'When did you start traveling?'
I remember a random stranger asked me once in one of my solo travels. I can almost hear the words in my mind, falling in line accordingly, my brain nerves signalling what words to utter then. I could have said, "Oh, it's because I'm a natural wanderluster!"
I could've even explained how I was influenced by my traveling friends. There were actually many reasons that came to me naturally. But as I looked in her kind and curious eyes, I tried to stop the tears from forming. I swallowed back as I smiled in return and casually replied, "Oh, it's a long story. Really."
And a long story it was. The kind of story that many wouldn't actually believe in the first place. Some were moved by the very heart of it. Others were inspired. While many became reflective of their own blessings. A few even showed discomforts upon hearing it. I couldn't blame them. Because if it was me, I wouldn't also know how to say something good out of something that was totally heartbreaking.
It's been nearly a decade since then. The stabbing pain has disappeared. The bitterness gone too. The longing has subsided to a dull ache once in a while. But when I am alone at night somewhere far, the wounds would open again. My heart would break to a million pieces once more. The questions in my mind would yearn to be answered again. But I have already accepted the fact that some of these will remain unanswered. And I guess it will stay that way.
Many moons ago, a dear friend and I took a vacation to the City of Smiles. It was my first travel. First in everything. I was like an innocent and wide-eyed four year old - excited in doing everything for the first time. I felt independent, scared, and free all at the same time.
There on that ship to Manila I met a dashing young man. Tall and dark. Charming and kind. A total stranger. Someone I didn't know. But there was something in his eyes that kept me wheeled in. When he looked at me, he was staring into me. His heart was smiling. And my heart, as cautious as it was then, slowly smiled back at him.
The three of us quickly became friends. And as the night got deeper, we discovered more about each other. We shared stories, experiences about life. The good and the bad. I remember when he accompanied us on top of the ship. I cringe at the thought at how funny I must have looked upon seeing the bright stars. Squealing. Jaw dropping and all.
That scene was just like in the movies. He was the main actor and I his leading lady. It was surreal. If wishes can come true, my wish then would be that time be frozen. We. Us. Him and me sharing that special moment. Nothing with us but the deep and calm sea, the stars and the quiet night.
But as much as we tried to stop it, our bodies were longing for sleep. Reluctant goodbyes were exchanged and a promising promise to meet again the next day was made.
When the sun's first rays hit the ship, we were already nearing the port. It's slow and gentle movement was a sad reminder that something magical was about to end. Our good friend, we will never meet again. For some reason, we were unable to exchange information that would able us to keep in touch. The mere presence of each other got us both tongue-tied. Caught in the moment. Never minding later or tomorrow. What more of the future.
I expected a lot then. I expected to enjoy the trip and learn a lot of things. I learned to not be afraid. To laugh. To smile. To worry. To be with strangers.
But I wasn't expecting to fall in love. Truly, deeply, irrevocably in love with the man I met on board that ship.
I would be ecstatic if I could tell you we met a few months later. Or caught up with each other in one of my travels abroad. I can even welcome the thought that somewhere down the road we will meet again, his two-year old toddler in tow.
But none of these will happen. For Mother Nature has decided he is better with her, asleep in her loving arms.
It came to my knowledge that my beloved friend has boarded a ship when he decided to go back home. One that met the rage of Typhoon Frank in 2008. He perished and became the Prince of the Princess of the Stars.
I was broken. I wasn't me. But time has helped me heal. Friends gave their support. The stars above reminded me that he is just out there. And I choose to believe that he will lead me to the man who will be with me for the rest of my life.
Him. His life. His love is my guiding light. And I know that if he could see what I have become today, a strong-willed traveling woman, I know he would not be anything but proud.
While my heart was at its worse, meeting him has changed my life for the better. This travel changed me. My inner being. My views and take on life. I learned to see the good in everybody.
Though I have sadly realized, day after day, that the person you once lost can never be found again, I do not regret that our story ended this way. I will never know the answers to my many whys. But what I am sure of is that I will never stop moving forward. I will never be still. There are still so many places to explore. And I have so much love to give.
And it's all thanks to meeting him.
** This is my entry to Traveloka's How Travel Changed My Life Blogging Contest