My backpack has been packed and repacked, straps adjusted, objects shuffled around or abandoned. I’ve poured over the guidebooks, chosen my gear (it took months to settle on a mosquito net), and made contacts in India. I’ve got a notebook with carefully recorded directions, safety instructions, and advice.
It’s been six months since the seed of this journey was nestled into my brain, an offhand comment that rolled through my mind during one restless night and bore a lengthy email to my family – a declaration of intent-to-travel that has manifested in my small, overbearing pack, ten shots of various unpleasant and/or deadly diseases, and a six-month visa for India.
I’m living the Gap Year Traveler, mixed with some New Age Pilgrimage and Wandering Soul.
Intense preparation was part escape, as I tired of DePaul and being a College Student. It also shaped my understanding of the coming months, taking note of where I felt called to, how the places related to each other, the path found in maps and ideas. But, most of all, it is my liberation. With extra caution and understanding, I can take calculated risks that push myself and my journey farther into adventure and fuller engagement.
While you could argue that a traveler is going out to “find herself,” the experience has been more an education in perspectives. Some self-reflection slides in with the fresh understanding. Several summers ago, in Europe, I noticed that reactions to my eating vegan revealed how people viewed their food – from a plastic-encased, disconnected food product that silently appears in the grocery store to a purchase from a known farmer’s cows that someone passes every day. Even before I cross into a new culture, reactions to my journey expose how others understand their lives and roles in society. Each encounter produces a particular form of lifestyle that otherwise might blend into a generic “normal” somewhere in the world. It all sounds very grand, a journey to India, but it is a matter of perspective. This is tame travel to many people, to others it is nearly unthinkable – “but who are you going with?” I promise, I do not hold any pretense of innovation or uniqueness.
For the past few days, I’ve found myself thinking “but what does it mean?” over and over: an attempt, perhaps, to comprehend this new way of moving through the world as I wait at the precipice, the potential that the next piece of my life could hold. This has been a summer of waiting in the distance, a slow advance in a watery neutral space. Here, sitting in the O’Hare airport with my netbook balanced on my knee and surely-soon-to-be-thinned objects waiting beside me, something has concluded. Yet somehow still here in the liminal space, not quite on the official journey, I have reached a new dimension of anticipation. An inner quietness, a familiar traveling mindset that I feel descend whether I am waiting for a bus or a lift. A space where constancy is in the movement, where the temporality of life is more fully present, where beginnings and endings are pronounced. I am shifting into a different way of moving through the world, as I will shift through many spaces and forms in my life.
So. To India.