on the road

When in Tesarte I kept hearing the love birds call, day and night, but especially at dawn when I was doing yoga. Before I knew that those birds, las tortolas, choose only one partner for life, I heard them say to me in their monogamous trio of coos, “Casarte, casarte, casarte.”

Casarte, a semi-direct command meaning, to marry. What an odd thing to hear from a bird, I thought.

I convert their coos into questions. Who or what will I choose to marry today? Our days are full of matrimony: mercy with justice, movement with breath, reality with reason, work with play, wants with needs, contemplation with action, and the list goes on.

I travel to hear the tortolas.

It’s funny how things find their way in and out of our mind and memories. Lately, a Jewish blessing of Thanksgiving that I learned in Ireland has been popping into my head. It came to my mind this weekend when I was in Tesarte with four incredible ladies. I sang its haunting, yet liberating, tune as we shared a meal together on the rooftop terrace, watched the full moon rise from behind a mass of black mountains, observed the constellations hovering above uninhabited landscapes, listened to the tortolas profess their love and laid beneath dry palm leaves as they brushed together, a soundtrack out of silence, like a giant rainstick played by wind.

I travel so blessings may always be upon my lips.

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Last week I hiked around the brim and into the center of a historic volcanic crater with my friend Phillip who came from Germany to visit with me.

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A few days later, we hiked to the highest point of Gran Canaria, Pico de las Nieves. From where we stood we could see the island of Tenerife rising above the cloud cover and an entire valley of mountains below. I felt like I was part of three worlds or in some strange dream that I never wanted to wake up from.

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The view was so beautiful and the gratitude I felt so deep that I wished for something to say or do to give back to the earth, this place and this moment. I had an urge to recite a poem, but when I tried most of the words escaped me.

For a moment I wished that I had put a greater emphasis on memorization, but then I chose to let this feeling pass and allow the words to leave me. We sat before far off things seen for the silence they hold and chose to let that be enough.

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Before I left home in September I thought I would travel for a bit, return home, get a job, buy a tiny house, go back to school and invest in an MFA so that I could teach English and Writing—two of the things I love most in this world—and have the summers off to travel.

Without knowing it, I was differentiating “real life” from “travel” in my mind. Can they not exist together?

How have I been lead to believe that “real life” looks like a 9 to 5, owning a house, having a car, a city to associate yourself with, a savings account and a family? Why have I believed that life must be built around a static housing structure?

I’m almost 30, I’m single and the world is telling me that I need to begin considering the next phase of my “real life,” but my heart is telling me something different.

What is more “real” than the energy and freedom I feel when traveling? What is one house compared to every home that I’ve been welcomed into throughout my travels? How could I invest in something better than stories and shared experiences? What better education could I afford myself than traveling?

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I love traveling and being away from everything that I’ve known and at the same time I find myself longing for something familiar, to be close to the ones I love.

I Skype my sister and watch my nephew grow up on a screen. Six months have passed. I open emails with updates from family and friends and see pictures of my nephew laughing as bubbles pop all over his beautiful face. I want to laugh and cry at the same time. Occasionally, I reach out to touch him but the screen stops me and I am left wiping fingerprints off of a dusty computer screen instead of sticky bubbles or mashed banana off of his round, rosy cheeks.

I see him, and I see things, growing and changing. I see them from a distance and yet, I feel them very closely. I cannot be both there and here at the same time. It seems, at some point, I will have to choose.

To bear humbly the mystery of our own reality, to allow the heart to speak out loud in the clear air. Is this not one of life’s greatest and most beautiful challenges?

To begin. To marry. To choose.

We all begin before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough, have enough or think we are enough.

This is where I’m finding myself. As six months of beautiful adventure come to a close I realize that I’m not ending this journey like I’d end the final pages of a great book… not unless there’s a sequel, a trio, a quartet.

I’ve lingered somewhere between the introduction and the foreword and when I turn the next page, I guesstimate Chapter One will begin. The name of the book, the storyline, the main characters, themes, settings… it’s all to be determined.

The only thing I know for certain is that I have married myself to life on the road. My legs are fresh, my heart is ready and I’m hitched to eternal exploration.

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One week from today I’ll begin my journey home. I’ll leave this hostel, make my way to Málaga for a few days and head back to the States for the first time in 180 days.

I’m ready for this and I’m not ready.

Some say travel is an addiction, an illness, a bug, a habit, a way to escape life, to get away.

Yes, and… it’s so much more.

Traveling is life’s greatest teacher. It is a mentor, a means, and a magnet that draws our desires out of our meaty flesh and hangs us raw from the heels, like freshly butchered pork left to dry, flavor and tenderize in the cool air. Salt to taste. Everything is better with time.

Travel is soul stuff, anything but routine, a place where the shadows of the subconscious can surface like seaweed on a sandy beach. Cover yourself with it.

Travel saves us, strips us, steadies us, sustains us. It is solid ground for unwarranted and unparalleled discovery. It is permission to ask what lies beneath and beyond, inside and out, everywhere and yet nowhere. It is permission to be, to exist with purpose, to savor.

If travel is an addiction, I need a support group.

If it’s a sickness, I want to be chronically ill forever, until death do us part.

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We are always beginning and we are always ending. Always, always, always.

When I was in high school my English teacher taught us to avoid sweeping statements and generalizations like “always” and “everyone” in order to maintain our credibility.

But today I feel there are no other words. It’s time to take new things in, to follow my heart, to stand by my decision to go against the grain of normality and drench my hands in the guts of a different kind of goodness.

If generalizations strip me of credibility then today I want to be naked.

Here’s one: Every time I set out to travel I am always amazed, totally moved, and completely transformed. I want to die traveling.

 

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5 thoughts on “on the road

  1. Dear Chelsea,
    To find something,someone that fills you up & yet challenges ,pushes, you to be more of you is the greatest joy! It sounds like you’ve found it. 🙂 It’s different for everyone & yet the same in that it completes you. It takes a brave soul to venture the road less traveled, but that’s usually where the greatest treasures lie. Pray about it& be open & ready for His answer. You may have a few naysayers, but who cares… I have so enjoyed hearing about your life & your “story treasures” these past months. I have also enjoyed seeing you grow!! I am so proud of your courage to follow where your heart leads. Godspeed on your joirney! Love ya,Aunt Sherry

      1. Sounds like a bitter sweet time but sweetly that is how life is . I wish you peace an joy and everything the good lord has intended for you . Blessings Jan R.

  2. Chelsea
    Not knowing if this will be end of your posts now that your journey changes course, I am hoping that you will continue allowing us to connect to your great prose. Pursue your MFA – in Ireland maybe – and when you publish, I can say I met her as she was between the introduction and the forward of her life.
    Keep well
    John

    “When you talk, you’re only repeating what you already know.
    But when you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama

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