At this point, I'm sure it's clear that I am a bit in love with travel. I live in a foreign country, I go on international trips every few months, and I spend the majority of my down time writing, reading, or thinking about the next adventure. All my life I had wanted to see the world, but that desire existed only in the abstract - relegated to the back burner by other plans and other concerns.
Even after I moving to Korea, travel was in my heart, but hadn't yet consumed it.
Then, one day, everything changed. The exact moment is etched on my memory, a stark tattoo, a permanent testament to my newfound perspective. I remember the moment where my life shifted: where I gained new priorities, a new outlook, and a whole new center of gravity.
I remember the moment when I fell in love.
We had woken up late, as seems only right when living on an island. The sunwas warm, the sand soft, and the sun played peek-a-boo among the delicate clouds floating soft and friendly above our heads - wholly welcome guests, as without them the day would have been too hot.
As I clambered clumsily into the boat, at first I felt unsteady, but as we pushed off and moved into open water everything felt softer, more natural and I was able to relax into the movement beneath. The waves were exhilerating, rather than unwelcome, and the soft salty spray on my skin reminded me of the sweetest, most gentle kiss.
Our hostel was nestled in the heart of a protected cove, and though the view was stunningly beautiful from those loungers on the beach - once we moved beyond the surrounding rock, it was clear we had been missing out. The same formations that protected the bay, that made the waters warm and calm within, also cut us off the expansive view of the vast and exquisitely beautiful world beyond.
With each wave crested and each breath taken, my sense of wonder grew. The water, a color I had only even seen in pictures expanded as far as the eye can see - clean, clear, and crystalline as it carried us on. The great rock formations which dotted the scene, covered in green, stood solemn, steadfast, and strangely comforting.
Even the most finely crafted narrative, or perfectly captured photograph would come up short when trying to describe that magical day on the water. Though the scenery was unquestionably gorgeous, it was the way it made me feel that was truly beyond words.
It was that blooming feeling in my chest, the realization that this moment wasn't some day dream, and it wasn't a fantasy - it was real, it was mine, and what it represented would live on forever in my heart.
Those worries of modern life, the things I had always deemed so important - the neurotic frenzy of cities, matched by the subtle, yet insistent decay of the suburbs, the constant push for more, bigger, and better - none of that seemed even remotely important in light of what I saw before me.
From the moment we are old enough to speak, we are bombarded with information about what we must do to live the "right" kind of life. We tell each other stories about the importance of our clothing, our looks, our cars, our homes, our jobs - all of those things that denote "success." We believe the stories we tell and are told, until there comes a point when those stories actually become true. We believe those stories and in doing so trick ourselves into thinking that without all those things we are nothing and no one.
I believed those stories, until that day out on the ocean... With only the dress I was wearing, the few bills in my pocket (ahem.. bra), the wind behind me, the sea beneath me, and the sun above me. I momentarily broke free from the "right" kind of life, and I finally realised that all the fear, the anxiety - it was for nothing. The sky did not come crashing down, and the sun did not stop shining.
I stopped believing the story, and nothing happened. I was simply alive. A girl, in a boat.
There in the middle of a place that was both nowhere and everywhere,
I finally understood that there are other ways to live.
Not only are there other ways to live, but those ways might actually be better than the pictures of perfection that are so liberally painted on billboards and bastions for pop culture. I realised that even without any those things that I had, up until the moment before, felt were so important - I was still alive and still breathing. If anything, I was more alive because I finally saw myself for what I was - a girl, sitting on a boat, in a world that has so much more to offer than fortune, money, or fame.
I remember thinking that I could hardly believe a place so beautiful had existed long before me, and would continue to do so once I had gone. How could I have lived for 23 years and never known? And now that I did know, how could I ever fully go back?
For a moment of brief whimsy, I considered the possibility of never going back. I even told my good friend sitting next to me that, in that moment, all I wanted was to run away into the world I saw before me and never look back.
Obviously, I didn't. In reality, I wouldn't.
Because just as the my life before travel was not the whole of life, neither was that rapturous moment. The reality is that the two cannot exist in such splendor alone, because without the contrast of another way, a single path loses it's innate allure.
That moment though, the one where I first glimpsed beyond the veil of everything I had been told and everything I thought I knew - that was the moment I fell in love.
In that one moment it felt as though God or the Universe, or whatever it is that exists above, beyond, and between us was shining only on me. Not because of the beauty, not because the sun and the sea felt so goddamn amazing, but because that was the first time I realized the full potential of my life, and the true meaning of the word freedom. It was an unparalleled rush of both fear and excitement.
Fear because true freedom is a scary idea. It really is. When you are free the onus of your entire life rests squarely and solely on your shoulders. Excitement because on the flip side of that fear is pure exhileration - like gasping for your first breath after a lifetime lived below water.
That was my moment, the one where everything changed - not in my outer life, no, but rather with who I was and I who I knew I wanted to be. You can't unseen what's been unseen, and you can't un-know once the realization's been made. Not that I would even want to. Not in a million years.
Enjoy the beautiful view!