They’ll say I didn’t look back. Or, at least I think that’s what they’ll say. Where my father’s heart is soft and sentimental, my mother’s memory is random and precise. And so while they may feel and interpret different things, their statements will be the same. They’ll both be watching walk away, setting off for my first unchaperoned international trip. They’ll both see and note that I didn’t look back.
I’m new to this whole book-it-and-go, see-the-world lifestyle. In fact, today is my initiation. So I thought I’d craft a list of best practices for taking your first unchaperoned international trip, which, if you’re familiar with writing, you know isn’t a list of best practices at all.
It’s best to be in a hurry when you travel. That way you won’t have time to absorb your father’s worry from his tight see-you-soon hug. You won’t have time to read through his nonchalance or process the mix of pride and despair spread across his face when you pull away.
It’s best not to sleep before you depart. When the rush dies down, and your eyes well up, you can afford to say that you just need rest. You will feel no shame when the separation seeps in and your tears soften the sharpness of your vision. Your chest stretches with pride as you slowly realize the magnitude of what you’re doing.
It’s best not to write that In Case I Don’t Return note. You’ll be glad you didn’t one hour into the trip. That way you don’t worry that your roommate might find it and know what should only be known after you depart from this earth.
It’s best to travel alone sometimes. Maybe just for a day, to see what the city has to say when no one else has your ear.
It’s best to breathe. That’s just it. It is best to breathe.
It’s best to call a spade a spade. By 3:49 on the morning of your flight you’re trying to decide if you should just say it. You balance your journal atop your thigh and consider the permanence of your pen. You decide to call a spade a spade. Panic attack. Twice in the last 24 hours, you awakened to your heart fluttering like the wings of a moth, threatening to fly through your chest. You opened your eyes and could only focus on one thing. Get out, get out, get out. This prompts you to walk up and down an unfamiliar street, yearning for the sobering cold. But once you call it by name, you can manage it, and plan for the time it returns.
It’s best to be early. So early that you have time to sit in a terminal and organize your thoughts. To line them up in the order that suits you and declare that it shall be.
I board my plane to Doha, Qatar in less than 20 minutes, and I am claiming this trip to be the time of my life.