“Like a Slingshot, Eh?”

I entered a travel writing competition on the transformational power of travel. I realized I write because I like to and I hate being judged for it. This is the first competition I have participated in for my writing. Here’s hoping.

“Like a Slingshot, Eh?”

My fingers strolled up the neck of my mandolin, wishing for the experience only practice gives. However if wishes were fishes, we wouldn’t have a severe overfishing problem in our oceans, so I set my instrument aside and began learning foreign words from the backpackers sitting nearby.

Bat’se. Czech for “afraid.”

People often choose to tell travelers that we are brave. They act as though our discomfort within the comfortable is something to be deeply admired. They tell us that courage is being fearful and doing it anyway.

But to be honest, most of us just feel like we are backflipping off the tightrope spanning bravery and stupidity.

I entered my first solo venture to New Zealand terrified of ATMs and banks. I knew nearly nothing of cooking and it would be my first experience in applying for a job. I had no clue what I was doing. On the worst evenings, I would curl up beneath the covers of a borrowed bed, tell myself “But I’m doing it anyway,” and find a way to move forward.

Provalo. Italian for “try it” or “prove it.”

Comparisons run rampant through hostels and travelers. The constant appraisal of your priorities becomes exhausting. The drinkers, the campers, the partiers, the hitchhikers, and those who fit all of the above share rooms and subject themselves to the scrutiny of social interaction. But I don’t fit.

I value hiking.

But not as much as the Englishman who chose to hike the length of New Zealand.

I value home.

But not as much as the German who dreamed of being home for Christmas and will likely not return to this part of the world.

I value community.

But not as much as the Irish girl who stayed at her hostel job for nearly the full duration of her working holiday.

At what point will I realize my values will never align with another’s and my achievements can only matter to me? Glancing at dusty camping gear and watching the intrepid walkers taking on mountains, I breathe deeply to remind myself there is nothing to prove and everything to try.

Selbstbewusstsein. German for “self confidence.”

I adore the moments of falling in love with a stranger, not for their body, but for something I cannot explain. I don’t speak to them, but I watch them, glance behind me, and wish I was wearing sunglasses so my gaze could linger. Some strange magnetism, or maybe just their style, drew me in for that space. My favorites are the confident ones. Their stride catches my eye and I wonder what inspired their sureness of self. Who was inspired from childhood and who found it in the satisfaction of jobs well done? Who learned to love themselves from a significant other and who chose to reinvent themselves?

And which of them is just a bit of an arrogant prick?

My gait has changed since being away from home. I walk and wonder if others see the person I have become. The limp from a chronic injury is fading and my shoulders are straighter with the experience of being alone. Even on my worst days, I find myself smiling with the privilege of wandering the world.

For comfort zones expand and life becomes a process of exploring its boundaries.

Jilear. Peruvian Spanish for “flirt.”

“May I kiss you?”

There are many reactions to that simple question. My favorite is the look of surprise. “I mean sure. But why?”

Why not? I find you attractive. Perhaps I just want to know how you taste. Perhaps it is my way of telling you that you are absolutely fascinating and worth my time.

Or perhaps it is a desire to grow a little more aware.

I don’t measure my growth as time passes overseas, but if I did, I would observe who I was at each kiss. Nervous and unsure. Temporarily infatuated, but aware of my own beauty. Amazed and willing to take the first step. Mutually attracted and curious. And straight up “I wonder what would happen.”

Sometimes I ponder who I would be if I was still home. Possibly searching for some relationship built to last or discovering my polyamorous nature while surrounded by people whose opinion I fear. In its own way, it would still be a journey. But there is something about the average American mentality that avoids those odd girls rocking faded blue hair who ask for a kiss.

Or maybe I just wasn’t looking before I left.

Transformera. Swedish for “transform.”

“You are facing new things all the time, Abiel. People who haven’t had to deal with that will never quite understand.”

Mom somehow manages to say it best.

I worry about coming home. I left just after highschool. I will return God knows when. I chose travel as my first adult lifestyle and the chrysalis I emerged from, cannot be what I return to. I guess it is meant to be just another adventure, another season of transformation.

Yet even with this thought process, you can never go back. Not to a place, not to a memory, and definitely not in time. You can only watch yourself accelerate towards the end.

“Time is relative and linear, but it always seems to go faster.”

“Well maybe time is like a slingshot, eh?”

Maybe so, my friend. Maybe so.

Soggy Dancing

I sat by myself in the Wellington Central Library. I felt soggy. I knew my journals and books were feeling the same way. I was dreading the walk home. It would be 45 minutes in the rain, and that was taking the bus to get rid of an hour of the walk.

I just wanted someone to talk to. A friend.

Wellington libraries have free Wifi, so I was able to talk to a friend at home, but I was well aware of the fact that if I did not stand up and find a physically present human to talk to, I would go home feeling lonely and sorry for myself.

“Just don’t be desperate,” was my chant as I wandered around searching for the librarian that I knew would engage me in conversation. All desperation does is make you a rather difficult individual to be around, as well as propelling what you are seeking far far away from yourself.

Finally, I just decided to use the restroom. I had to anyway, and I had a sense that after I was forced to wander through a different part of the library, I would be able to find a conversation.

Sure enough I found a group of three friendly librarians sitting at a desk and within minutes I was able to have a connection that drew the four of us into what became a conversation about politics, New Zealand versus American rape culture, travels, geography, books, and how I could find the three of them every Saturday at the very same desk.

Damn. It always works out.

On my way out the door, a librarian I had talked to previously engaged me on the beauty of books, music, film, and how being surrounded by so much knowledge and story and just creativity in general is one of the most life giving things you can experience. My smile was too big for my mouth as I skipped back into the rain.

And then as I was waiting for the bus, one of the initial three librarians I had conversed with was waiting at the same stop. I was able to have a third wonderful conversation with someone that I know I can find and talk to again.

My extroverted heart feels at peace. There are always interesting people out there and always a way to start a conversation.

It’s prompted a thought. If there was no music, what would make you dance?

Mine would be people. People make me dance.


(Featured photo is edited. I will no longer be saying when they are edited. I typically use VSCO for post processing my photos. If you have any questions, please ask. All photos will continue to be my own.)