Years ago, one of my best friends lived in London for a while. She was working there after earning her MSW, and before she even left for her time abroad, I swore I’d come visit her.
I was in a weird spot that year, living at my parents’ homes though I was firmly into adulthood. It was the year I ran a marathon in Alaska, and that entire time was a study in emotional contradictions: I worked at a job I liked and I applied to graduate school, and I struggled in a long-term relationship that I didn’t understand.
I remember so vividly wanting to visit my friend and always feeling like I couldn’t. The reasons now seem trivial: not enough time, not enough money. Looking back, of course, I know I had enough time, enough money, and enough desire. I just didn’t have the courage, somehow. It had nothing to do with the place, which I’d visited before; it had something to do with an unsettled part of my heart.
The year passed and I never went to London, despite looking at flights countless times. And ever since then, I’ve known how important it is to me to simply get on a plane and go, sometimes in spite of the things that seem to encourage me to stay earthbound.
I’ve made travel a priority in my life in a way that sometimes causes me to wonder if those priorities are really in the right place. I don’t own a home, but I treasure my passport; I wonder what that says about me. And at the same time, it doesn’t really matter: the other day, when I saw two signs (cheesy though they may have been) that urged me to “do more of what I love,” I immediately thought of specific things: writing, and travel.
So yesterday, when I became aware of a sale that – really – had the lowest fares I’ve ever seen to Europe, I debated a little while. I thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t go, and thought of all the ways I could rationalize staying at home. The most inexpensive flights were to Ireland, Scotland, and Norway, and though I would have been happy with any of them, it was Norway – the one totally unknown spot – that caught my eye. I’d love to return to both Ireland and Scotland, but Norway? I’d never even considered it.
I debated overnight, looked at options, and convinced myself that if the ticket wasn’t there in the morning, it wasn’t meant to be. I asked a family member if she’d like to go with me, as I’ve long wanted to travel with her, but the timing isn’t right, so I went back to the drawing board. And in the end….
I bought tickets to go to Norway.
I don’t know anything about Norway. But at this point, I know something about myself: I know that I have not regretted any of the trips I’ve taken. I know that traveling taps into something inside of me that is crucial to who I am. I know that when I travel spontaneously – even if it’s just a matter of driving a couple of hours away – I feel something in my soul awaken, and dance, and hoot, and holler. And I sense that, for whatever as-yet-unknown-reason, traveling is something that is inherent to the writing I want to do, and the places in my heart that I want to visit.
If I could, I would go back in time and visit my friend in London. But because I can’t, I am determined to take the lesson inherent in not going, and use it: to move forward, to fly, whenever – and wherever – I am lucky enough to go.