My eyes blink open. Yet another new ceiling is above me, the underside of yet another top bunk. Where am I? is the first question of the day that demands an answer, and it takes about 30 seconds to recall the final destination of the night before. Is it Prague? Rome? Cape Town?
Scenery, people, historical landmarks shift around me on the daily. My only constant companions are my boyfriend Jake and my 27-30 pound pack that has me convinced I will be a hunchback by the time I make it back to U.S. soil. But, despite our constant movement, there are a few things I can count on regardless of the answer to my morning question.
I will be stared at, shamelessly and without ceasing despite how many times I make eye contact with today’s creep. And I will have to resist urges to stare back, make a ridiculous face, whip out my camera to document the eyes boring into my soul, or lunge at the creep suddenly when we finally pass one another, just to get a blink.
I will chase my transit, whether it be a train, bus, ferry, or airplane. And in the process my pack (which rises 6 inches above my head) will be pounding me in the back of the skull with every other step I take, forcing me into an awkward forward-backward motion resembling that of a sprinting chicken. And I will be dripping sweat from every pore on my body, which in turn results in more of those staring strangers.
I will feel incompetent as I try to order a latte in a language I cannot sound out and end up with an espresso shot that smells and tastes like it came from a dog’s behind. Or as my boyfriend and I attempt to set up camp with the tent we purchased (after weeks of research) from home, only to find ourselves surrounded by four South Africans trying to attach the top of the tent to the fence because the package didn’t include poles…
Sweet South African lady (*cue accent*): “How much did you pay for it?”
Boyfriend: “… A couple hundred dollars.”
Sweet South African lady (openly stunned): “In U.S. dollars?? You could have bought a nice big one for $75 just down the road.”
Boyfriend & myself: “… … …”
I will sleep in a new bed tonight, in a room full of strangers and at least one surprise awaiting before I leave tomorrow. In Madrid, that surprise was the guy on night shift, who would turn the lights on every 30 minutes until 2 a.m., then proceed to bang each guest’s locker door open and closed, just to ensure that if the lights didn’t wake me up the spine-curling, eardrum breaking screech sure would. In Dublin, the surprise was sunlight revealing the fact that I had slept on a pillow covered in someone else’s pubic hair.
I will be lost, and I will both hate and love this. I will hate it because being lost for hours with a 30 pound pack on your back robs you of your filter, and this little monster in you that you’ve never met before will overtake the situation. But I will love it because being lost is the real adventure, the moment where the unexpected happens and unforgettable memories are made, where strangers become friends because you need them to, where you are confronted with two sides of yourself and choose if the good or bad wins. Being lost is the moment of being totally helpless yet totally free, dependent in everything on the character of God and man to get you where you need to go, and safely.
This summer I was confronted with the rawest forms of myself, of God, and of fellow men and women, and I came out of the journey with more hope in all three, rather than less. I learned that the mundane routines of home can quickly rob me, us, of this hope, but making space to seek it out is always worth the time and challenge. I have found that the adventure, the getting lost, doesn’t stop just because the backpacking does.