I once had this moment where I felt so truly alive…so entirely free, and awake, and buzzing with the thrill and exhilaration of the human existence, that this particular moment became etched in my mind and memory forever. It became the moment in which I would measure against all other moments, forever chasing the lightness and joy that it held for me.
I was 23 and on a train that rumbled through the Italian Riviera. It was sunny and I was listening to the Allman Brothers on a clunky yellow discman. I was looking out the window, and it dawned on me that I had possibly never felt happier than I did right then. I had the unmistakable high of someone who was traveling. Seeing new things, meeting new people, living. I didn’t take a cell phone and only had internet access if I went into an internet cafe, which I rarely did. I was off the map. The addicting feeling that was travel, had led me to shove a new life into a backpack and set off to explore a new continent with three people that I barely knew. The decision that ended up being one of the very best I ever made, and those three people who I barely knew became people I would love and be bonded to in the most unique and cool way. We saw the world together. We traveled. We lived. Traveling became something that I wanted to define my life. I wanted the adventure to last and last, and be etched on my tombstone. Here lies the girl that saw everything, did everything, and missed nothing. No stone unturned. Badass Gypsy. RIP.
Ok, so far that isn’t really going down. In the past 10 years my wings have been seriously clipped and I get excited if I go to a new Target these days. Where do they keep the Pirates Booty here!? I don’t even know!!!! However, from time to time, I’m still able to squeeze in a real adventure. And I’m even ok with this dynamic for now. I know that’s just the phase of life I’m in, and as long as I don’t get taken out by a bolt of lightning, or a pissed off mom in the loop line, I’ll have a chance to get back to my more badass version of travel and living someday if I want to. Just not right now. Right now I do what I can, when I can, and chase that high I mentioned in smaller, tamer doses. I just had the pleasure of finding it again for a minute last week. I was sitting in the middle of the Smokey Mountains with my family on a sunny, beautiful morning….every direction I looked, looked too beautiful to be real. My kids had their shoes and socks off and were laughing and playing in a mountain stream with little purple butterflies flying all around us. And there it was, that feeling. I found it. I felt it.
It’s true that on my latest spring break adventure it looked like my car was packed for the apocalypse. Forget about surviving out of a backpack. I’m pretty sure that if hostile aliens were to have invaded we could have hidden in there and lived off of its contents for at least a month. I woke up at 6am every.single.day. because my son is an “early riser,” and has slept past 7am approximately 4 times in his 6.5 years on this earth. My kids got in a screaming, shit-fit fight in the car about who could hold the used Popsicle stick that they found on the floor. I turned around and told them I was going to tell the Easter Bunny to fill their Easter baskets with garbage next year if they loved it that much. My two year old screamed, “I want to hold the dirty trash!!!!” I gave up. We made a trip to the ER. A $300 pair of pediatric prescription sunglasses sank to the bottom of a river. My souvenirs included children’s Dramamine, Children’s Mucinex Day and Children’s Mucinex Night, Halls, Honey, Alka Seltzer, Zantac, Benadryl and Ibuprophen. And vodka. None of those things cast a shadow on this trip for me. My expectations of travel have changed. I was ready for all of those things because when you are a parent you know. You are always ready. You don’t let silly things like that wreck your adventure, they become part of your story. You laugh about it later, in the two hours that separate their bedtime from your own while you drink that vodka that I mentioned.
My kids slept in the same bed, and I listened to them laughing and talking and fighting over their “areas” every night until finally it was silent, and I knew they had drifted off. They played games, made s’mores, skipped rocks, ran through the woods, held hands, and had secrets that they wouldn’t tell me. My daughter turned to me and told me her brother was “her best friend.” I thought of my own brother, my best friend, and the thousands of days like that he and I had shared as kids, and how this was all so, so, worth it. My new definition of travel in all of its domesticated, wing-clipped glory. Every bump in this new windy road I’m on, and all of the changes that come with it, are better than any place I’ve ever been. This is living.