I’ve done so much this year, been so many places and seen so many things, and now I’m back where I started and things are different but the same. In a way, I lived in so many lives while I was away, staying with so many people, and never in one place for very long. If, in leaving, we open ourselves up to the world and all its possibilities, we must also renounce the lives we’ve been living and accept whatever comes our way. This is the great lesson of travel, learned not from Eat, Pray, Love but from experience, and therefore much more meaningful: that everything is okay as it is, that everything’s perfect, or, more accurately, that everything will be okay however it happens to turn out. And in renouncing our lives we have to figure out what’s left when that’s not a lot, when all of our crap is packed away in boxes in someone else’s basement and we’re completely alone in a foreign country with no itinerary. We hatch plans and then the wind blows us this way anyway and everything turns out perfectly. Or it turns out differently than we wanted, but it turns out anyhow. It seems big and impossible and lonely and scary crazy to travel alone, especially to travel alone as a woman, but it’s the most natural thing in the world. It will be big and impossible and lonely and scary crazy, but it will work out anyway. You will worry about money and you will get teary and your breath will catch in your throat whenever someone you’ve met along the way and come to rely on leaves you alone again until you don’t anymore. And you might spend all your money and you might find yourself driving around an entertaining DUI felon perpetually holding a Red Bull in one hand and a joint in the other and who even other Alaskans describe as a “psycho” after answering a Craigslist ad looking for a Female Sidekick/Adventurer/Driver, of which you apparently are all four, and you might find yourself on an adventure holiday with eleven ten-year-olds and a weathered skipper who tries to kiss you the night before sailing off on a seventeen-foot yacht for five days, during which time you will studiously try to avoid making eye contact with said skipper, through all seventeen feet, and sometime before you’re back on dry land and he’s taken you to task for your behavior and said he’s not sorry for his, you will be standing at the front of the boat (is that the bow, or the stern, or the helm?) in some of the less-traveled waters of New Zealand, and the sun will be shining and the rain will be pouring and the wind will be whipping and the skipper will be at the wheel barking along to Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” playing loudly over the back of the boat, “Woy yoy yoy, woy yoy-yoy yoy,” and the eleven ten-year olds will be huddled in their life jackets there in front of the overlapping ridges of Stewart Island’s mountains fading shadowy gray with a rainbow arcing out over all of it, double at times and so, so vibrant. You might find yourself in that one perfect moment and realize how lucky everything is, and how unlikely, and you might find yourself, and that might be the point. And you’ll get back to whatever’s left of the life you left behind and you’ll make more money and you’ll fill in the rest and it will all have been so incredibly worth your while.
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