Confusion in Numbers

I spent the last ten days on the Greek island of Santorini, exactly six more days that I had originally planned. My trip was partly delayed due to the black sand beaches and the perfect weather. The connecting ferry to Turkey only ran three times a week and Thursday became Sunday, which became Tuesday all too fast. But my trip was also delayed because of the incredible group of travelers I met during my stay. This group of people seemed to be as captivated by the island as we were with one another and we spent every waking moment enjoying this little slice of paradise together.P1050189

The group, composed of Canadians, Australians, Germans, Philippinas, Haitians, Spanish, Greeks, Colombians, Indians and Americans, all shared a love of travel. And in this love, we also shared a mutual desire for some change from our lives back home. Three women (including myself) quit their jobs to travel alone. One woman spent a month in a meditation retreat and an Australian girl longed to return to Santorini instead of attending university in the fall. Chanae, the person I met in Athens and followed to the island, hadn’t been back to Australia in almost two years and had no clear date for returning home. I felt as if we were all searching for something–an answer perhaps–without clearly defining the questions at hand.  

Some travelers want to see the world. For them, the questions are simple: “How can I travel forever?” or “How can I increase my maximum vacation time?” But for others, I think the search is much less defined. Will I find someone to love me? What should I do with the rest of my life? These questions will not be found within stamped passport pages or months overseas. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. P1050161

One evening, I found myself wandering the streets of Oia before meeting up with the group for the famous sunset. The day had been full of sightseeing and my skin was tight under a layer of sea salt and sweat from my morning swim and afternoon hike. I was dehydrated and my legs threatened to give out as I trudged up a rocky path to get a better view of the coast. 

P1050437Down the hill and to the right, I spotted a car. It had been unoccupied for quite some time based on the model and the thick layer of rust underneath the faded blue paint. No wheels remained and someone has piled large rocks onto the driver’s seat and under the hood. On the back left end of the car in scratched white lettering, the words What is life? had been written. P1050438I sat in the fading light of the Santorini sun for a long time staring out to sea and contemplating the words of the car. I thought about this new group of friends: our morning yoga during the sunrise on Perissa Beach and the nights spent comparing cultures over wine and ouzo shots. I thought about my imminent move to New York City and my undefined relationships with people back home. I thought about the pressure I put on my European exploration to conquer some great internal unknown I had yet to identify.

P1050267Despite my desire to travel alone, I secretly craved a community of people who loved exploring the world as much as I did. I wanted to find others who would rather shoulder a backpack and book a flight than map out their next logical career path. And in every hostel in every country, I found those such people. They, like the car, didn’t have the answers to life’s big questions either. And that was something…

For I’d rather spend time contemplating the meaning of life with equally confused people than trying to figure it out all alone. P1050150

 

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Missing Autumn

Lphotoate afternoon in Rome. The wind blows dried leaves into piles along the sidewalk; they crack and whisper against one another. The early October weather is warm and the afternoon sunlight baths Rome in King Midas’ kisses. I pass stores and restaurants opening after their post-lunch hours, ready to pull meandering customers in for a pre-dinner drink.

Without warning, I am overcome with a sense of longing for the autumn I remember back home. Maybe it’s the leaves–brittle and brown–or the sunlight that streams through the trees making playful shadows on the sidewalk and the windows of the parked cars. I ache for the bags stuffed with freshly picked apples and the taste of Dad’s baked pies, hot from the oven. I miss carved pumpkins on the steps of front porches and the crisp fall air that reddens cheeks and scatters the nicely raked leaves. I miss inventing fall drinks with fresh apple cider and the smell of pumpkin brownies with extra eggs and fudgy swirls. For the first time I can remember, I am homesick not for a person or a favorite food but for a season I will never see.

My friends and family are sending me reminders from back home. Hannah and Devin are sending baked good recipes with pumpkin spices. Billy mentions the changing leaves surrounding the Connecticut golf course. In my Inbox, Mom has listed her favorite fall memories:

sitting in lawn chairs  with cold toes on the sidelines of high school soccer games…
forcing a crying three-year old [me] to wear fairy wings
picking apples with Grandma Audrey and Grandpa Frank
becoming aware of the shortening days each Saturday afternoon on the ride back from Schenectady
waiting for the afternoon school bus among the fallen and crunchy leaves
family eating orgies of apple cider and cider donuts
Back-to-School nights

This year, my October is full of sunny days at the Roman Colosseum, sandy Santorini beaches and Athens’ rooftop bars. I will spend my remaining autumn days island hopping and exploring the coast of Turkey. By the time I return to the United States in November, bold winter weather will have pushed autumn back into the closet with the fall coats and leftover Halloween costumes. The seasons wait for no traveler.

From longing, I now feel comfort imagining the maple trees in western Massachusetts and upstate New York changing colors of red and yellow just as they did every year since my memory began. My current life is so devoid of routine and structure–as I struggle through yet another crowded city, airport, and ferry terminal–that the knowledge of another autumn season occurring back home provides me with a sense of order and peace. And when I struggle through another day of logistical planning or worry about my future after my return home, I remember that wherever I am and whatever I do, the seasons will come and go just as they always have. As predictable as the ocean waves that play on this Santorini shore.

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