I am so lucky. I cannot count how many times I have said or thought these words. At least once a day since we left England six months ago. Over 180 wholehearted expressions of gratitude. I am lucky to be where we are, without question, but more than this, I am so very lucky to have been born with the pure grit and determination needed to get myself here. To seek out the darkness within, that incongruous strength so often required to bring our dreams to fruition. To carve out for myself a life less ordinary, a life I felt born to live.
Before we left England, my dream of travel was like a wild animal that had been caged, a tiger pacing up and down inside of me, longing to be set free. For two seemingly endless and challenging years I lived with that tiger, paying off my debt and building my savings, waiting for the lock to turn. Then, six months ago today, we set foot on the shores of India, and just like that, I felt my tiger released.
It had begun, the life I had been waiting for, a life filled with chaos and heat and adventure, and I was finally free.
Six months on, you might be wondering is it everything you ever dreamed of? I can tell you wholeheartedly that it is everything and more. It is better and worse, easier and harder, more full and more empty. This is not the easy life you might imagine, but it is the one I know, with every cell in my being, is right for me to be living. I didn’t think I would ever be able to say something like that.
These six months have been like the delicate unfurling of petals, revealing their colour and beauty with a sense of ineffable purpose that takes my breath away. I don’t know what my future holds, and for the first time in my life I don’t wonder beyond where my next destination might be. My yearning for marriage and children left along with my tiger, the search for something more at last called off. Because this is it. This is my more, and it is as breathtakingly simple as being a wandering heart at peace in the world. That’s all I want; to be right here, wherever here may be. An infinite parade of here’s, waiting to march past.
In many ways I have grown to look on this time less as a period of travel, and more of a period of growth, as though the lines of my road map have been furiously spidering outwards, expanding to fill the pages of a story not yet written. It has been like a gradual introduction to myself, a prologue of sorts, setting the scene for what I’m sure is set to be one heck of a page-turner.
I have begun to understand myself, to feel less fear of what lies within, to love the dark just as much as the light. The tiger may have been abated, but there’s still something there, something constant I am always aware of. Some soft animal, rubbing at my ankles, purring for attention. So I move on to new adventures, slowly, with little forethought to where next.
I want to enjoy each new corner, set up ‘home’ for a while, get to know the place and its people. There is something so magical about slow travel, the way you become the master of time, and how and where your precious portion of it will be spent. It affords you the opportunity to unpack more than just the contents of your backpack. You can open yourself up, shake out the crumbs, and repack a little lighter, a touch more breathing room in amongst your faded T-shirts.
There are so many lessons wrapped up in this half year, so many experiences, good and bad. Even if all this was ever meant to be was six months, and I was heading home tomorrow, what a gift these six months have been. But (and I write this with such a swelling of joy in my heart) there is still more to come. So many more six months. So many more chances to see the world, to see myself through the eyes of her people, to learn and strip away and grow amidst the delicious uncertainty of all that lies ahead, and the knowledge that I can make of it what I choose, with respect and love and sincerity.