Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Pattern


You sit in front of your computer, staring at the information on the screen. “Your booking is confirmed!” Just a month ago, you were still a part of a working society, a tax-paying citizen. Everything you wanted: a nice car, a home, a retirement account, it was all within your grasp. All you had to do was stay put. Your computer notifies you of a confirmation email. This is really happening. Whatever plans you had for next week are out the window, you will be in another world. You won’t speak their language. You won’t know their food. You won’t know a single person when you arrive.

You finally realize, this is what traveling solo is all about.

What could you possibly do to fill up all that time? Your mind races at the thought of planning out every hour of every day. What will you eat? Where will you stay? You start to browse travel sites, make lists, buy books. Didn’t you just quit your job? This seems like more work than you signed up for. You wonder if you can still get your old job back. The thought of a paycheck crashes into your mind. Everything was so comfortable. How could you give up such a great job? Rosy retrospection sets in and you begin to reminisce about the past. You fight the urge to back out and make up your mind. In a week, you’ll be on the road.

You sit in a crowded bus station. Aside from the destination and a few numbers, you can’t read your ticket. A monk finds a seat in front of you. You laugh at how normal all of this has become. You are on your way to a new town, leaving a group of friends you have traveled with for the past few weeks. You hate to leave such a good group, but deep down you know you need to get on the road again. You need to be alone with your thoughts. You begin to think about the things you have experienced and the people you have met. Just a few weeks ago, you were that close to backing out. You shudder at the thought. You begin to reminisce about the trip so far and think maybe you should stay with your friends just a little longer. You convince yourself you’ll stay in touch and set your mind on solo travel again.

The bus ride is long and tedious and your mind wanders to better times. It’s an overnight trip and you can’t find rest no matter how hard you try. As you sit in a sleep-deprived state of mind you wonder if you’ll ever be able to settle down. You wonder how long you’ll be able to stay in the next spot before you get restless. Will you ever be able to keep a job again? The thought of staying in one country, let alone one city makes you apprehensive. Maybe it will pass. Maybe you just need to meet the right person or find the right job, something to tie you down. You hate the thought. You decide to think about the more immediate future and what the next destination holds for you. You can’t come up with a solid answer and that is your favorite part. The unknown.

You sit at the airport. You look at your ticket and you have plenty of time to think about everything that has happened since you took that leap. Too much time. Why didn’t you book a longer trip? You are on your way home and you feel like you were just getting to know the place. Home. What will you possibly do when you get there? Your mind races at the thought of planning out every day and every hour. Didn’t you just get here? How could this trip be over so soon? You wonder if there is any amount of time that would be “enough,” and if you could ever possibly satisfy the urge to wander? You settle your mind by deciding to look for another trip as soon as you get home. You think about all the people you met and wonder if you’ll stay in touch. You decide to email them while you’re waiting but only one or two will email you back.

As you find your seat on the plane, you prepare for the long flight. This was supposed to be the easy part, the part you were going to look forward to, yet here you are wishing you could just grab your things and run through the door. The flight attendant comes on over the PA telling you to buckle your seat belt. You decide to wait, just in case. The last thing between you and freedom is the seat belt. It’s only figurative, but you protest. You entertain the thought of backing out. You can just tell everyone you missed your flight. The flight attendant begins her trip down the aisle, checking for seat belts. In a day, you’ll be back home. Everything will be back to normal, everything the same, everything as usual, except you. You have changed and you know you can’t go back to “normal.” You’ll have to adapt, you always have and you always will. In a day, you’ll be back home. The flight attendant reaches your row. You give in.


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