Around age 19 I had kind of a hard time. I see now that there are certain people, overly sensitive and totally unwise, for whom going off to college to read Neitzsche and Lacan and Kafka will just not go well. And so there I sat, for a bit, with my first bout of existential angst, having just learned that life has no meaning. It wasn’t so fun, but, then, it’s hard to take too seriously now because I see how many people fall into exactly that same hole. This is not a story about unhappiness; it’s a story about its antidote.
I was in Thailand, with someone I really liked. It was New Year’s Day, or morning, really. We were on our way from the huge beach party we’d greeted the new year with, headed back to the little hut we were paying $4 a night to stay in. I was riding on the back of the motorbike he’d rented. We passed a little bay, lined with palm trees, smattered with fishing boats, awash in the pastels of sunrise and as we rode by I felt happy. But not just happy, I felt surprised at this vision of beauty that was so outside of my previous experience, with that particular light and my particular state of mind, and just in that moment, my idea of what existed in the world expanded. After all my months of wondering why I should bother with anything, here I had been shown this bit of magic that I didn’t even know I didn’t know about. And suddenly I had to assume that there was a lot more wonderment in my future.
That was a long time ago, now, and I’ve other moments of beauty and joy since, but that one morning, the snapshot of that bay that I keep in the back of my brain, has come to be my symbol of the wonder and joy that will come, as long as I’m willing to stick out the hard bits.
I’m writing this story here because it’s a story about travel. What a huge privilege it is to live in a time, and to be among the lucky few, that can wander the world like we do.