June 27, 2012 by Leah
On Saturday, I moved out of my apartment so my subletters could move in. I packed all of my worldly possessions (mostly clothes) into my car and headed west on the Massachusetts Turnpike towards my parents’ house, where I am storing my stuff for the summer. The car was overloaded with bags and boxes and the image of Claire driving away in the very last episode of HBO’s Six Feet Under came to mind. Except it wasn’t the same thing at all.
When Claire drives off in her fully-packed Prius, listening to an emotional goodbye mix tape, she’s driving into the unknown and she’s terrified. I remember feeling that way when I said goodbye to my dad at a train station in 2006. That train would take me to a plane that would take me to Madrid where I would begin my study abroad program. I had never traveled on my own. I didn’t know anyone in the study abroad program. I didn’t know who or what I was about to encounter, and I was terrified.
But leaving my apartment Saturday was not scary. Even though I am not leaving for South America for another week, it felt significant to move out of my apartment. At that moment I became a traveler. I no longer have a home base to rest or hide or mope or spread out among my things. And even though, for the time being, I’m familiar with my various destinations (my parents’ house, the streets of Boston, my friends’ couches…), I do feel the sense that I’m heading toward the unknown.
The truth is that this isn’t just about my trip to South America. It’s about entering the next phase of my life. I recently left my position of three years at the Jewish Women’s Archive. I just finished my MA degree in Health Communication at Emerson College. I’m about to head out to explore an unfamiliar continent and return to a new life and a new job (yet unknown) that could point my career in any number of directions.
So, moving out felt big.
But it didn’t feel scary.
Lately, it feels like I’m jumping off a cliff without being able to see what’s below. But even so, I’ve learned that I can handle whatever I may land in. That’s the gift of travel, I think.
I once navigated a subway where the signage was literally Greek to me. I once waited at a bus station for seven hours after misreading the bus schedule. I made the stupid mistake of wearing flip flops in the Belizean jungle, and survived the resulting fire ant attack. I relied on the help of strangers after getting stranded in a scary part of Rome at night. I had to find a doctor on a Caribbean island and get a shot of prednisone in my butt after a freak allergic reaction. After slicing my foot on a rusty piece of metal, I had my foot doused in vodka and bandaged in the storeroom of a Spanish nightclub. I survived a six hour bus ride through Portugal with traveler’s diarrhea (the bus didn’t have a bathroom). I made it through a trip to Scotland (where it rained every single day) with a big hole in the sole of my only pair of shoes.
In short, I learned to not only to expect the unexpected, but also to be confident that I could handle it, whatever it is.
This trip is a new beginning, but it’s not my first new beginning. And though I am somewhat nervous and anxious to see where this one takes me, I am glad to be walking into it with my heart steady and my eyes open.