April 22, 2016

The Greatest Journey: Flat lands

If I stood at the back corner of our lot and looked out towards the cotton fields at night I could see far away lights on the horizon.

I would tell myself for sure that the lights were from a town thirty miles away.

In the day time I would marvel at the blue bowled dome of sky rarely dotted by clouds. And when there were clouds I would lie on my back in the grass and stare at the cumulonimbus imagining just on the other side of white there were high and towering worlds of falling waterfalls and lush green jungles.

Some evenings I could look to the east and see dark clouds resting as far as the eye could see and I was convinced they were purple mountain ranges. Never mind we lived on the dry dusty plains.

One thing was consistent. The world was a wonderful adventure I really wanted to dive into.

My grandmother had a closet in her car port that had stacks and stacks of old National Geographics dating back decades.

My mom would leave me in the main room alone with stacks of the magazines. To me they were portals to other lands... Mountainous ranges, frozen tundras, moist ecosystems so unlike my home. The most fascinating by far were any spreads on Africa-- that broad, beautiful, and mysterious continent.

The first time I really felt like a traveler, I was standing in an airport in Houston at a help desk. Frantic, excited and so naive. It was my first connection to board my first transatlantic flight. Alone.

I was 21 and it was Christmas break my junior year of college. People were bustling everywhere and I was about to miss my connecting flight and I had lost my passport.

The desk worker made a call and within minutes my passport was back in my hands.

I dodged a bullet. Only all of these years later I look back and see how reckless I was. Brave, fearless and mercifully spared from danger over and over again.

I remember that flight so clearly. I soaked in every detail. The turbulence, the different languages, the view from the window, the not knowing if you will make it in time.  Everything was thrilling.  Everything.

I didn't sleep a single wink.

I remember at some point on that journey thinking, "I'm a traveler." And it was the greatest feeling.

There's so much to take in on your first trip abroad... How toilets flush, different door handles and light switches. 

I'm so glad it was just the beginning.

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