My love for Disney songs runs pretty deep. There’s a waist-high window where I wait tables, and my favorite thing to do is to open it with both hands, keep a far off look on my face, and sing, “Little town, it’s a quiiiiet village, every day, like the one before.”
Nostalgia certainly plays a part. I grew up listening to young women sing about wanting to be a part of a different world, to take a magic carpet ride right the hell outta Agrabah. They seemed to me at the time to be girls chasing their dreams, and I thought that’s what I loved about them. Then I grew up and figured out I didn’t really relate to dream chasing as much as I related to a visceral desire to escape, and travel seemed like a perfect way to get that done.
I wanted adventure in the great, wide somewhere, and I wanted it more than I could tell. Mind you, my little town was more like a war zone than a quiet village. Living with people struggling with addiction is real taxing. I was 24 by the time I got a little money together, and I had two choices: I could get my own place, or I could travel. I knew the ‘right’ choice was to get my own place. But I was a high school dropout with some credits at the local community college. Right or not, getting my own place was trading one set of struggles for another. Or I could just keep white knuckling it, and sprinkle some foreign soil in.
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,Healthy, free, the world before me,The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.from Song of the Open Road, Walt Whitman
I was facing a bunch of terribly long roads, so I made a new road. I escaped. I traveled under the guise of all the reasons young people travel. I escaped into other countries on flights of comments like, “Oh, do it now. Do it before you have kids,” “do it while you’re young,” “do it while you’ve got this flexible side job.”
And ya know what? It worked. I traveled alone to places where I didn’t know a soul, and I lived, laughed, and loved. I chased down a sheep in Ireland and fell in shit in front of God and everybody. I ate a truly plain crepe in Paris because I was too afraid to ask for Nutella. I hailed a motorcycle taxi in Uganda, and rode on the back of it in a pencil skirt.
Whatever my reasons, traveling washed some of the gum from my eyes. I did find myself, at least parts of myself, whozits and whatzits galore, all kinds of parts that helped me build a world where I could wander free.