I got my backpack for fair traded hundred hong kong dollars on the Chinese market.
It’s close to nothing. It says “Levi’s” inside and “JinTisMao” outside. I find it really cool, the kind of “I’m a badass traveller” cool, so I packed my wallet I got at some local store on omani souq, my big boy camera, passport, a pack of chewable fudge, Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”, pocket edition of Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby” I carry with myself everywhere but never really open, and than me and the Chinese backpack became the closest friends.
Going around the world seems like a fairy tale right from National Geographic, but it kicks you in the ass. World kicks you in the ass. And it’s not just some kind of kick in the ass you get before an exam from a friend, it’s a motherfucking superpower kind of Chuck Norris kick right in the ass. Perhaps doubled. I wear my fancy uniform and smile to people more than I would intend to. I give them a massive check-out-my-teeth smile when they can’t get their meal and get angry, or when I kick them for the fourth time with my cart because there’s not enough space. So it happens and my face momentarily transforms into some kind of double cream birthday cake, which you can’t help but smile to. My silver armour. This is what sometimes I feel I’m becoming. A double cream birthday cake.
I stand on the ridge of Grand Canyon, some safe half meter away from the edge, and I can’t stop looking down, in this massive six thousand feet depth, being protected from it with nothing but my own uncertain sense of balance. This massive hole has been here for some millions of years and there’s been some idiots who fell down there and died because they wanted a cool photo, and some Djangos who shot each other there, and some Pocahontas making out with John Smith too, and this thing has seen all that, and it meant absolutely nothing to it. If I made a single step I would fell right into it and turn into a piece of meat eaten by the birds. Maybe there would be a little note in the news or something of that sort, but that would technically change absolutely nothing beside the daily menu of the canyon birds. Everything that surrounded me in that moment wouldn’t give a single fuck whether I am a cabin crew or a toilet cleaner or a president of the United States, Muslim or Jewish, raw vegetarian etc.
I remember the eighteen years old me having a conversation with my old friend. I don’t quite remember what were we talking about, but I remember me saying it’s all about loosing your ego and him let me know when you’ll find the way to do it.
So I flew sixteen hours and than rode for six more to go to this six thousand feet hole in the ground, sat on its edge just to dangle my legs a little. It has become one of the most significant events in my life.
To travel means nothing and everything. I find the word just as undefined as love, and probably just as fascinating. Where does the journey start? I believe it starts once you’re in the land of unknown and the big fluffy monster called “fear” appears right next to you. The moment when you take this monster by hand and decide to go wherever it takes you, this is the journey. Going out of your comfort zone. And than going out once again. My journey has been about looking for something without quite knowing what was it, and it took to go around the globe twice and another twice and than another one to understand.
What I was looking for was myself.
I was scared more times than I could count on my fingers. I was lost more times than I could remember too. I missed the buses, mistook the metros and walked the wrong directions way too late in the night in the places I have never been to before. I practised looking confident in what I am doing to perfection, just to hide how terrified and lost I am.
Me and dad decided we can’t sleep and went for the night hike to the Griffith Observatory in the North Hollywood. To actually get there with your two legs is quite an effort as most of the road goes almost straight up after what the road peters out leaving you on the sandy path in the complete darkness lighten by nothing but omnipresent night lights of California. On our way back in the late night we got completely lost walking some two miles in the opposite direction. We were left with nothing but two pairs of legs, a pair of brains and a cheap Chinese backpack. We didn’t know the taxi number neither the way to the metro. And you know what? It wasn’t even tiny bit scary. Because after all you got a pair of legs and a brain for the right reason. And once you have your little house right on your back that’s more than you would ever need.
Walking around the globe hand by hand with the old friend called fear I learnt one important thing. I found that sentence in my crumpled copy of Strayed’s “Wild” and it was just right. I realised I was no longer as much loose in the world, as bound to it. The world from the scary, unexplored, big place became the place I belong to. With every other step I feel closer to it, I feel more bound to it. I don’t know when was the very moment when the map on my wall started looking ridiculously inadequate to what it represents. World has nothing to do with the lines and colours. They are far too simple for the amount of blisters and sleepless nights for what it takes to make world feel a little like home.
You may imagine that travelling is sitting on the fancy Californian beaches in your magazine dress and contemplating the sound of the sea while analysing your life and meditating about who you are. I believe it probably is travelling too, but not my travelling. My journey reminds more of lying on that beach with your jetlagged face stuffed with dirty beach sand because an hour ago you literally fell right onto it falling asleep and you probably wouldn’t wake up for the next two days if some kid didn’t shout something next to your ear. Acknowledging that your face doesn’t really remind your face because you’re too tired to hide it under your make up, draining in the forty degrees heat anyway.
Catching up a glimpse of this face in the broken piece of a mirror in a public toilet in the city the name you don’t remember and smiling back to it, that’s travelling. There’s nothing I would rather be than the person in the mirror, you think looking at your watch with a wrong time zone set up. If that takes to go around the globe some sixteen million times to learn that, it is not a bad deal at all.