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Vast. That’s how the airport felt that late Monday evening.
It was the gateway to a world of vast opportunities and adventures. Then there was me — a mere speck in the wild, whirlwind of an intricate map that started under the wheels of the 747.
This time was different from the other journeys I had embarked on — I was alone.
Yet, my soul was still and calm. I needed this. Like a wild mare needs to gallivant down the sandy dunes and flick her mane in the salty breeze. Here I was ready to accept the solo adventure I was about to embark on.
There in the empty terminal, I grew nervous with every clack and snap my new evergreen loaders made on the tile. My anxiety grew more and more as I ventured closer to my gate and distanced myself from the well known.
I was ready to travel to a country where I only knew a smidge of the language and had no concrete plans. I booked my hostel for the first night while lying on the terminal’s carpet. The whirl of employees vacuuming revibrating off the glass terminal walls.
After a few hours of trying to piece together my jigsaw of an adventure, I left my place of solitude to look for a bench to stretch out on. I tucked my cramped legs under me and attempted to sleep for a few hours before boarding my flight.
In those hours I felt numb. Not from the lack of blood flow to my arms and legs and being forced into a twisted, pretzel position, but because I didn’t know what to expect on this international voyage.
I continued to distance myself from feeling anything in fear that I would become overwhelmed and chicken out on the whole ordeal. And I nearly did.
When my boyfriend pulled me into him to kiss me goodbye, the way he inhaled my hair’s scent one last time, it tempted me to stay. Staying with him would’ve been easier. I knew he would take care of me; he always was my sturdy boulder in the midst of an avalanche. His strength never threatened to topple or crumble under pressure.
Yet, also in his misery, he expressed pride that I was brave enough to embark on my own. To greet such tribulations with grace. I wanted him to look at me that way, then maybe I would start seeing myself in the same light.
Both of my flights were a blur. After the initial kick of adrenaline during liftoff, I quickly found myself in company with slumber. Being jolted awake with turbulence I fought my second dose of adrenaline. The process would repeat during my second flight.
All the emotions hit me when I landed in my highly-coveted destination. After 20-plus hours of traveling, it finally sank in that I was utterly alone.
There was nobody waiting to pick me up at baggage claim. I had to learn how to navigate these foreign streets alone. Again, I could’ve caved and let a friend pick me up at the airport, but I crusaded onward. I leaped into the taxi line and catapulted myself towards another unknown — a hostel.
Later, at the hostel
Here, the small stucco structure is filled with characters I only envisioned to star in Hollywood blockbusters like “Eat, Pray, Love.” There’s the jock who comes back from the beach, glistening in sweat and eating his post-workout meal of Greek yogurt silently, almost brooding. There’s the anxious yet friendly traveler, who befriended me as soon as he saw me, curled up by the large-screened window watching stray cats scurry around garbage bins and cars navigate the small, narrow streets lined with other pastel stucco dwellings. There’s also the elderly lady who hovers nearby waiting for my pen to stop quivering so she can talk and endow me with some advice about the island she calls home.
We’re a mismatched group, but we sit comfortably in silence. Some try to get ahold of loved ones; others sit and watch the traffic whiz by.
I’m bombarded by so many things that I’ve let my evening tea grow cold, which is basically a sin. The water and tea have separated. A robust murky red lurks just below the surface while pale yellow water stands still at the bottom of my teacup. I swished the bag muddling the contents of my cup.
I feel content.
The unknown and unfamiliar are becoming my acquaintances. I sense this urge to travel and experience new things has ignited a bigger fire in my belly. Where does the smoke lead to next?