“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent is born of a story we tell ourselves, and I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe, I was strong, I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
– Cheryl Strayed
It turns out I don’t actually enjoy traveling. My skin develops an oily sheen, I become sleep deprived and irritable. I grow tired of the tiny economy seating, usually wedged between two armrest hogs. I watch the same movies, eat the same microwaveable meals, and long for a better view of whichever city we are flying over. The long layovers that were romantic and exciting at the time of scheduling become another detour and three or five more hours in stale air once we arrive. I used to love the escape airports offered, all of the possibilities. Now, I just want to get to my final destination already. I’ve been trying to stay present, to just enjoy the journey, but it is hard for me sometimes.
This is my truth.
I stopped in the middle of the Dublin airport and said to no one “What airport doesn’t have any outlets?” People rolled their carry on cases around me as if I carried the plague. There was a charging station four feet away from my unfolding temper tantrum. I told a broken ATM in Rome go to hell before stomping off like a child. These were not my finest hours.
You see, I have come to appreciate departures with their bittersweet goodbyes, long embraces, and tender kisses. I enjoy all of the “I love you” and “Please keep in touch.” There’s a sense of satisfaction and gratitude in knowing that I will be missed.
And arriving… I love arriving. Even if it’s a city I’ve been to one hundred times, I still get such a rush when I drag my suitcase out onto the busy sidewalk. My palms get sweaty, there are butterflies in my stomach, and I’m a little nervous. I am like a younger version of myself finally standing next to the cute boy I like so much. I want to take in every sound he makes, watch the changing light on his face, and fill my lungs with the same air he is breathing. I just want to savor the newness of it all, the sweetness of falling in love which I do again and again and again with these beautiful places.
And so it was with Italy. You know, after I cursed the broken ATM, accidentally dropped my new suitcase down the escalator, and called my poor mother at 5:00 in the morning her time to cry about what a big, stupid, lonely, asshole I am. I stepped off of the train in Florence and my palms began to sweat, there were butterflies in my stomach, and I was standing next to the city of my dreams, swooning. The cobblestone streets were filled with beautiful, red lipped women, couples sipped cappuccinos on sidewalk cafes, an elderly woman yelled something obscene and gestured with her hands. The sweet smell of pastries and coffee filled the quiet side streets.
Then, there was the shuttle to Siena along the winding roads that vein the Tuscan hills. So much green and all of Italy turning its gorgeous face toward mine, inviting me closer. I studied the way the afternoon light cast long shadows on the vineyards and inhaled the smoky air. I closed my eyes and let my heart fill once more with the beauty of this world.
The destination is always worth that uncomfortable, frustrating, sometimes scary in between time. With life too. Whatever you’re going through right now, it’s ok. Listen to me, one day you’ll be sitting in a quiet cove on Uluwatu beach watching the sunset or you’ll be sipping coffee at the Rome train station or you’ll be picking up your kids from school, cleaning up the dishes after dinner, sitting at a red light on the way to work or whatever it is for you and you will realize, suddenly, deeply, inside of your bones that you survived. Whatever big, scary, most awful thing it is that you fear you can’t or couldn’t possibly get over, you will.
I know this now. If you don’t let (insert big, scary, most awful thing here) to break your spirit, then it won’t. It can’t. What it will do is change your heart, inspire you, introduce you to parts of yourself I bet you don’t even know exist, and your experience will help others. The world itself will be a better place because of your courage and your heart.
So, keep going and allow yourself to be changed. Buckle in to that center seat between two large Asian men, let the airline feed you powder eggs with cold chicken sausage, and watch Gerard Butler save the day one more time. Say thank you. It’s all part of the journey, it’s all worth the pleasure of arriving and falling in love again and again and again.