While recounting all of the countries we’d lived and visited, a good friend asked me, “From or to?” Unsure I’d heard him correctly, my reply was,
He laughed and repeated his question very slowly, enunciating every word like I was the village idiot. “FROOOOM, OOOOOR TOOOOO?” I believe, “Negro, no more alcohol for you!” was my response. He explained his theory that people who travel extensively like we do are either running FROM or TO something. He wanted to know which it was for me. Not a typical query one expects to find at the bottom of a rum bottle in Madrid at 4am! A profound question I answered easily. From.
Our eyes locked across a dance floor that crawled with sweaty bodies and everyone staking their claim to the rhythm of the music. She and I, eyes never wavering, dove into a swaying sea and allowed the swell of movement to carry us to each other, effortlessly. Almost as if the dancers feared the anger of the gods for interfering with destiny. Face-to-face, I wrapped my arms around her and my fingers gently entangled in the strings of her heart. She embraced me, closely, and breathed her warm essence into the fabric of my soul. It was my Genesis. Before her, I, formless and empty, at that moment, became light, and the light was good. We danced and danced…until we didn’t.
My insecurities, self-doubt and fear silenced our song. I faltered and misstep, shattering the perfect harmony of elegance and symmetry. Out of sync, we crashed and were thrown off balance into awkward movements devoid of all gracefulness. Step on your partner’s toes enough they will instinctively flinch. Soon, they expect pain. If the hurt embeds itself too deeply into their psyche, it can never be forgotten. That remembrance, coupled with the expectation of misery can deafen even the keenest ear to the loveliest of melodies. Understandably, she excused herself. Playing a tune composed for a duet as a soloist is a fool’s errand. I lost count at the attempts to pick up from the last meaningful notes, but heart strings are not guitar strings to be casually replaced and strummed with no recollection of the cause of the break. And that is my From.
When the realization cemented that we would never again be we, I fled. Like a hit and run driver leaving the scene of devastation in their wake, I fled. My compulsion to rectify a situation beyond repair bordered on obsession. She made her decision, the right decision, and she deserved to live out that decision free from my interference. I recognized that, knew it to be true, yet I fixated on the possibility of “earning” one more dance to one more song. Giving her the space she deserved to rediscover her own forgotten song wasn’t possible if I remained a constant presence. So, I fled. And that is my From.
I left the USA behind, running from echoes of a future that no longer remained imaginable. Wherever you go, there you are is a cruel reality the universe does not allow the brokenhearted to escape. The accumulation of stamps on my passport failed to put out a bonfire of guilt and shame and no amount of frequent flyer miles dampened my acute sense of loss. I smelled her in my dreams. I tasted her in my tears. My fingertips ached to caress the length of her collarbone.
I missed her everywhere. Remote beaches in Costa Rica, a mountain peak in the French Pyrenees Mountains, and even at the tip of South Island, New Zealand staring out on the Southern Ocean I suffered. Endlessly. And that is my From.
Coming to terms with oneself is a continuous journey littered with detours and restarts. I finally am in a healthy place on my journey. I wish I could say it was an easy road and no other heartstrings were entangled and broken, but I can’t. That too is my burden. I have seen so many FUNomenal things on my journey, however, until I dealt with the from, I never deeply appreciated how blessed I am. I have discovered my super power, and it is travel. And that is my Now.
Because of that simple question many years ago in Madrid there is a part of me that wonders about every quest I see to visit every country in the world. Who am I to determine if it’s fueled by a noble and sincere desire to explore? I do know that people who travel for months at a time, or who move to other countries on a whim are a special breed. Often times our stimulation is a from or a to; student loans, recent divorce, fame, fortune, love, etc etc. Categorize them as you wish. Personally, I found more satisfaction when my motivation became exploration of self while using travel as the catalyst. It wasn’t easy, and it may only be applicable for my personal journey, but it is the truth. And that is my Now.