“A monument only says, ‘At lease I got this far,’ while a footprint says, ‘This is where I was when I moved again.’”
Adventure stories were my meat and potatoes growing up—mice with swords, hobbits, dragons, good and evil, victory and defeat. The tropes are so deeply ingrained in me that I often don’t realize that not everyone takes the metaphor of life as a journey as deeply as I do. Not everyone imagines difficult conversations as battlefields, periods of boredom as the literal Doldrums. To others, pain is pain—a broken leg hurts and a broken heart heals. But to those of us inundated with the spell of fantasy, scars are stories with a beginning and end, replete with significance, mystery, romance.
All that to say I wonder sometimes what brought me to Korea. What madness possessed me to cross the ocean and throw myself upon Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, China, and wherever else I might land? I’m a homebody so homebodyish that parties still—at twenty-three! Perhaps forever?—make me nervous and time away from home weighs on me down like a wet fur coat. Whatever am I doing on the opposite side of the globe?
Leaving, or its milder, more symbolic form, going out for an evening, is necessary—even for the extreme introvert. After a day of watching Sherlock episodes and cleaning my apartment, I badly needed to get away from my Fortress of Solitude and enter the world of the living. But how—maybe you know the feeling—how could I ever leave my bed, my sweatpants and hoodie behind for the cold, wetness of the outside?
I needed a disguise—the disguise of a person who didn’t mind the rainy streets and solitary bus ride out to the nearest worthwhile coffee shop. Pirate? Too scurvy. Knight? Rain would rust my armor. Ninja? Perhaps, but I don’t have the right shoes for the outfit. So instead I dressed up like a writer and took to the streets in my scarf, sweater, and skirt combo, armed with my netbook, Precise V5 Pilot pen, and a couple notebooks. I’m happy here in my cozy coffee shop—jazz pouting quietly in the background, bookshelves lining the walls, wooden tables, wooden floors and chairs and records bordering the cornice. Michael Bolton looking angelic with flowing blonde locks on the cover of The One Thing. The Best of John Lennon. Beethoven and Schubert and Roy Fox.
Maybe that’s all my travels abroad are sometimes—a disguise, a jaunt. Brian Jacques has taught me all too well the value of a quest, so that when college ended what else could I do but light out for Salamandastron? I think I’m okay with that. There are worse wastes of time, less idealistic reasons for travel. I do hope that the metaphor works the same in real life, though. I hope that I come back changed for the better, confident—or at the very least not as confused—that I have achieved something.
Life is so big, I think. Stuck in the middle, I haven’t the eyes to make sense of it all. The stories—fantasies, adventures, journeys—help my faith in the meaningfulness of reality. There’s a piece of poetry I find similarly comforting. Says Robert Browning, “This world’s no blot for us, nor blank. It means intensely and it means good.”