With travel has returned a kind of emancipation, a forgotten freedom, a liberty lost to the years, relinquished to the rigidity of routine, misplaced within the mechanism of monotony. Silenced by the system, censored by the city walls, by a sea of suffering that held my body down beneath raging, foamy waters for so long. Yet, here, on the road, I am free once again. I have rediscovered a youth I thought I had lost forever. Stripped and unshackled, I stand naked beneath the waterfall; I am the wolf that howls under silver moonlight, the uninhabited matriarch. I am the spirit of my ancestors unkempt and untamed, unfolding delicate wings in buttery sunlight, I am finally who I always was, the little girl who got lost under the weight of all that water, who drowned one day when I wasn’t looking.
Unchained, untethered, agile like a tiny hummingbird, levitating over a field of yellow dandelions, I soar high above the city streets with all those blinding neon lights and I ride on clouds made of classroom daydreams. I am a tiger, with thick black stripes and soft, orange fur, the same colour as the ripe mandarins we picked from the trees when I was a little girl. I am that tiny nymph once again, playing in the stream at the bottom of my garden; encompassed by tall trees, those old green friends of mine that always kept my secrets. On the road, everything is possible. I don’t remember when I stopped believing in my dreams, or when I stopped being that little girl. When did life become so heavy, the weight of the world pressing against my back as I fought against it, trying to find that little dreamer with the blonde pigtails and the blinding smile, the eyes like forget-me-nots, a heart spilling over with happiness, tiny petals falling from ethereal flowers at spring time. When did life become more work than play? When did I stop loving myself, whispering secrets to myself at midnight, inventing stories in the darkness beneath bed covers, the city skyline glowing softly like fireflies in the blackness of an English night. When did I forget that this life is a dream, a dream we get to create every day. That little girl never really left, she just got lost.
We all get lost as we grow.
Now, the open road is my playground, I am four years old again, I am free from all the weight of my past, I am in this moment, dancing in the milky morning air. I have found laughter again, a laughter that feels like throwing off one’s clothes and running through sprinklers drenched in hot sunlight, that smells like hot pastries on Sunday mornings, like fertile soil on the jungle floor in the heat of a summer night. Like holding hands with someone that makes you feel impenetrable, sparks flying, red crested macaws soaring through endless treetops. I have broken free from the chains of judgment, I have let myself act on my impulses, I have found a way to let go, let go of all the fear and just plunge myself head first into the moment, into the abyss of the unknown, soaking in the sugary realization that it doesn’t hurt anymore. That there’s nothing left to be afraid of. I have paddled into waves that made my heart stutter, spent days alone in foreign cities, and let myself be held, be touched, be caressed by the ocean, by the jungle, by the boy with arms that feel like safety, like nothing could ever hurt me here.
I have finally found the strength to let myself be weak.
Here, running through the cool stream of youth once again, of giggles and play, of ripe, sticky fruit picked fresh from the trees, stolen kisses and wandering without purpose, I have found myself. I have painted flowers on walls, danced salsa with strangers, played football in the mud with five-year-olds, cried in museums over the art of strangers. I have returned to childhood, to an innocence that was stolen by grief, by illness, by society and all its unobtainable standards. I have taught classes in a foreign language, had conversations with the full moon, sang at the top of my lungs beneath prehistoric mountains and drank ancient medicine with indigenous shamans in the Peruvian jungle. I have learned to talk to strangers, to connect to people on dusty village roads, in crowded bus stations, in airports, on the tired pavements of empty streets at dusk. I have learned that language doesn’t matter if you know how to laugh. Really laugh, a ridiculous, belly aching make-fun-of-yourself kind of laughter. I have realized the key to freedom is ridding yourself of all seriousness, of heaviness, of a desperate clinging to the self-constructed illusion that is your own identity. Let it go. Throw your attachments to the wind. Jump into the moment with strength and vigor and excitement and when it comes time, when it comes time, let it all go with bravery and faith and trust in the uncertainty of this sublime adventure. Speak your truth with a brave heart and make a fool of yourself – be silly, shine your intoxicating light into all the dark corners of this world, sink bare toes into mud without care, get dirty, run your heart out, try something new every day, say yes.