“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met,” reads a line from one of John Green’s books. I think it resonates with all of us on some level – whether we day dream about becoming a globe trotter, or spin idle fantasies involving majestic sunsets over lakes we’ve never even seen in real life, travel is no more just a physical getaway. It is almost spiritual.
An escape from everything that is easy, safe – everything that is home.
I’m on the brink of completing my undergraduate studies, and the prospect of being able to spread my wings unfettered thrills me to the bone, but it’s also a little daunting. Because as much as I love my own city, I know that my life here has slipped into a routine of simple luxury, and the cogs will keep turning in an endless cycle of long familiarity.
So I know I’m about to leave. And I know where I’m going to go. And although I’ve never been there before, my mind’s eye has already painted a vivid picture, full of new colours and unfamiliar scents and magic in tiny packets, lying around, waiting for me to discover.
That isn’t all though. Up until a couple of years ago, I’d never had to struggle to make the most of the time I have in the place I am. Vacations were full of mystery and wonder, of purposeful, mindful in-the-moment bliss. I fell in love, bit by bit, not only with the places I went to, but also how they made me feel. As adolescence gave way to teenage, however, my imagination kicked into overdrive. I can’t remember how it started. Perhaps it was all the books – the sheer poetry of James Herriot’s Yorkshire Dales or the dizzying world of Gerald Durrell. Or it could have been the TV shows – my long standing affair with Sex and the City, that I share with my best friend, fueled by a steady trickle of movies, novels and documentaries set around New York. We were rapt.
More than anything else though, it is the draw of the exotic appeal of distant places. Of blurry images in my mind that strengthen each time I chant these names out loud. Baghdad, Istanbul, Cancun, Shiraz, Honolulu, Lourdes, Bali, Seychelles, Corfu, Tuscany, Santorini, Morocco… Poetry. And that’s just off the top of my head. Each name makes me feel something different. I’ve tried and failed to put it into words, that sensation of near-weightlessness, a shift in my gravity as I suddenly feel as though I don’t belong where I am at present. An inexplicable urge to run, to get away. I have forged instinctive connections with places I’ve never even been before, just based off what I’ve seen or heard or dreamed of.
This illicit relationship with far flung places has left an itch in my soul and my soles that I cannot scratch.
It makes me want to disappear with nothing but a backpack and a heart full of expectations. I’ve spent happy hours whiling my time away, yearning for cities with names that leave a distinct aftertaste in my mouth. Pondicherry, with a friend who promised beaches and sunsets and companionship in the midst of solitude. Jaisalmer, with another friend who promised blue buildings and scarlet sunsets and bazaars throbbing with ancient secrets.
The possibilities are endless, and I’m hopelessly in love.
I read somewhere once, that travelling was like hunger. The more you saw, the more you wanted to devour the world. For me though, it is like a midnight snack from my childhood. The kind I always thought I’d be brave enough to get, but never did. Comforting, gooey and toasty-warm, I’m teetering on a tightrope over a world that exists only in my head and another that I’ve convinced myself, is just beyond the horizon. All I have to do is reach out. When I finally get around to visiting these places, I don’t know how old I’ll be. I don’t know how they’ll make me feel. I don’t know if I’ll still be me. And while it terrifies me on some nights, I know that falling in love with places I’ve never been before has sparked a fire deep in my soul – the kind that may change shape and colour, but will remain relentlessly ablaze wherever I go.
Because sometime in the future, I may find myself lost in a city I fell in love with as a schoolgirl years ago. And if I’m lucky, in doing so I may just find myself.