Recently, I invited over a friend and was introduced to hernew boyfriend who had apparently heard so much about me. I listened to him goon about his Kansas farm, and then interrupt himself with…
“…of course, I’venever traveled to Europe or anything…”
I was caught off guard by his apologies and humbledownplaying of farm life. But I said nothing,
Because I knew my travels involved more tears and swearwords than photographs.
June 20th, 2011
“@*%$ *&%$, What am I doing here?”
I think that was the basic sentiment.
I can still picture myself slumped in an orange, plasticbooth at MacDonald’s, fresh off the plane –clutching a damaged pen with inkspilling onto my skin, I had scribbled curses onto pages of my fresh journal.
Six months previously I had decided to buy a plane ticketand travel through Europe after college graduation. This is almost a cliché,but one with which I was proud to be labeled.
Excitement flooded me in the months leading up to my trip.
I filmed myself packing items into the large blue backpack,one month before I left. (Just to practice you know… )
I created a cash envelope budget,
got a fresh hair cut,
informed anyone who would listen and some who wouldn’t,
And even doodled sketches of planes flying over the Atlanticonto my final exams.
I played out the adventure in my head long before I crossedthe ocean, and then suddenly, the day had arrived. I rode the sky tram thoughDFW airport, thinking it’s not to late to go home, to be safe and comfortable.
Swollen butterflies, beating light wings in my stomach as mypassport was stamped, attempted to guide me back to the safety of the terminal,but I grabbed a metaphorical fly swatter and beat them back.
Nothing would keep me from this experience, especiallymyself.
I think the best moments of the whole month were when I knewfood and friends would be denominators and not unknowns.
If the darkest moments could pile up like books, stackedwith spines facing out, each would read:
It’s always easier to recount the good parts of my travels,to talk about French cheese and how friendly the Dutch are, but what I rarelytalk about is the fear,
the insecurity which seemed to be an Eeyore style cloud,hovering wherever I went.
A fact that made it very difficult to even approach the farmhouse selling hand crafted cheese, or the plague of anxiety which coerced meinto corners with books, rather than introduce myself to others in a bar.
No matter how many years separate me from June 5th,2011—the worst travel day in history—I will never forget the lumpy blob caughtin my throat, ready to send a stream of blubbering tears with any sidewaysglance or missing of train.
of all of the fear and apprehension solo-Europe gifted tome, I would not hand it back.
There is no regret.
The insecurities in my life, the vanity, the masks I wear,would not have been so clear had I traveled with a friend.
Not to say I wouldn’t have learned lessons aboutrelationships etc.
But a month with myself and my thoughts, my decisions atevery corner, brought me to the conclusion that
story has much lessto do with the location than it does with the experience.
People make experience,
when I met up with an old friend in Prague, secret stores ofenergy exploded into my countenance and confidence with something as simple asasking for directions.
Standing on a bus for two hours became a mishap to laughabout, rather than cry.
If I had not traveled alone, I would never have realized howmuch I love to travel with people.
Even if traveling simply means the retelling of a story.
So sitting on a couch in Fort Worth Texas, listening to anew acquaintance recount tales of cow tipping and bad crops, as he gushed warmlyover my old friend is an experience I would never trade.
This is the adventure.
Check out more stories at Prodigal Magazine HERE.