunity to be here.
Travel to gain and regain and regain again a sense of yourself. In low moments, we are strangled by our minds, pecking at our every thought, exposing what we try to forget. We are burdened by the weight of ourselves. When you escape to the grounding realisation that this world stretches beyond our wildest dreams, that we are one itty speck on the map, you will return to that feeling of freedom. The everyday world suddenly becomes full, refreshed, satisfying: you are valued, you are necessary to this machine, and you deserve the blessings of an eye-opening life.
Travel makes you feel untethered; like you can come and go and know that these experiences are unveiling some new bit about yourself you didn’t know you had. If you can fly to a city where your language is not most frequently spoken, manoeuvre the avenues and alleys where locals sip coffee and steal kisses with their lovers and begin their trek to work, climb towers and mountains and look out into the vastness you’ve been missing, then you are invincible. There’s childlike wonder at these unknowns, or the known that we have only now discovered for ourselves.
I crave early morning Greyhound buses, a water bottle and arsenal of snacks in my bag, my earphones sharing another playlist with me. When I crave escape, I close my eyes and remember gently bumping along the highway, sun, and stars whisking us away, the excitement of arriving at new and old territories. I cram my bookshelf with new guidebooks, read them like my life depends on it, fill pages and documents with old stories and new ideas. “Where to next?” is a question I ask myself often, and one that I hope to never finish answering.
My parents made it a point to teach my siblings and me that travel is the key to soul-deep happiness. That veering from your comfort zone satiates a thirst none of us knows we have until we are awakened by a warm breeze or sunrise along the rim of the Grand Canyon. That home doesn’t need to be stable. Still, we reminisce on our many journeys and future plans to travel.
Where life twists and turns, I follow. Where it becomes too much, I drop my things where they are, and take the road towards travel. Then the load becomes easier to leave behind when I pick up on my path again.