It has been 77 days; my heart aches for places my mind has begun to slowly forget. When someone asks about our trip pictures of far away places pop up suddenly in the space behind my eyes but if I were to zoom in on the photo the details would be pixelated and blurred. How can anyone forget such a mind altering experience? Lately I find myself blaming others for not asking about that hugely significant piece of this past year. Although I’m sure there is something that took place in their lives that I’m forgetting to ask about as well. Shame on us. Shame on us for expecting others to keep the memories alive. Shame on all of us for forgetting.
I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly the real world got under my skin, curled up next to my fiery heart, and drifted off into a long hibernation. I yell at it sometimes to try to convince it of the growth only the natural world could have ever taught me. Damn you, real world. You have always had your way with me. That is the challenge with traveling- you meet so many new and unexplored versions of your being and you learn to go to sleep one way and long to wake up as another. It’s intoxicating. But these days I wake up and wonder if that entire summer was a mirage sent to me in a dream. It couldn’t have possibly happened, right?
When the shine of the sun makes it’s way across my pillow I swear I hear birds chirping or a nearby stream racing to the bottom of a mountain. This is how I meet every new day, with the sounds of nature and the sense of complete love. I’m still on his left, as always, but now we are tucked under covers in the safety of a home instead of the vast outdoors. When I crave Ramen I laugh to myself as I pull out a small pot to prepare it in instead of a quart sized freezer bag. Large crowds intimidate me in a way they never have before. Prior to my exploration of our country I was somewhat of a social butterfly but now I sit back and watch. Spending six months with nature has taught me to stop talking. Not talking all together, just the useless sort of chatter placed conspicuously into moments out of fear of silence. I enjoy the silence. I also smile more as if I have a secret and I suppose to everyone but him, I do. I have seen the living muses that have inspired some of the most beautiful paintings and photographs the world has ever seen. That is a secret worth keeping. When I am forced to recall a memory from our trip I do have trouble with the details. I’m not sure how to overcome that yet but we kept journals as we traveled and they have saved me from loosing my head once or twice. The silver lining in this is that my day dreams are far more breathtaking than ever before and I do day dream a lot. All it takes is a certain smell or just one word to send my mind high above the clouds, across the country, to a rock I sat on to take a breather while hiking up an incredible mountain side. The memories are there, somewhere inside of me but sometimes I can’t reach them when I desperately need to. It terrifies me to imagine loosing track of them.
We spent nearly 200 days living in our car, driving all over the country, and introducing ourselves to places we had only seen in photos. It was mesmerizing, like a summer fling. The kind that doesn’t make it through winter but still managed to light a fire in your heart large enough to keep you warm through those chilly nights. Saying goodbye to the road and the adventure was much harder than I expected. I anticipated missing home and normalcy but then my crush on the outdoors turned into infatuation which became love. Complete and perfect love. It is confusing to feel this way, to join the hundreds of other men and women out there falling in love with people and places every day and then having to eventually return to the real world. I understand now. I am both absolutely whole and utterly heart broken. I am learning that this is okay. This is what I asked for months ago. I asked for an experience that would turn me inside out. One that would cause me to question every thing while figuring out just how much I could love. I assumed I would further my love for the outdoors but I never guessed this adventure would transform my very heart. I am deeply and passionately in love with this earth, with this man, and with myself.