I don’t want to brag or anything (okay, maybe I do) but I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve
forced coerced encouraged to get a passport. Before you scoff at that number, I dare you to tell me how many you have.
Anyway, fresh off my RTW, I stood on a street corner struggling, trying to articulate to a friend why I felt compelled to tell so many travel stories. How many times did I start a sentence with “This one time, in Vietnam,” before it hit me? It’s not because I want to hear myself talk, no (believe it or not). It’s because I want everybody to feel the way I did when I felt the most alive. Travel as an art is so deeply personal. At its best, it is transformative. You can read about it, watch a television show about it, hell, even blog about it, but you won’t get it unless you do it. And so, I began to work on my first victim.
My closest friend agreed to apply for a passport and accompany me abroad for Spring Break with two stipulations: First, that we’d get her money’s worth ($100 to apply for a passport when you’re a college student is no small feat) and collect at least one stamp per year until…well…we don’t like to talk about what happens after the ‘until.’ Second, that two years after graduation, when we’d (surely) be super successful and going to sleep on pillows stuffed with Benjamins we’d go to the farthest corner of the earth, to the fabled Continent-Country where every living creature designed by evolution or God was put on the planet to kill you, where strapping men with sexy accents stroll streets wearing their finest khaki just waiting for us to arrive and make them our husbands. To the land of Oz. To Australia.
You see, some people just know where they’re meant to travel. They’re soulmates. The foodies crave Italy, the romantics yearn for France. The religious might mecca to Israel or India. Dancers become impassioned for Argentina. Some people are just meant for places. Face it, it’s a fact. For some it’s because they have heritage there; for others, it’s an inexplicable calling. Regardless, it’s magical and beautiful and wonderful when you meet your country-soulmate. For my friend, even before she got her first stamp, she knew. Australia (and adventure) had been beckoning.
So we set the date and year. Late July/early August 2011. Place: Sydney. Or Melbourne or Brisbane or Northern Territory, it hardly mattered. Then, we started to talk. And people replied “Do you realize how long of a flight that is?” “No big deal!” I’d say. We’re out for adventure. For me, Australia was my last conquest, the last continent (save Antarctica) to check off my list. Six continents in three years? I began to salivate at the thought.
But this is 2011. Only Justin Bieber slumbers on piles of $100 bills. With the high-profile tumult and new international conflicts emerging in the region that is perceived to control the global supply of oil, it became heartachingly clear to us that fuel prices would continue to rise and finding a deal on airfare would be more difficult than ever. Earlier this month, after waiting and waiting and waiting, we gave up on Australia. Visions of koala bears could no longer dance in our heads. No Great Barrier Reef. No Outback. No husbands.
But give up? Never! We have our travel pact to tend to after all. Earlier this month I found flights to Ecuador for under half it would have cost us to fly to Australia. We may have thought we’d be wrangling ‘roos, but now we’ll be rowing canoes…through the Amazon Rainforest. Sometimes the best laid plans fall apart. But what you get in return may just challenge you in newer ways. In travel, as in relationships, timing is everything.
I just can’t wait to see the look on my best friend’s face when we finally do make it to Australia, sometime in the future years. I’m sure it will be worth the wait.
What country is your soulmate? Have you ever had to scramble for a travel Plan B?