The 777 passes to the east. Forty thousand feet over the Canadian plains a turbulent tailwind rocks us all to sleep like babes in an industrial steel cradle. We are helpless as infants for all the power we have over our paths at this moment.
But I can’t sleep.
Choosing to travel is choosing the path of transience, and I’m haunted by the souls who’ve invaded my airspace and gone: with hugs and affirmations; with nothing at all because we didn’t know that was the end; with casual disappearance into the night shadows.
Last night on Robson Street was filled with neon lights and open air bars. The scent of seaweed and colognes, nachos. Our merry band of travelers strung out over blocks and breaking apart in that special kind of fission unique to large groups of people. I kicked through street paper and crinkled a water bottle, afterward, after salutes were traded with bows and backclaps. I packed my bags and looked over Vancouver.
There is a point to enduring these mournful little deaths.
Travel forces an opening up of oneself. Again and again, the advice is to be more outgoing, more loquacious, more smiley. Over time I’ve become pretty good at letting people in. But I can never come to terms with the unspoken half, the fundamental transience of the experience. I am woefully inadequate at letting new friends out, at holding the door open and waving those precious few through with sincerity. Our profession is to disappear, often and often randomly. There is art in letting a thing become complete.
Somehow these little wounds haven’t made me more callous, but rather more tender, more cognizant of the experience. I feel as though I’ve opened a pomegranate and found a hundred glistening, tart rubies.
I spent the last four days at a travel writing conference, and the keynote speech ended with a reminder that travel writers have an impact on readers, that we can change lives by sharing our experiences. I’m reminded, today, of travel’s more immediate effects: that it changes the traveler, hammering me into new shapes and beating me into something perhaps a little brighter, something more beautifully worn.
Is making friends on the road ever harder than not making any at all?