This time last year I was in Portugal on my first solo trip. I was on break from working as an au pair for a French family that lived in Paris. I was looking forward to seeing Connor, who had just moved to New York City, for our birthday reunion in Barcelona. I was in love, and the vertigo of my new relationship blurred my every thought. I was lonely and had not yet adjusted to the silences of traveling companionless. A friend told me once that the detriment of traveling alone was that you don’t have anyone to say “Wow, isn’t that beautiful?” to. On October 26, 2017 I climbed a tree near Sintra in order to get a better view of the sunset. I FaceTimed two humans I loved and love deeply. I just wanted to say: “Wow, isn’t that beautiful?”
That night, I got lost on the way home. Google Maps told me to turn left and when I looked up from my phone, I was in a driveway facing a child shooting hoops. He looked at me, motionless, and gripped the basketball in his hands. I think we were equally surprised and confused. I mumbled something and scurried away, feeling like a dunce.
I can’t remember how but I made it back to Lisbon from Sintra. Whenever I get blue, I crave Asian food. That night, I went to a Chinese supermarket to get some overpriced cup noodles and ate it in the lobby of my hostel. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I put earphones in to show it. The next day was much better. I borrowed a sheet from the hostel, packed my bag, and went to Carcavelos Beach. I listened to my Discover Weekly playlist, which was particularly on-point. The sand didn’t stick to my feet. I got a sunburn but didn’t care. I asked a stranger to take my photo because I wanted to remember. I watched the sun set again.
Never could I have predicted on that beach last year that I would be where I am now. I am sitting in my apartment in New York City. I have a job and coworkers I adore. I have friends who I love and who love me. I have a family that’s hard to be away from. I am single in the first time in two years and I am getting better at being alone. I have hair long enough to put into a tiny ponytail. I go rock climbing and am improving each day. I actually have the patience to work on getting better at something!! After years of only dresses and skirts—I even wear pants now!!!
I have an inseparable fear and excitement for the next year but I’ve come to think that feeling is what makes life compelling.