Play me first.
I am sitting in my sun-drenched backyard, listening to the wind play with the fruit trees. Gazing up at the clouds floating past me. Then I hear a plane. That feeling comes again, my heart flutters and tries to escape from my chest. To go back to the road. To go back home.
It’s been almost a year since I left Asia. I feel out of my element. I miss it as if it were the first and only lover I will ever have. But I am here for the road, and I’m working to be on it indefinitely. I’ve kept my balance with patience. But my heart can’t help it, I’m longing for home.
My mind drifts to that dream I had many nights ago. I was paddling out in warm crystal blue waters somewhere in Bali with a bunch of surfers. One looked back and smiled at me. I smiled back. Then I went in for a duck dive and looked up at the surface from the depth I was in. Then I woke up. I swear I thought I was still underwater and I could almost taste the salt water lingering in my mouth. The wanderlust itch has now consumed me entirely. I’m doing everything I can to pacify this longing until I’m there, but for now it’ll keep haunting me in dreams.
I woke up the next day. I had to move. Drive. Go somewhere. Get out of the familiar. The noise. The routine. The lights. The people. Every cell of me told me so. So I shoved some things in the car and drove to Joshua Tree.
There’s nothing like the open road. Ever since I was little, I’d pretend that the car I was in was still, and everything else is moving past me. The places, cars, time, and faces, all moving. And I am still.
Left leg perched up on my seat. Hand out the window making airwaves. The sun is descending. I am watching the light change colors, I knew I was close as I see the wind farm. The gateway to the desert. Then I drive and drive and drive until I see the Joshua trees.
The campgrounds were completely full. I didn’t bring a tent anyway, I just threw in a sleeping bag and blanket and thought I’d just sleep in the car or on a campground under the stars. I drove around for a bit. Got lost in the dark. Stopped somewhere to just breathe and drink in everything around me. Then I look up at the cosmos. And I got that feeling again. That feeling you get when you are alone with nature and then you feel like the only one left in the world. Then you feed on the stillness. And the stillness feeds on you.
I parked somewhere and slept in the car. At around 3am, the cold woke me up. I look up and the first thing I see is the moon. I just laid there awake in the back of the car. Just me and the moon. It’s the same moon I’ve always known, we’ve always known. Same moon that had always been there before we existed, before existing was even recognized. The same one that pulls the ocean tides. Same one we see when we are far away, in a different country, in a different place, unfamiliar and unknown. It’s the only thing that keeps us company no matter where we are. This is the gift of the cosmos. This is the gift of existing in the universe. Despite the vast infinite space we are in, the cosmos is our constant. It reminds us that we are never really alone.
I drifted to sleep again, a couple hours later I woke up to a brilliant sky. There is something about desert skies. A something that fills the vast space. Its colors harbors the silence and moves it, and it, moving everything. Everything in and outside of me.
A brand new day was ahead. There was so much to explore. I went to an old diner and filled my belly with delicious eggs, sourdough, and potatoes. Once I got in the National Park, I was transported into a different planet. It was so quiet. So damn quiet. It was perfect. I drove further and stopped to explore whenever I felt like it. I’d watch rock climbers summit the giant boulders. I hiked and hiked and hiked, crawling in between rocks, jumping from boulder to boulder. I paused to let the present settle in me, joining the beat of mother nature as I meditated on the beauty and practiced yoga without confines.
Longing makes us feel human. It reminds us that we are alive. It may be painful at times, but there is so much beauty in that kind of pain. It’s the kind of pain that pumps blood into your veins and fuels you as you struggle to climb that mountain. Whatever your version of a mountain may be. When we’re striving to attain something greater than ourselves, we thrive over that kind of pain. There is so much goodness in it.
And that’s the light found in the art of longing. Longing for something so badly that when you get there, it makes everything more vibrant and beautiful, it expands its worth. Like going to sleep or closing your eyes for a while, and when you open it, everything comes to life. As if you were seeing it for the first time.
As the Joshua trees behind me turn into specks blending into the golden light, the taste of the road lingers. My thirst has been slaked for a second. But my longing has been magnified. I am hungrier now. I feed on these short bursts of exploration. Engrossing myself in wanderer’s stories, travel memoirs, the haunting dreams of faraway places. I know this curse very well. I will never be truly content with normalcy and monotony. Nor will I ever be truly content with just a tiny taste of magnificence. I have to dive into it, swim in it, practically drown in it until it consumes me and I learn how to breathe in it. This is longing. This is wanderlust. This is my curse. A curse beautifully molded into a blessing.
As I drive for miles and miles, my mind couldn’t help but think of distant lands. I think of the journey I will soon embark upon. Chills go down my spine, goosebumps everywhere. And the goosebumps know. It’s not that long from now. I’m almost there.
And then everything continues to fly past me. The places, cars, time, and faces. They all fly past me. As I sit there. In awe. In stillness.