Five years ago, I got a tattoo of the southern cross on my ankle. I wandered into a tattoo parlor, dizzy from the after effects of strong Australian beer and the heat of Cairns, a backpacker’s partying hot spot in northern Australia that hugs the Great Barrier Reef. I paid $150 to have five tiny stars, sloppily etched on the fleshy skin of my inner foot, crosshatched by sensitive veins. I paid far too much, it hurt like hell, and five years of wear and tear have transformed the delicate stars into barely recognizeable splotches. I love that tattoo.
Five years later, I am fulfilling the promise I made to myself and to a good friend that also received the tattoo, to travel. We got our inked constellations at the conclusion of a passionate discussion the previous night on the significance of the four months we were spending in Australia. We all agreed that we felt alive in a way we had never experienced before, and we feared losing that awareness upon our return home. My smudgey tattoo is often misread as the little dipper but it has been a daily reminder for me to hold on to that passion for travel and that need to keep exploring and discovering the world I know so little about.
As we promised ourselves we would, my friend Abby and I are setting off on another adventure. We are traveling to Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Laos is our first destination, which we will do on our own. Then two friends from Chicago will be joining us for a guided “rustic” tour of Vietnam and Cambodia. After three weeks, my friends will head home and I will head to Thailand, where I will be volunteering on an elephant camp for four weeks.
I’m now sitting in JFK, waiting for a delayed flight to Tokyo, Japan and I will probably miss my connecting flight to Bangkok. Abby and I are on two different time zones, and meeting in a third. She has already boarded her flight and will be waiting for me to accompany her to our hotel that is booked under my name in Bangkok. Neither of us have phones, and the only way she will discover my change of plans is if she finds a wi-fi hotspot to read the frantic email I just sent her.
So this is it. The first of a likely continuing chain of changed plans, confussion, and chaos- but that is just the beauty of travel and I am being reminded early on to not let this darken my enthusiasm. I am trying to remind myself that no delayed flight can screw this up for me. Maybe I’ll be stuck in Japan for a night, but I’ve never seen Japan. Travel is confusing and stressful but if you embrace every bump in the road, it all just makes for a better story.
I hope you enjoy all of the travel stories to come, almost as much as I will enjoy living them…