There is a shift that happens when one leaves and returns, especially when that space is over the span of a year around the world. Some of the friends you missed so much still seem far away during first conversations. You become a short-lived novelty, a talking point that lasts for an intro and then it’s back to the latest local gossip or next best thing on Netflix.
I hover over a bathroom sink in Thailand scrubbing my shoes with a sponge and cleaner that smells of cherry and disinfectant. My sneakers were once bright and colorful—they would attract compliments and questions as to where I bought them. I discovered them on a rainy day in Glasgow, after destroying my first set of shoes hiking Isle of Skye in Scotland. I could barely walk around the clammy, cold town as my heel throbbed in pain from a mud caked pair of low hikers I had bought for my year long trip around the world. They were the classic case of being comfortable in the store and now causing me to hobble and cringe my way through the streets with only one goal, to find new shoes. I threw practical out the window and bought my floral patterned, Nike Pegasus sneakers with a twinge of happiness. I would be cool again, not trudging around in functional, but with flare. I knew I wouldn’t be hiking again for a while and my two week old …
As I walked back to my apartment on the shores of Perast, I noticed all the couples walking hand in hand. I often feel the pangs of loneliness when traveling. I haven’t had a lasting boyfriend in a long time and rarely go on dates. Sometimes I feel a wave of invisibility when walking by men.
I have been traveling four months now and while it still feels new, soon it will be over in a blink. Just like life. That certainty is the reason I am on this journey.