I thought I was done with traveling. I was burnt out and had self-improved a travel hiatus. For the past three months, I had barely traveled more than 200 miles away from my home in San Francisco. I’d become a hermit, my neighborhood, my entire world. I hadn’t caught a plane since August or even packed anything larger than an overnight bag. Travel felt like a grind. Nothing was new. And, without travel, in some way, I had lost a large part of my identity. Travel was what I did. An explorer is who I am. Or, at least, I was.
Of course, it is not that easy to switch off the itch for travel. Like an ember sitting amidst the coals, travel waits for the right conditions to re-ignite. During the past few months, I binged on adventure-related books, watched travel documentaries, and dreamed of mapped out a route to drive around the world. But these were dreams of a time past. Like an elderly person reminiscing of younger years. There wasn’t enough spark to make a flame. It was just enough to keep the dreams warm. To make sure they weren’t extinguished forever. I just didn’t know that was what I was doing.
This afternoon, whilst packing for a short business trip to New York, something changed. I busied about checking my camera gear, stuffing batteries and charging cables into a sack, and throwing my well worn and trail beaten laptop into my pack. I felt a surge of excitement. A spark. It was the anticipation of the unknown. Sure, I’ve been to New York dozens of times before, but what would it be like this time? Would there be snow on the ground? What sort of photos could I take as children squealed and shrieked skating in Rockefeller Center.
I dared not dream. Could the draw of travel still be there? Did the ember glow brighter? Was all I needed just a little normality at home for a while? I strapped my pack on my back, locked the door behind me, walked down the stairs, and out onto the sidewalk. It was sunset, the light beautiful and golden against a rich blue cloudless sky. It’s the sort of evening photographers dream of. It’s the sort that I dreamed of.
And that’s when I knew.
Oh, how I had missed the weight of a pack laden with gear, and the reassuring pat it made against my back after each step. I walked on feeling more alive in those few steps than I had in months. Places swirled in head: of lands visited, and those yet to visit, of nights spent in tea-houses high in the Himalayas shivering against the cold playing cards with Sherpas, and endless days hiking along the Camino de Santiago, feet raw from miles trodden day after day, and of sharing a wine and a story with strangers who were as close to me as family.
I arrived at the airport, checked in for my flight, and passed through security. Some people hate airports. I love them. To me, airports are magical spaces where my dreams of travel meet reality. I watch people waiting for their planes wondering what their story is and where they are going. My mind races, my heart rate increases. I feel at home. I feel alive. Most of all I feel creative. I take out my laptop and write, and I dare to dream, just a little bit more.