Our infatuation first started when I was a young, less-cultured wanderlust of nineteen in the Charles de Gaulle airport. I fell painfully, desperately in love with the sophistication of the Parisian lifestyle, poise of the well-dressed inhabitants, cobblestone alleyways that led to yet another trendy jazz club. We had our differences - the snow that rested on my brick windowsill in the chill of winter and our never-improving language barrier - but I quickly learned to appreciate those differences as a beautiful reason for my affection. When I returned home after that six-month affair and rested my head on a pillow of familiarity, my heart grew fonder for travel, yes, but it also grew more eager, anxious, unfulfilled.
So I left again. This time on my own account with nothing but spontaneity to guide me. The first few months were better than I remembered them, elated by the newness of experience and by my return to those cobblestone alleyways in the sunshine. I remember the overly hospitable welcome of the Israelis towards a foreigner in their country, the metro rides to Montmartre to talk about life and our futures and nothing in particular with my sister in Paris. I remember the peaceful calm of North Thailand, the enchantment of quiet Laos, my feelings of angst and depression in Vietnam, the tranquility of Koh Ta Kiev and its ability to slowly return my spirit in Cambodia. I remember the feeling of culture shock as I boarded the plane to Australia and as I returned to the Western world.
Some days when the Xs across the dates on my calendar grew more frequent, I remember feeling exhausted. I questioned myself - is it normal to be tired when living a life of so much privilege? ["In an all blue world, color doesn't exist. If something seems strange, you question it, but if the outside world is too distant to use as a comparison, then nothing seems strange." - Alex Garland.] Living a life on the road of constantly packing, moving, meeting people is what gives definition to this backpacking experience, but in the most unexpected of times it takes its toll. It's not always as easy as fromage et baguettes at the Eiffel Tower with the comfort of stable friends. But here I am today, half a year since I left Los Angeles airport, with health and stability in this travel relationship. Today, I will remember this feeling of happiness.
For this occasion let us not raise a glass to my own good fortune, but to the people who helped make my imagination a reality, who provided dialogue to my story, who gave me reason to feel homesick, who acted as a source of strength when I felt defeated. Let us raise our glasses to those unique, cultured, articulate, like-minded individuals who are worth traveling to find.
So here's to you, people of the world. Let us dance and sing and drink and be merry and love and laugh for many months - and years to come. You have brought a light to my life, and I am forever grateful.
[We're happily registered at bookstores worldwide.]