You spend half your life trying to grow up and the other half wishing you were younger. I wanted to grow, but didn’t know how. I sat there on the bench watching the trees sway in the background and memories flash from time to time. Some good, some bad…I had just finished my finals, and was wondering what I would do after all this was over. At the time I remember being in a relationship that to me….felt like I could have avoided. I wanted something, anything, to help me feel like someone needed me. She was great, but I felt I was always missing that part of me that could truly help her. I felt like I was in the way, and I spent all this time helping but not being helped. I was always there, but I felt like I couldn’t fall or we would both fall. Maybe I was just overthinking, but looking back I don’t think I was.
I took off to Madrid. It was a graduation gift, which I felt honored to get from my family. Years of hard work validated without just a student loan to loom over me for the next 10 years. It was a busy day at the LAX, and at the time I just knew my flight number. As i scanned through security check points, I felt the weight of not knowing where I was going or the details of the next day climb over me. I had made no real plans other than to meet a good friend out in the northern part of Spain who was teaching abroad. Was it Seville? Andalusia? It was…north of Spain, good enough I guess. I was nervous, but I had an innate nature to trust my instinct that it would all work out. When I landed, I did my best and found a bus to take me north, with the 40 mins of Wi-fi the airport gave me, I contacted him and made sure I had the city right. The people..spoke differently, it wasn’t quite the Spanish I was accustomed to, but it wasn’t wrong either. They say they spoke the “real” Spanish, but to me….perhaps it was never really a thought to acquaint myself with it. Twenty hours later, I finally arrived at sunrise, with my friend waiting for me. What city was I in?, I thought. It didn’t matter, I was in Spain! The town was amazing, the people were friendly and for the first time, I felt comfortable in a country other than my own. During my studies, I did some research on the history of our family name. It comes from a Spaniard translation for “From the Sun” (In Latin). Or a hot summer breeze, but I liked the first explanation, it sounded more romantic.
We ate the food and danced the night away with the few friends he had made. The people of Spain are very friendly, especially in the night life. I could tell from the american influence, but the music was familiar to what I was hearing on the radio…about a year ago. The clubs don’t start till about midnight and you can hardly tell from the energy you surprisingly have at 2 in the morning. I was having the time of my life.Drinking the local beer, dancing, and genuinely not having a care in the world. I could only think of how it would be looking back at these moments. How being an old man, how these memories could keep me afloat when it’s all said and done. In that moment I thought, “Couldn’t I be like this forever?” What a life! The streets were clean, and filled with so much history. He mentioned Morocco, and little did I know I would be heading there pretty soon. Honest to god I thought it was in Spain. I guess that C average during high school really paid off when it came to geography because I agreed in a heart beat. A three hour train ride and we would be there, or so I thought. A cheap flight later, with the pilot landing like his life depended on it, we were in Morocco. A woman had awoken from her sleep screaming as if the plane had exploded just from the rough landing.
They spoke french. No Spanish. I wasn’t anywhere near home, but I was with my friend, for now. We took a cab during the morning hours when we landed.Going past it all, it reminded me of the streets of the barrios in Mexico. People awake at 3 am, scrapping for any type of job they can get. No women…..maybe they just knew better than to be up so late with men wandering the streets. Everyone we passed looked behind their shoulder, watching, waiting for an opportunity. We arrived. The city was bustling, even so early, you can hear the merchants talking in their language of the day to come. We were in the middle of town in a land so foreign to us. “Where is our hostel”, I asked my friend. “Hell if I know…but I know it’s in the middle of town”, and when he said that I realized I wasn’t home, I wasn’t comfortable, my fight or flight instincts were kicking in. For a brief moment I fantasized about what could happen, if we had to defend ourselves, how it would end.
It’s nothing like the movies fantasize about, it’s about substance and what you want to do with your experience. In the short time we were there, I saw snake charmers, spoke to a peace officer of politics, the Koran, and just the peace he wished me whether you believe in religion or not. We scaled mountains, went through forests of hikes and even explored through a waterfall. Yeah, a waterfall near the Sahara, at one point we were told to steer the boat! It was thrilling meeting people from all walks of life. When the time came we split off from a caravan heading into the Sahara desert. I met a couple from Puerto Rico and some people from Germany, all the while eating in the desert, dancing to the band playing, and seeing the stars at night for the first time in a while. I felt like my purpose in life was to get caught up in these moments, and it all felt right. If i constantly chased this feeling I’d live a life worth living. In some ways I was wondering what I was doing till then, I had a life back home…but for now I was just myself. Across the world, in the Sahara desert, I found out what I was missing. Conviction. So when I got on that plane, and took one last look, I really don’t think I ever came back.