I’m finding myself headed towards another waterfall in my life. That’s how it feels anyway.
There are these moments where it would just make sense for life to pause, for time to stay suspended till we catch our breath. I’d like that to be right now.
This trip has been so strange for me, I can’t quite explain it. Part of me wants to keep doing this forever. And part of me wants to go home. But I don’t really have a choice in the matter. It’s time now, and I’m coming home.
I feel a bit guilty, in a way, though I’m not sure why. I guess I wish I could’ve travelled longer, seen all the places I proposed to see, and visit all the festivals I had read about. But life on the road comes with it’s bumps and unexpected twists, and so I suppose I should’ve known it wouldn’t work out as planned.
I purchased a book the other day, called “The Kindness of Strangers”. It’s a collection of travel stories. And it made me realize what traveling does to us. It pulls us out of our comfort zone and it sticks us in awkward situations. If we do it long enough, we will all eventually find ourselves stuck in the mud, absolutely lost and broke, in some foreign land where we don’t speak the language. And just like clockwork, just when we’ve figured all is absolutely lost, just when we least expect it- some stranger will enter our lives and save us. And then disappear.
It’s happened to me on this trip more times than I can count. In New Zealand I got off at the wrong bus stop and was lost in a “bad neighborhood”. The first person I stopped and asked for directions took it upon himself to not only escort me to the poetry reading, he actually stayed for the reading and then showed me around Wellington for the rest of my time there. In Brisbane, I was lonely and depressed around Christmas because I had no one to share it with, when this french student invited me to the beach with her friends and then took me out to the movies on christmas day. Her reason was simple “Someone did it for me when I first got here. I know how awful it is to be alone on Christmas.” In Vienna, the kindness of strangers went nuts in my life, and I was given free accommodation plus was invited to give a workshop on poetry in a school. In Ireland, two students took me in and let me stay with them in their dorm room during their exam week; and later as fate would have it, I met a musician over a cup of coffee who had more in common with me than anyone I had ever met. In Woodford, I had missed the last train to Brisbane, and was stranded ankle deep in mud at the folk festival, when a poet and his wife allowed me to stay in their super huge tent for the night. In Melbourne, a girl I had met once invited me to stay with her and became one of my closed female friends. In Belfast, after scrambling and failing to find accommodation, a poet gave up his hotel room for me, and then offered to take me on a tour of Scotland.
The stories just continue. I was not totally “down and out”. I wasn’t begging or even asking for help. It just happened and worked out. But the kindness of strangers is one of those phenomena that really change a person’s view of humanity.
As the book says:
“Kindness is really, so to speak, all of a piece- an absolute, which cannot be graded; but its most symbolical expression is the sudden, unpremeditated act of sympathy, offered without hope or reward to an unknown and perhaps unappealing soul in distresss- to a foreigner, a truculent vagrant, an unwashed backpacker or a cat.”
The point is, I’ve had so many wonderful encounters on this trip, that I know things will be different when I get back home. It won’t be like Granada, where my heart was broken after leaving Spain. No, it’ll be a bit slower, a bit heavier, I imagine. The slow transformation from being an adventurer back into a normal person. Just a girl with lots of stories. And that idea hurts, a lot. I’ve come to identify myself by my stories. But that’s wrong too. I’m more than just what happened this year. I just have to learn to integrate it into the bigger picture. And that’ll happen, eventually. It’s soon going to be time to pay it forward. I owe the universe a lot. I’m going to have to become one of those strangers.