Spiders with glowing orange backs crawling inches from my nose, building forts across the rock ledge where I sprawled to overlook a 30-foot waterfall. A canopy of greens I'd never see at home shading from a sun that could surely turn me crispy. One rock thrown over the edge to crash dramatically on the mammoth boulder below. Swimming with new friends and little children from a remote Fijian village. Shivering and scaling up a stair-step waterfall where tropical meets ideal. And my friends and family were celebrating a wedding, one I was supposed to be standing in as a loyal maid to the main lady.
I could feel the world's size, the expanses of air between myself and the place I was expected to be. But a job made it possible and necessary for me to be living a dream in the South Pacific. This was June 6th, 2009.
Head of lead in the shadow of a monument honoring the Scottish hero, William Wallace. Having climbed a weaving trail, removing my jacket, putting it back on. Seeing the sprawling city below and angry for the discomfort of my mindset. Watching two Dutch boys throw a neon green frisbee around the corner of the tower.
Could have been a part of a classic scenario: waiting room of the maternity ward, wearing pink for the occasion, and being the token crier of the family when the baby is in sight. New country. Tapping into old roots. Could have loved the day I was living, but once again, it was the visceral knowledge that I should be elsewhere for that moment in time.
However minute or gigantic the moment is, I like to be there, but instead it was August 7th, 2009, and I was living out the World's Best Internship on our second to last leg. I saw my niece's face for the first time from a picture text viewed from the internet. The girls beside me were fully aware that I was crying hard there in the middle of the hostel lobby. I missed it.
As my dad would put it, the opportunity cost of this travel position could be measured in once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I've been anticipating for years and possibly decades. But not only did I have the chance to see what other people rarely get the chance to see, the entire summer was wrapped in a bow called "priceless opportunity" and "dream occupation". After months of work and hope, I received what would soon rip me away from life moments I've been living to look forward to. If I missed this position though, I would have been happy for those few days and depressed for the rest.
I could list the things that have enriched me and my life from this World Traveler Internship, but I think that list isn't realized and cannot ever be completely. In the last three years, I've been abroad for 13 months: 3.5 with Semester at Sea, 7 with my Big Journey, and 2.5 thanks to STA Travel. This is the first time I've missed a main event, but I've never cursed the ground I'm on, the plane that's taking me, the disease I've acquired, the money I've lost, or the waistband of this great globe for being so darn large.
For some reason unknown to me and my surrounding web, I've decided it's okay to miss the things that matter most in order to blaze literal and personal trails towards anything from failure to success. This travel path can sound illogical and like a waste, but when I realize the passions I've acquired and the maturity I've obtained, I fear where I would be without all those 50+ flights to global destinations and potential moments of learning. Learning that people are all the same, but some defy all presumptions and change your outlook towards mankind. Learning that the world can look as you dreamt and can also look like the neighborhood moral pool of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and every fool sans brain or heart. Learning that my mind truly trumps this body, and I can handle much more than I used to. Learning that I've got a massive knot in the noggin that needs continuous care for its eventual untangling.
It's always possible that I could learn while standing at the chapel in Selma, Alabama or in the waiting room of Community North Hospital, but it's a fast track elsewhere, when your support group is distant, and your mind is used to the new. And I always hope this travel "bug" will wriggle free from my weary soul, but that's certainly not the case for one afflicted as I am.
And to be honest, it doesn't matter where I am, I think about where I could be. Luckily tools are available to connect my present coordinates with every other one in the world, and this makes it easier to travel when time is precious. It's not often that people get an opportunity like this to see the world, and when they do, they shouldn't ever say no, regardless of reunions missed and babies unknown. There won't ever be a next time for any of these chances, but there's hope you will learn and grow faster and in time for whatever needs your passion.