The runway is dark and the air is heavy with humidity. In the last twenty-four hours I’ve transited through five airports, three countries, and spent seventeen hours in the air with my knees scrunched up behind the seat of the passenger in front of me. I’ve squirmed and wriggled and cried and spent a night sleeping restlessly on the floor of the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, only to arrive at this moment. My heart is pounding out of my chest. A few more steps and I’ll be home.
Oaxaca, Mexico 2012
*Photo credit Rebekah Friend
I’ve been putting this off for a lot of reasons. I’ve been fighting it and dreading it and avoiding it since the moment I left fourteen months ago. Home is not an easy place for me. It’s emotional and broken and the backdrop for a lot of personal unhappiness. It’s also a place of love and comfort. It’s a place I can show up to any time and know that I belong. It’s a place I’ve run away from and run back to many, many times.
Grain Valley, MO 2012
“Home is not places, it is Love.”
I’ve been too scared to admit I needed to come home, stubbornly denying the truth, refusing to let go of my own expectations for how it should all end. According to my own plans, I should still be in Thailand right now, finishing up a TEFL course and building up my blog. I should be getting ready to attend a travel industry conference in Bangkok before returning to Paris for a week of travel with some of my dearest friends. I had planned to come home in June, just in time for my best friend’s wedding, triumphant, energized and accomplished. I wanted to finally have my shit together enough to prove I’d done the right thing in abandoning my previous life.
I’ve imagined this moment since the beginning of my journey around the world. I’ve pictured a thinner, brighter, more courageous version of myself coming home with the glint of adventure captured in my smile and sparkling in my eyes. I’d be wearing a pretty floral patterned dress that I would have purchased in Bali (for like $2, of course), and flip flops. I’d have a nice tan from all of my time on the beach in Southeast Asia, and a backpack full of souvenirs from France. I’d be full of stories about scuba diving and teaching English and I’d have certificates to prove I’d performed both tasks exceptionally well. I’d be greeted with a group of smiling faces the minute I exited the gate, my Dad goofily holding a balloon in one hand, my mom a hand-made “Welcome Home” sign in the other. I’d play the role of the prodigal daughter, they the loving parents expectantly awaiting my return.
San Blas, Mexico 2013
If I’ve learned nothing, it’s that my expectations and plans do not make the world go round.
Reality looked more like this: Sniffling with heavy bags under my eyes and blisters on my feet, I walked towards the last gate eagerly scanning the crowd of faces waiting for the plane’s arrival. My heart dropped. Not one familiar smile. I was finally home after fourteen months of circumventing the globe, and no one was there to meet me. I walked nervously to the baggage area, hoping they’d be there, instead. Forty minutes later I gave up and went outside for a cigarette, thoughts of car accidents and panic swirling around my exhausted mind. That’s when I saw his open arms, walking towards me, smiling with relief.
It wasn’t exactly the welcome home I was anticipating, but I’m not exactly the person I hoped I’d be, either. I’m a mess. A puddle on the floor, my face a reflection of what I’ve seen and lost and become. I have nothing to offer but myself. No plans except unclenched fists and a proud, determined vulnerability. No future except the present moment and a stubborn faith in what’s to come.
Rocamadour, France 2014
I wanted desperately to invite you over for a show and tell, to name the charted waters I’ve sailed and map the hearts of the ones I’ve loved. I wanted to hand out bravery and courage as party favors, I wanted to bring home a treasure chest carved out of hopes and dreams and lavender.
Paris, France 2014
I guess the truth is I’ve traveled around the world only to come home empty handed, an enlarged heart stitched onto my sleeve, beating wildly, passionately bleeding Love. I’ve come to realize, this is exactly what the Universe conspired towards all along. It’s the original Intention of my journey, the unknown purpose, the buried treasure I’ve been searching for…and the only gift I have left to share.
“I have inside me the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the stars, and everything created in the universe. We were all made by the same hand, and we have the same soul.”