"All Who Wander Are Not Lost"

In my younger days, I decided to piss off overseas for an indefinite period of time. I bought a ticket, but as it worked out, it was much cheaper to buy an "around the world" ticket that included multiple stops, rather than the few that I had originally intended. I found this to be a 'happy accident' that even afro-puff Bob Ross would nod his approval toward.

I had planned to put all of my belongings in storage, to return to the life that I had previously established. But this plan seemed more and more....well....stupid. I could pre-pay storage for an extended period, but if I stayed away longer than I anticipated, how would I make a payment from a different hemisphere? I pictured my belongings being auctioned off thanks to a lack of mail service in, say, Mauritius.

At some point, I decided to sell everything I owned. Furniture. Clothes. My car. Everything. As gutted as I felt doing this, I consoled myself with the idea that this created quite the safety net for me should anything unexpected occur as I traveled.

As ballsy as this might have been, there was a bit of a snag in my plans. Namely, telling my family. Somehow, the date of my departure drew to weeks, then days, then hours, without my saying a word. I had already received a rather unexpected amount of criticism from my friends over my plans. And if these supposedly open-minded peers were suddenly so snarky, what could I expect of my family? As the time of my flight grew nearer, it just seemed easier to forego the nonesense and board the flight.

One of my very best girl friends dropped me at the airport. She saw the tears in my eyes, and knowing my disdain for goodbyes, cleverly told me that there was no such thing. She smiled and told me that she would simply see me later. As I choked back a lump in my throat, literally wondering where my adventures would take me and if I would ever see her again, she pressed a present into my hand as I walked into the airport.

As I stood shocked at her ability to be so smooth at such an ungodly hour of the morning, she disappeared into a throng of people. I was truly alone now. The lump in my throat was growing greater and I took solace in the package in my hand. I opened it to find a silver flask (fitting!) inscribed with the words "All who wander are not lost."

I boarded the plane with a confidence that I didn't know I had, thanks to my girl friend. She was able to find a truism that I didn't even know existed, and fitted my situation perfectly. I had tried to tell my friends for months beforehand that I wasn't running away from anything, rather I was running toward the unknown. But this friend got it in ways that even I didn't. This little reminder came in quite handy for the first legs of my trip, when I was jetlagged, confused, and lacking even rudimentary language skills of my first host country.

Christmas Eve rolled around. I had been away for over a month, and had gotten by with popping into i-net cafes to drop my family a quick note here and there. I had met some really cool kids from seven different countries and we had all started traveling together. It was an amazing group, and I'll tell you that, after traveling together, those people know me better than many friends who have known me for decades.

As everyone was walking to the "phone store" (a modified bamboo shack with one telephone line and a stopwatch) to call their families for the holiday, I was markedly stoic. One of the British boys came to ask me why I hadn't called my family yet. I explained that I had never told them I was leaving, how they were going to be so tremendously disappointed in me for leaving my job and my life to just piss off, etc. etc.

He simply looked at me, shook his head and said, "Well, I don't really care about any of that. Where I come from, you call your family on the holidays. You just call them and you say 'hello.' You don't talk about uncomfortable things, you just call and you just say hello." And without another word, he walked out of my room.

I sat stunned and shamed for quite awhile. And then I headed off to the phone shack. I tremendously fucked the math on the time difference, and wound up waking my folks at four in the morning. They of course thought that something was dreadfully wrong, which worked in my favor. As they shook off the sleep and panic, they realized that my voice sounded fine...other than the poor connection.

My mother finally asked how I was doing in (X) city I was supposed to have been living in, how was the weather, and other pleasantries. I took a deep breath and said, "Well, I'm sure everything is fine there. But the truth is, I'm in India."

There was a palpable pause on the other end of the line, during which I envisioned that I had killed my mother with this news. Convinced that I had given her a heart attack or brain aneurysm, I was shocked when she finally let out a deep, heartfelt cackle.

"Well, of COURSE you are!" she said.

You see, to my mother, it was clearly evident from the time that I could walk and talk that I would be the child who would randomly ring her from the other side of the world on Christmas Eve. And, luckily, she got a vicarious thrill from it.

So too, I offer this story as an explanation, of sorts, for my blogcation. I've been having adventures, many of which I simply haven't been able to share here. Perhaps I've built it all up in my head too much. Perhaps the consequences of writing here really would be far different than the relief I felt at telling my mother I wouldn't be coming to Christmas dinner because I was in India.

But I'm older now and know that I'm not bulletproof. I know there are things that just can't be undone on the internets--an arena that has not anticipated since I could walk and talk that I would perform feats of magnificent stupididy alongside humbling escapades of diving head-first into shallow pools. I also know that life, love, and loss are not meant to be offered up casually, even if one needs to talk about such things.

And so, on any given day, I've chosen silence. My life and its weird adventures will always take priority over my web commentary, even though that has given me great pleasure. I'll continue to check in here, and will try to drop more posts.

In the meantime, I'm on a quest for balance. As I've learned over the years, this is a position in which many travelers often find themselves as they journey forward into the great unknown.

Happy travels,