I am a young woman alone with my roll-on suitcase (which is the bane of my existence on world travels. The thing could be empty and still weigh a hundred pounds) and my small brown knapsack sitting in an airport for the seventeenth time in the last 3 ½ months. I’ll visit nine more airports in the next 2 weeks. Really, what am I doing? …This thought emerges from time to time and never a concrete answer follows.
I’ve been in Tanzania for two months and already I’m itching to go. I think part of why I like to travel is to just be in airports and on planes and trains and in transit to the next destination. In all things in life, I am a fan of the process and don’t so much care how the results turn out. I love the part where you never know what’s gonna happen. Everything could go as smooth as the peanut butter I’ve taken to carrying around in a small tub with a handle. Or everything could fall apart before your eyes. Or, if you’re really lucky, everything will fall apart just enough for you to have a good surge of adrenaline before by fate or mercy or your own sweet cunning it all comes back together into that narrow escape. No matter what happens, it’s always a story. And collecting stories is a penchant of mine—always has been.
I like sitting in places like airports to stir my thoughts like a pot of stew. I could have made the analogy to a vegetable or alphabet soup but stew seems more fitting to me as it is a bit harder to stir, messier—your spoon seems to bump into more things with each rotation. Not that my mind is always chunky with thoughts. Honestly, sometimes that blank stare I wear can’t even pretend to be a pensive gaze into the distance on account of the real void of the brain behind it.
Anyways, trains. I rode one from China to Mongolia—the legendary Trans-Siberian Railroad. One of the more Harry Potter moments in my life, I’d have to classify. Two more trains I will ride. Casablanca to Fes and Marrakesh to Casablanca. I don’t allow myself to imagine a magical Arabian nights setting for fear of disappointment. Magical setting or no, there is something inherently fantastical about a train. Most importantly, I don’t get motion sickness on a train. If you know me and my issues with cars and boats, you would take a moment to thank the Lord for my lack of motion sickness on trains. Of course, as thankful as I am for this, it’s not numbered SO high up on my list pf blessings merely on account of the fact that I encounter trains in my life only 3 times every 22 years or so.
I can’t believe I will be almost 23 when I get home.
How untouchable are trains! No stop lights. No traffic. Yet they fit right into the landscape with the smallest disturbance of only a 7 foot-wide track. Oh, and some tunnels blasted through mountains when necessary but who is there to disturb in the center of a mountain anyways? Train windows remind me of thos old moving picture machines that you stick your face into and crank a handle on the side to make a series of scenes crawl slowly before your eyes. Trains. Travel by train.
I love the lack of attachment the perpetual traveler has toward material things. It is of utmost importance (on account of aching backs and fee-happy airlines) to keep your luggage light. In the process of elimination, you find that really a human only needs a handful of things to be happy and healthy. Things when you do not need them anymore you merely bid adieu in the place where it’s necessity expired and you do not look back like Lot’s wife did. Trinkets are another story. Curios. Those curious things that after your travels you put into your Ger or Boma or Bedouin’s tent and when someone comes over for tea, they pick it up and gasp, “ooh, I’ve never seen such a curious thing!” And then you smile a knowing smile and slip into a nonchalant recounting of the story of how such a curious thing came to reside in your Bedouin’s tent. You see, it really is all about stories.
I’ve taken to collecting small vials of sands…magical Gobi sand, Shifting sands of Serengeti, white sands washed by the Indian ocean, Sahara sands, sands of crumbled pyramid dust at Giza, black sands shiny with mica in New Zealand, volcanic sands in Hawaii….sands. Maybe I’ll put each kind into a small hourglass and try to figure out the significance of sands and travels and time. Or maybe I’ll just use them to time each team’s turn when we play Taboo. I’m really good at Taboo.
Once I get on this plane, I’ll leave Tanzania. I’m not sure if I’ll ever come back. And I’m ok with that. Did you know that I’ll be riding camels in three different countries?