The following is an old journal entry directed towards my best friend. I guess you could consider this as my explanation to her of why I felt I HAD to move away from our hometown, an idea that she most definitely did not favor. In the passage, I discuss my love of travel in relation to a trip I took to Washington, D.C..
This past year when I was looking down on the clouds with the Pentagon right below me, I was instantly addicted. I was addicted to being free, rich, and poor, all at the very same time. I was free to experience the world; no one knew who I was (kind of). I was just another tourist landing at the airport. I could be anyone that I wanted to be—a completely clean slate.
Other than my mom transferring a little spending money into my account, I was definitely rich with passion. I didn’t ever really know what was going to happen on what particular day, or where that day’s events would lead me. All I knew was that no matter where I ended up, I was ready to take on the day, 7 am sharp with my banana in hand scrambling to catch the bus.
The same thing that made me feel so rich also made me feel poor. I had no idea what the heck I was doing in such a huge city. The freaking capital of America. But then again, my lack of knowledge and experience also contributed to my feeling of freedom. One day, the day we were to tour the Washington Monument and browse the Smithsonians, we had four hours of complete and total freedom. No chaperones, no specific itinerary, no worries. It was just me, my girl [name], and Washington D.C. Hopping and bopping from Smithsonian to Smithsonian, we got lost a countless number of times. Thank goodness for google maps or we wouldn’t have made it back.
A beautiful mystery. At least that’s what I felt like when we were walking back from the Jefferson Memorial one night while the cherry blossoms shielded us from the outside world. That’s the thing. When you travel, you don’t feel exposed. There’s so much going on that no one cares to stop and stare at you. That kind of goes along with having no tie downs.
Like one night when we went to a program gathering (aka, a clean party—even though they didn’t want to call it that). [My friend] ran off to go dance and have a good time but that was fine by me. I got to chill and she got to have a good time. No one in D.C. knew her, or honestly cared about her provocative dance moves, so a few weeks later when I met up with her and her family for a Christmas dinner, they had no idea what she had been up to, and all was good.
She wasn’t up to anything necessarily bad, but it’s just the general idea of it all. I could’ve tried to bust a few moves on the dance floor, but dirty dancing isn’t my thing, and I was avoiding having to do the electric slide at all possible cost. Eventually I did join a huge circle of people dancing, and I had a great time. Not dirty dancing—just the cha cha slide and macerana. Those are my kind of people.
Anyways, back to the subject of the riverboat cruise, travel makes you do things that you never thought you would ever do. I remember standing in the uppermost deck of the riverboat, looking out over the Potomac. I don’t think the sun had quite set yet, but it was close. I heard the first few twinkling notes of “Best Song Ever” by One Direction, and I nearly slipped when I bolted towards the stairs to head down to where the main party was.
I busted through the french doors of the parlor, and somehow I ended up being in the middle of a giant circle of people, singing and dancing to my heart’s desire. I never thought my inner fangirl would come out in a room full of people that aren’t exactly fangirls like myself. But I guess travel will do that you to.
After my fangirl episode, I went back upstairs, and by this time it was dark outside with the only visible light coming from the boat itself, and the Potomac. That’s when I sat next to John from Arizona. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I didn’t magically fall in love with John from Arizona. I never even saw him again. Well, I take that last part back. Anyways, he was John and he was from Arizona.
He was talking to another girl, and I was kind of eavesdropping on their conversation. I’ve always had a minor infatuation with the arid state of Arizona—please don’t ask me why, I don’t know— so this was my chance. I asked him every cliche question about Arizona, and he didn’t even seem to mind. He told me about the tumbleweed season, enormous cacti, the climate, and some kind of thorny vines that devour any kind of plant you attempt to grow.
That was literally the basis of our whole encounter, but I was entranced. I admittedly don’t really believe in the forever kind of love, but I do believe in temporary love. The kind where you momentarily fall in love with strangers, but not in a sexual way. You just find someone interesting, and you love and admire them for that single moment in time. It’s just that one moment, and then you never see them again. Nothing more. I find that beautiful.
Fast-forward to the day when we got lost in the Library of Congress. I’m talking about being at the exit at the other end across from where we needed to be in five minutes, kind of lost. [My friend] ended up saving the day and getting us to where we needed to be, but on the way back, we stopped at the esteemed collections of Thomas Jefferson. TJ’s library was at the very top of this huge and elaborate stairwell, kind of like the ones you see in a cliche princess castle. Standing at the top of that staircase, I looked out over the dozens of tourist flooding the area, and I kid you not, I spotted John from Arizona.
Except we weren’t lovers, and I didn’t run down to meet him. I stood there. He eventually did notice me, and I thought about approaching him, but then I figured some things were just better left alone. I never saw him again. I still wonder about him from time to time. I searched for him on social media, but came up empty handed. Thinking about it now, I’m content with it being one of those temporary love things. It’s one of my favorite memories.
It’s the little things that you end up carrying with you in everyday life. I find myself remembering things about this trip through little snippets that surface to my memory. That’s the best and worst part about traveling: the memories. The evanescence of it all. The memories are so treasurable, yet they also leave this aching and nostalgic feeling inside of you. It’s an indescribable feeling. I hope it never ends for me. I want to continue to experience new things, and I have to keep moving forward in order to do that… I hope that one day you will understand.
*Specific names omitted for privacy reasons