I should have been on a train back home, hours ago. Instead, I was standing under the looming flicker of the departures board, weary of the word should. Suitcases packed, stacked and shipped, I had just enough to escape. I needed, more than anything, to escape. Sharp inhale. Dial.
“I’m going to Europe.” I announced. The words flowed breathlessly. The silence that followed seemed to stretch beyond speechlessness – I could hear the disbelief, the incredulity in the void. Then came the arguments and finally, the rush of acceptance. “Call us every day, okay? I mean it. Be safe. We love you.”
This departure from my ordinary life defined what I have come to view as a moment of triumph. Staunchly rooted in order and routine, quiet anxiety steadily mounted and just as steadily wore me down. It crescendoed to such volumes that it became unbearable to remain in the status quo. I knew where I should have been going, but I was still perpetually lost. Maybe it was fate, or maybe it was just well-timed marketing, but as I walked to the train station, suitcases in tow, an advertisement caught my eye: “Let Yourself Go”. And so, with saved earnings, a window of free time and luck with travel regulations, the question, rather than ‘why?’, became ‘why not?’.
Neither the tedium of airport bureaucracy nor the cramped seating dampened my lifted spirits. Not the type of person to pursue spur-of-the-moment intercontinental travel, I was giddy with the spirit of spontaneity.Wondering about what lies around the corner became far more liberating than knowing what rests ahead. This was freedom in the truest sense, unfettered by the limits of pragmatism.
In the weeks that followed, I witnessed Europe’s effortless charm by not only seeing the obligatory sights but also by talking with the people. For the first time, I was free to explore the broadness of the world as well as examine what had been the narrowness of my life. I felt that the segue of old-world cobblestone into sleek asphalt reflected my habit of restraint and my newfound abandon: two sides of the same road, joined into one path that paves my journeys, through Europe and through life. From the warmth and kindness of strangers who extended themselves, to exercising my self-reliance and ingenuity, my jaunt abroad left me no longer suffocating, but breathless.
My impromptu adventure created a haven from stress and a window into self-discovery. Kierkegaard once said, “To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself,” and my journey has enabled me to grasp the sense of his words. Mapping a life is impossible, despite my best efforts to do so. Life, in all of its glorious complexity, cannot be truncated to a Google calendar or a “to-do” list. Now, I see a day of possibilities instead of plans. By reclaiming my autonomy, I ultimately reclaimed my joie de vivre. As serendipities and misfortunes come and go without warning, a deviation from the word should brought me to unexpected places that have ultimately changed me for the better.
I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but through wanderlust I found my path. Now I find myself asking ‘why not?’.
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