Traveling for me is such an overwhelmingly positive experience that the brief moments of negativity maintain a tenuous hold at most when I look back. My memory barely snags on the missed flights, the fear-induced sleeplessness, the tearful goodbyes. Years from now, when my restlessness has been tamed (by infirmity most likely), I will reflect on my wild youth and remember people I met once and never again, night skies gazed upon from the bottom of a canoe, the pleasure of fulfillment and freedom, of living a life so open I could not touch its edges if I stretched my arms to their limit.
This is not to say that I do not feel the full weight of those few less than happy moments that are so inevitable.
I finally made it back to Cuenca after three months at home and although throughout the entire trip (which included two layovers and a five-hour bus ride) I felt proud and excited, once my bags were unpacked and I had stopped moving, I was rendered practically catatonic by a feeling of dread, of loss. Suddenly there was a marquee invading the darkness behind my eyes that read in bold, jagged script: “What have you done!?” And behind the marquee trailed a caravan, each vehicle carrying its own individual anxiety — not enough money! No family! No backup plan! On and on around a circular track in my brain this caravan went, depriving me of my confidence, my courage, even sleep.
But somewhere in me there is also a spark that speaks rationally, and it told me that this was just a reaction to odyssey, that it had happened before and will again. It reminded me that I am living my life by my own rules and that even the bravest sometimes shrink from the shadow they themselves cast. And so I let the negative feelings wash through until all that was left was a residue of caution, something necessary to any adventure.
Each day that I live my life like this I am carving myself, my identity, out of the clay, so that one day, decades hence, when adventure lives mostly in my muscle memory, I will know exactly who I am and how I came to be.