It’s no secret that I travel a lot. I must have spent more nights at airports than in my own bed, more hours on planes than on the ground. Travelling isn’t just a part of me, it’s pretty much who I am. People often ask me if I don’t feel like settling down. You know, making a home for myself.
I always smile and say: “I have a home. It’s just a little bigger than yours and I happen to share it with 8 billion housemates.”
The universals reaction to that reply is either the WTF look or the damn-I’d-love-to-join-you expression.
Now, I’m not writing this blog post to brag, or anything. Hell, no. Truth is, nothing about my travelling life is glamorous. I don’t sleep in 5-star hotels, don’t dine in fancy restaurants. Instead, I tend to live with locals wherever I go, lived in Mumbai’s slums, spent a night on the beach of Cannes, and seen/experienced some bad shit.
So, why am I doing it, then? Here’s why:
About two years ago, I waited in line at Milan/Malpensa Airport’s immigration. The queue was literally endless, dozens of families and travellers eager to get to their final destination. I’m used to waiting, but I’d been moody all day and just wanted to get to my hostel. In need of some distraction, I plugged my earbuds in, chose my favorite Iron Maiden song, turned the volume of my phone to a max, and started checking my emails.
I fought through the mess I call inbox when someone tapped me on the shoulder. No need to say, I was expecting a mad fellow traveller complaining about my music taste, but when I peeked over my shoulder I was greeted with a brilliant smile, thick black hair and sapphire eyes. The dude—who looked like he walked right out of a rockstar romance novel—moved his lips.
And I? Well, I didn’t hear a thing. I took me a moment to realize I didn’t suffer from hearing impairment, but couldn’t hear him due to my earbuds. After standing there like an idiot, trying to read his lips I finally pulled one out. He was total flirt material but, as I mentioned, I was grumpy and when I’m in a bad mood I’m bitch incarnated. So, I cocked a brow and pretty much barked, “What?”
He held up an immigration card. “Do you have a pen?”
I always have a pen. Searching through the mess I call a bag, I pulled one out and handed it to him. “Guess, it’s your lucky day.”
Still smiling he said, “Must be. I met you.”
Good looks or not, I always hated cheesy pick up lines. So, I returned to my emails.
“Would it be rude to ask where you’re going?”
I was so not up for small-talk with Mr. Cheesy, but he struck me as the kinda guy who wouldn’t just stop. “Milan.”
“For work or leisure?”
“I’m form Canada.”
“I know,” I grumbled.
His eyes went wide. “What? How?”
The look on his face was priceless. “Really?”
He totally believed my bullshit. I rolled my eyes and pointed at his passport. “No. I saw your passport.”
Mr. Cheesy threw his head back and laughed hysterically. Seriously, everyone in that line turned and stared. “You’re hilarious,” he said through bursts of laughter.
I was beginning to wonder if he was on drugs. “You should fill out your immigration card,” I suggested, hoping he’d leave me alone to sulk in my bad mood.
“And you should come with me.”
I had no earbuds in my ears this time, but I had to have imagined that. “Come again?”
He ran a hand through his hair and moved a little closer. “Milan is just a pit-stop. I’m off to South Africa and you should come with me.”
“Sure,” I said, convinced he was joking.
He wasn’t. “I’m being serious. I know it sounds crazy—”
“Creepy, or insane would fit the bill, too.”
He shrugged. “Maybe. But hear me out before you say ‘no’, okay?”
There was nothing he could have said or done that would have changed my mind, but my curiosity got the best of me. “I’m listening.”
He pushed his bloody expensive camera to the side and straightened. “When I woke up, today, I had this weird feeling.”
He was weird.
“I just knew I had to pack my stuff and board a plane. So, I went to the mall, found a travel agency, and booked the next free flight. Two hours later, I boarded the plane and now I’m here with you. That’s fate.”
Here’s the thing: I never believed in fate. “Nope, that’s you being bored.”
He spent the whole hour—yeah, it took an hour to get through immigration—trying to talk me into hitching a plane to South Africa with him. I tried to reason with him, told him I had to work and that it was totally insane to ask a girl if she wanted to run away with a dude she barely knew.
He wasn’t going to back down, though, and by the time we both left the airport, he had shared his whole life story with me. His name was Jay, favorite color red, single child, his mom made the best Nanaimo bar in the whole wide world (I didn’t even know what that was, but nodded politely), and his ex-girlfriend was still his best friend.
I didn’t want to be impressed, but the I-still-like-my-ex-thing kinda got to me. Of course, that wasn’t reason enough to go to South Africa with him, but I did grab an airport coffee with Jay. Turned out, he was even crazier than me. We had and amazing time and plenty of laughs. My bad mood? Long gone.
After the second Americano, I was certain about three things: Jay was weird but in a pretty cool way, he was still very much in love with his ex, and the sudden urge to board a plane was an attempt to run from his own feelings. I’m the last person who should give relationship advice, but I told him what someone once told me. “Don’t be the guy who looks in the mirror, one day, and sees all the things he could have done. Be the guy who looks at his reflection and sees all the things he has done.”
Jay eventually boarded his flight to South Africa—alone. And I made it to my hostel.
About a year later, I walked through Canadian immigration. Jay and I had stayed friends and he’d invited me to his wedding with his beautiful ex-girlfriend turned wife.
So, yeah. This is why I’m not ready to settle down. There are so many amazing people out there, waiting to share their stories and I intend to listen.