I read this piece at the DearBearWolf launch party at Mammal Gallery on May 13, 2014. If you haven't yet, check out ATL-based DearBearWolf here.
We woke up at 3 a.m., jet-lagged from a way too long flight across the ocean. I almost threw my phone across our tiny hotel room as I barely opened my eyes. But I manage to convince myself that waking up was worth it as he gets up and gets ready. I manage to search the internet for a phrase translation and write it on the back of a crumbled food receipt from the night before. The cold air hits my face as we stumble outside to catch a cab and it hurts more than it should have. Is there a word in another language that explains the state of being awake prior to having a caffeinated beverage? As I take my first bite of sushi that hasn’t been outside of the ocean but mere hours, I thought about how glad I was that I woke up today.
We found our way to the water, next to a marsh. We sat on the ground for what seemed like an eternity. We were cold, but we kept moving to make sure we stayed warm. He ventured down the hill to make sure we haven’t missed them, due to the light pollution. In a blink of an eye, they appeared. The northern lights were dancing in the sky for us. A tear traveled down my cheek as we watched them dance.
After walking for eight hours around a historic city with a terrible past, we approached the train station to continue our journey. My stomach grumbled as we took our belongings out of the locker and I asked if we should eat. The yellow light of the train station illuminated the food stalls on the sides of the long, wide hallway. We walked under an escalator and saw an elderly Japanese man standing outside his small restaurant with no sign or name. We walked in and he showed us what he was offering in his own language. After a few hand gestures, we sat down across a warm bowl of soup. The homemade noodles and broth were rich with flavors my taste buds have never experienced. We ate until we saw the bottom of the bowl. To this day, it is the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had.
We arrived to this beach-side hostel after eight hours of traveling in a very crowded bus in the middle of the night. We went to sleep right away. I woke up, no longer car sick, as a soft mist landed on my face. It was around 5 a.m. and you could see the first rays of the sun out of the horizon. I quickly put on my shoes and ran two miles to the shore. I hate running, but in that moment, all that mattered was for my eyes to meet those sun rays. I sat on the moist sand and ran my fingers through it. I watched the sunrise by the still, quiet ocean and after, jumped into the cold water with clothes and all. I felt alive and welcomed by this town in the middle of our continent.
I read in the New York Times last week that people are happier during the planning and anticipation stage of their trip than when they are actually at the destination. I call bullshit. At least for me.
Happiness for me is eating my way through a new city. Happiness is having an escape from your daily reality, while boarding a machine that defies physics every day. Planes are pretty weird that way.
Happiness is escaping our routines, contemplating things we couldn’t before and consider obscure possibilities – as we walk through crowded streets and listen to languages different from our own. I travel because I need to. Just like being a writer and needing to get these words out on a daily basis. I travel because your mind transforms when you are away from home – it’s bottled up creativity, knowledge and experiences.
Travel is a passion, an obsession. It’s a priority. For me. The excitement of feeling like an explorer, being spontaneous, discovering history and the connection of it all — it makes you more human. Robert Louis Stevenson said “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
That’s why I travel.