Travel has a way of changing you. Of changing your world view. Or your view of yourself. Or both. Either way, it is when you embrace the adventure, allow the experience to seep into your pores, you become something more. Something deeper.
Adventure photographer, Laura Fenwick has a way of describing her journey (physically, mentally, & emotionally) that makes you want to hop the next plane to anywhere. Just to feel something foreign, something more than your every day, something bigger than yourself.
“Breathe the wild air.”
I knew I was misquoting Emerson, but as the tattoo artist laid the ink into my arm, I committed to the decision that felt best versus the one that was most technically correct.
This was my second session in six years, and the artist and I caught up on the time between. He was in a new shop — same city, same clients, but better atmosphere. His son was a teenager now. The motorcycle was running well. He’d added chrome customizations and it was looking tight. His legs still shook, but he had the steadiest hands in the game.
“What about you, girl? Why am I tattooing this into your arm today?”
I took a deep breath and the moment to assess how greatly my life had changed since I’d seen him last. From one plane of view, it hadn’t, really. Still the same person. Still the same ambitions. Still the same proclivities for throwback hip-hop and chocolate chip cookies. From the other plane, everything was different. Six years ago, I was a homebody with a closet full of snow boots. I didn’t have a passport. I didn’t have a global worldview. I didn’t know I didn’t have a global worldview. At least now I knew that I only vaguely understood what I did know, which was vastly more than six years prior, but ultimately nothing. I took another breath.
I found myself on the road. I didn’t start out thinking I had anything to find except adventure. What I found were gypsies, fortune-telling parakeets, surfers, jungle water towers, street dogs, handcart tamales, long train rides, dusty bus trips, monkeys, one-eyed house cats, and the wilderness of my own heart. Over and over and over again, I found that wilderness. The way it sprawled out ahead of me as I participated in new experiences, took long odds, eagerly lined up for the risk of being heartbroken, and for the chance at the ride was the surprising and delightful element of travel.
Emerson wrote, “…drink the wild air.”
I’ve been drunk before. I’ve been drunk on red wine and on good art, handsome men, new experiences, and the boldness of living. But, drunkenness is ultimately the act of taking, solely, and appreciating to a complete saturation.
Travel has asked me, too, what I can give. What can I not only singularly experience but partake in and contribute to?
Drinking is consumption. Breathing is exchange.
So I took one more breath and started in. “I just spent nine weeks in Mexico, living with kite surfers, and developing a series of art around the psychology of surfing. This is my little reminder to show up, and to show up fiercely without the need to physically brace or mentally control, and to show up so intensely that I’m part of the wind and part of the waves. And that any time life feels pale or claustrophobic, I’m allowed to change and color my perspective as much as my environment, as much as my engagement. This is my reminder that I’ve tasted the life I love, even if I don’t always choose it.”
Mexico changes things. There’s a buoyancy to its limestone foundation, and a levity in the rush of the waves.
I’ve been back since, and the place always changes. I’m different; it’s different: we have new experiences, but somehow always settle back into the rhythm of slow morning coffees, long middays of sand and salt and sunburns, afternoon hitch hiking, evening salsa dancing, and midnight moon watching. Somehow, that never changes. Tradewinds still dust off my soul, and I still spend weeks at a time embracing long tangles of saltwater curls. It’s never the decision that is most technically correct, but it’s always the decision that feels best, ultimately serves me best, and arguably changes my life. Each and every time.
The tattoo artist wiped excess ink off my wrist, looked up, and deadpanned, “I don’t get it.”
“Yeah. Me either. Just pieces of it.”
That’s one more thing Mexico has taught me: life is a mystery to be lived, not solved. Life is for breathing it all in, soaking it up, and exhaling it out. Life is for breathing it all and feeling wild and being wild and breathing the wild air. Travel taught me how little I actually know. Mexico taught me how little I actually need to know. There is no bliss in ignorance. But, there is a wilderness in acceptance, and that wilderness is where I find my bliss.
all my love,
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