I’m about to get raw with you, so bear with me.
As many of you know, I was in a serious accident in January. It rocked my world and not in a good way. Not only did it happen to begin with, it happened while I was living out my lifelong dream of traveling.
I’ve always been a traveler. I basically have “wanderlust” tattooed on my soul. Some people have bucket lists, I have travel lists. When I was in eighth grade I traveled internationally for the first time, to South America on a school trip (wild field trip, right?!), traveling deep into the Amazon rainforest. I had worked my butt off to afford this trip with some help from my family members (there was no GoFundMe back then) and I did it. I spent eight days in Ecuador, five deep in the jungle accessible only via small airplane and then three hours down the Amazon river by boat, and three in the capital city of Quito. I swung from vines in the jungle. I climbed a 200 foot tree (it had stairs!). I stood on the equator. I fell asleep under a mosquito net to the sound of howler monkeys. I swam with piranhas and then watched as my peers ate them.
It was then, I think, that I fell in love with travel. It was the first time in all my fourteen years I had been exposed to other cultures and other ways of life. It was incredible, and I was hooked.
However, when I was in Costa Rica, things did not go so well. I don’t feel like getting into it again, so you can read this if you want to know more: A Sudden and Dramatic Goodbye: My Emergency in Costa Rica
And I’m not going to lie to you, it messed me up.
Not only physically but mentally, too. I’d never been injured like that before, and I’ve never been so terrorized and scared, not even to mention the fact it happened in a foreign country where I can only understand some of the language. I kid you not, the whole time I was being examined I was listening for the word muerte which I know means death. I didn’t know what was going on because I literally could not understand the language it was happening in. I’m getting the shivers just recalling that.
Anyway, it depressed me. I’m not ashamed about it. It’s normal, and I’ve talked to other people who have had a similar thought process after tragedy. It’s hard to describe. I’m trying to put it to words and I’m struggling… I guess it’s kind of like one big why me. Not in a pity type of way, but in a seriously, why me, why am I here, why did I get a second chance, am I going to blow it, why aren’t I dead, I should be dead, not that I want to be but because that’s how it was so close to being if only one thing had been different, where do I go from here, what now type of way. But that still doesn’t do the feeling justice.
When life takes you by surprise and screams in your face “LIFE IS F*CKING SHORT AND IT CAN BE TAKEN IN AN INSTANT” you listen. And you take it seriously. And you’re reminded of it all the time. So for a long time I didn’t believe I could ever travel again.
But the truth is travel is something that I love, and what kind of life would it be for me to give up something that lights me up because I’m scared of it? I’m terrified of traveling alone because one thing I’m very aware of is that if I had been at the time of the accident, I would definitely have died. No question about it. But on the other hand, it’s something I’ve always always always wanted to do. So do I give into my fears and ignore the nagging of my soul and what fills it, or do I take the baby steps and get back out there and eventually overcome this? I think the answer is clear.
It’s a happy ending I’m working on. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but that’s not the point. The point is to follow what makes me happy. Last week it was a walk by myself to the candy store. Next week I might make it to the beach. Next year I could be across the country, and after that across the world- who knows?? All I know is I’m feeling more optimistic about it than ever.
Some people I love, admire and trust told me that with time, my personal tragedy might look more like an awakening. They could be right about that.
Ps- a fun fact about my trip to Ecuador: It coincided with the worst political unrest Ecuador had seen in a century. I watched from my hotel as people marched the streets, lit fires, etc. We were the last plane in when we flew back from the jungle before the citizens shut down the airport to prevent the president’s escape (it didn’t work, he took off by helicopter) and the first plane out to get back to the United States. You can read the WikiNews post here.