wander: why i travel

I was sixteen when I discovered my love of travel.  I had saved up for an entire year from babysitting so I could go to Europe with my middle school French teacher's group.  I would bring an empty travel journal in my bag with me to each babysitting gig, and look at it when I’d had enough of those pesky kids.  I touched it to remind myself why I was spending my free time working and not re-reading Harry Potter, or writing bad poetry, or some other extremely important thing. I looked at it longingly. It was empty, and I was ready to fill its pages with stories.

With the help of some generous family members, I handed over my hard-earned cash for a spot on the trip.  I remember the night before leaving I felt so scared.  I feared that something terrible would go wrong, and this would be the last time I cuddled on the couch with my family to watch a bad Disney Channel Original Movie.  The next morning I brushed those irrational feelings off and focused on the adventure ahead.  

It was an unlikely moment during the trip that I discovered how truly special traveling is.  Since we were a large group of around 20 people, we traveled around on a huge bus, touring Ireland, Scotland, England, and France.  As I’m prone to do in large groups, I nestled myself into a window seat for some alone time.  I listened to my iPod and looked out the window at the rainy Scottish countryside.  I randomly thought about my summer plans after this grand adventure--yearbook camp, hanging out with family and friends, and all of the other really normal, mundane things that make up my stateside life--and all at once, it hit me that I was in a new land, far, far away from anything familiar or comfortable and I looked at my life in Arizona in a way that I never had before.  It looked good.  Like, really, really good.  Taking a step away from my life had an impact on me.  It made me realize how grateful I truly was to be in such a magical place and yet also how lucky I was to be able to return to an even more magical life.  It made me excited for the future--one that would definitely include going back to Europe to study abroad.
January 2014, I left for a semester in London studying music, art, and theatre (and yes, it was as awesome as it sounds).  I went from Portland, a city of 600,000 to London, a city of over 8 MILLION.  I was afraid and worried that I would hate it, because I thought myself to be a small city type who goes to brunch and the occasional movie with a couple of close friends, but usually prefers to stay in.  During my time in London, I let go of my homebody tendencies (which usually keeps me in my bed making crafts and watching Netflix) and allowed myself to be picked up by the busy city tide -- relaxing into its ebb and flow.  At times I was intimidated by the bustling crowds of overwhelmingly attractive and fashionable Londoners flocking to the oncoming Piccadilly Line, but with the help of my boyfriend Ted, and my fabulous roommate Eva, I managed to stay afloat.  For four months, I tested my limits.  I forced myself to seize opportunity and to spend more time with people (an introvert’s nightmare realized).  I said Yes more than No.  

This is what I would like to call the Traveling Effect.  When I travel, I feel the need to soak up as much as possible.  I cannot afford to be brittle and dry and still.  I must be flexible, moving, breathing, and absorbing as much as possible. I must take advantage of my limited time.  There is no time to waste (except when you really, really need the downtime--sometimes you just need to be boring for a day or two so you can go on and keep doing exciting things).  You must see, do, eat, be.
Saying goodbye to London was much worse than any breakup I’ve ever experienced, and I’m not just saying that for dramatic effect--it’s a fact.  I said goodbye to a lifestyle I never imagined I would have, and a Kaylie I never imagined I could be.  I still get a little pang in chest when I think about London too much, but I had to make room for more adventures--a week-long road trip across England with my grandparents, and a month-long backpacking trip around Europe with Ted.  I stifled down the tears (that would surely be able to water all of Hyde Park or possibly flood the Thames) and focused on the next adventure.

While backpacking Europe, I did things I never dreamt of doing--spontaneously seeing a Mozart opera in Salzburg (NOT a touristy one), hanging out in the Austrian Alps casually walking through clouds, taking a 17-hour ferry to Greece… Oh and did I mention that one time over spring break that we almost got stuck in Monaco for a night?  The list goes on.  Traveling to a different country basically each week was an experience I could never possibly forget.  I know this because I worried as I made my way home that I would forget every detail, good and bad.  This is my greatest fear.  I want to remember.  Then, something wonderful happened.

I was making another journey--up the coast from Phoenix to Portland--with two of my best friends.  We had stopped in the Bay Area for a couple of days because we had a friend to stay with and I didn’t get a good look at San Francisco last time I drove through, so why not spend a day in the city? The moment we started walking around, a million little details of the previous five months abroad started to crop up.  Everything reminded me of something else. It was when I spotted a quote on a journal in a cute little boutique that it finally clicked.

“They should tell you when you are born: Have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel. -Gabrielle Zevin”

Of course!  How could I be so silly?  I didn't need to worry about forgetting.  I will carry all of those fantastic, spastic, annoying, boring, exciting, random memories with me every new place I travel. In my heart.  Yep, I went there.  I'm that cheesy, guys.  Layer on the cheese, as I always say. The great thing about the heart is that when in the right place, it can expand to immeasurable distances--it will not run out of room.  It’s like the Mary Poppins carpet bag of love and feeling and memory.  I will not forget, and I will continue to fill my heart up with more adventures (and layer the cheese on everything and every dish I ever consume).

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