We didn’t meet in the best of places. Heck, you wouldn’t even call it a place. Not in the proper sense of the word at least. It was a void, at best, the kind that swirls about you when you are miles away from home, probably trying to make your way to a safe crashing place through the flickering streetlights at midnight. The kind that spins around you faster and faster until you cannot separate yourself from the ground you stand on and the color of the night sky.
That is where we met.
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Not in those dreamscapes painted on colored Tumblr #TravelGoals pages, not in the inspiring lands of Jack Kerouac’s novels, not even in the almost ludicrous ‘this-is-how-I-find-myself’ way of traveling that countless movies seem to depict with unbridled positive energy to make travelers of people who aren’t quite one.
We met when we were both lost.
Travel does that to you. Often.
I know because it has happened to me, more times than I can count. I know because it has happened to him, more times than he’d care to admit. I know because it happened to us- in that moment- together. The moment we met.
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We were both lost from our travels- two people who love to travel, losing ourselves in every ounce of a distant land, ready to never be found again. We had lost ourselves in this way often, standing in places we’d never visited before, places we’d probably never visit again and soaking it all in, like a human sponge. Losing oneself was our way of traveling. It was our mantra for true travel. Nothing ever felt as right to us as losing oneself in soul-splitting smiles from strangers who’d never know our names, in murky green sunlight filtering through swathes of forest, in grains of sand that clung to us so we could take them home, in drops of rain that washed and painted the city anew. Nothing ever felt as real as the photo of an out-of-focus girl with red hair in the backdrop or a flower pressed in our travel diary from the night we read Tennyson under the starry skies. And talking about it- all of it- made us real to each other. Right for each other.
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In that moment, we knew we’d travel together to places that smelled of warm puddings and sunshine and moist earth. To places that shall speak with cracked windows and giant museums alike. To places that will come alive suddenly in the silence of the night and places that shall feel empty even when crowded. To places that we’d find our own souvenirs in and to places that we’d only travel to halfway. We knew we’d travel together, hand in hand, to wherever our glued feet carried us because we believed in the magic of getting lost. Getting lost in enchanted places that drew our childlike wonder at every single thing we saw until we knew it was time to leave.
And that’s the thing about traveling. You lose yourself in the magic of the countless stories on window sills, the endless emotions in the streets and a myriad feelings in the journey- for only so long as the magic does not become mundane.
It is in the backward pull, the silent knock of retreat, the journey back home that the magic is retained and feels real. You travel to places home-like but never turn them into home.
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Because at the end of all the traveling, when you need to warm your soul at a place that is home, you need a heart that makes one. And luckily, I do not have to reach inside for it- I just have to press hard into the hand that’s holding mine – ready to let the magic spill again, on my perfect travels, for I know I can always head home, in a heartbeat.
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