I am sitting in baggage claim with the full realization that I am half way around the world, alone. That feeling is both intimidating and liberating. I have never arrived anywhere in life where I didn’t have a loved one with me, a smiling face waiting for me, or the ability to make a quick phonecall to hear a familiar voice. It has hit me in a new way that there is no friend waiting to pick me up, no way to call a someone right now. It’s just me.
My backpacking adventure began in luxury with a seat in business class. I actually slept a bit for 8 of the 14 hours, watched 3 movies I had been wanting to see, and had champagne, Shiraz and Haagen Daaz, amongst a full course dinner and breakfast. Needless to say, at least I’m not starting my trip hungry. An hour after I woke up, we were descending through thick purple and pink cotton candy clouds as the sun rose over Sydney. The plane descended through the clouds and they broke, the Harbor Bridge and Opera House waiting for me, almost as if to say, “Welcome to Sydney. We are familiar- you’ve seen us before. We know you don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re going, but you’ll figure it out, Ashley.”
After I traveled through India, I knew that I could go anywhere in the world and make it. But, I wasn’t solo. It does feel very different to travel with a friend; even if that friend also has no idea where to go, there is someone to figure it out with. I know that the only one who can figure things out here is me. I’m used to landing and turning on my cell phone immediately. I’ve realized that being connected is such a part of my life- I don’t know how to be disconnected. I love turning on my blackberry and seeing the text messages and emails come in when I land. It means someone’s thought of me while I was away for a few hours. For 2 months, I will have no text messaging and outside of email, won’t have too many ways to connect with the people in my life. I feel like I just went to technology rehab, and it’s a bit uncomfortable here.
Before I left, I was in a shop and a necklace I saw called to me. It is made of antique silver that’s been melted down, and the jewelry designer found old wax seal stamps all over the world on her travels that are meaningful to her that she uses to imprint the silver. This necklace reads, “Carpe Diem.” Seize the Day. What life is about, really — seizing each day and making it count. Its heart with wings spoke to me. You seize life when you allow your heart to fly.
10 years ago, I thought I would be married with 2 or 3 kids at this phase in my life, not sitting in an airport in Australia with a backpack, by myself. I am so happy with where my life is at. And maybe that is the key- to take as many opportunities that come your way and then truly be content in those. The choices you make to build the life that you have.
So many people have told me that “they wish they could do something like this.” And the truth is- anyone can. It takes pushing through some discomfort and some patience along the way, knowing that no matter the circumstance, you can figure it out.
I’m going to exit those airport doors now. I really wish someone were there waiting for me. A familiar and loving face to pick me up and take me to their comfortable home, fix me some tea, and let me settle in to a comfortable guest bedroom with a down comforter and take a hot shower. That would be so much more comfortable right now. Instead, I’ll walk through those doors and find the train station, take it to my stop and find my hostel that I booked online yesterday. I will get to my bunk bed-filled room, put my valuables in a locker and meet some new people, maybe sleep a bit, and walk around this new place. I’ll figure it out. Carpe Diem.