I have a lot of memories of London from before I lived here. In one, I’m wearing Spice Girl shoes, you know, those platform trainers that all of us wore in 1997. I had bought them on Oxford Street, at Miss Selfridges, my new favourite store. It was my second time in England; my very first visit, in fact my first visit to another continent, was to London and Windsor for a Christmas holiday with my family only six months before. My sister and I had gone to see Spice World in Convent Garden that holiday, and let me tell you – the Spice Girls were a big deal in London at the time. Anyway, in this memory, I’m on the tube, wearing my Spice Girls shoes, being very thirteen, when I stepped on a woman’s foot.
“Watch it!” she hissed at me, and I remember thinking she was extra scary because she had a British accent.
“I really don’t want to live in London,” I remember thinking. But oh, what a decade or two can change…
The last time I saw you, we said goodbye casually, like new friends. We were surrounded by other people, everyone hugging each other goodbye, and you and I hugged just once, brief and unfamiliar. I kissed you, a quick one, on the side of your mouth. I don’t think you were expecting it.
“Have an amazing time, whatever you end up doing,” I said to you, looking up. You were always one of the tallest in the group. You smiled at me, your eyes crinkling, but your mouth stayed tight-lipped, not showing your teeth. You nodded once, and turned to hug someone else, my last image of you being one of someone else’s embrace.
If you, like me, follow a lot of travel blogs and websites, I’m sure you’ve seen it: that image of the person standing somewhere beautiful, looking free and happy and contemplative; perhaps their arms are outstretched, or they’re reaching up to hold on to their hat just so. I’m not criticising – I’m guilty of this pose, too, because of the mere fact that it adds some dynamic to your photos, and also, if you’re like me, you don’t have to worry about what to do with your face (I swear my eyes are closed in half of those taken). But sometimes – more than ever, these days – that photo is accompanied by a headline that says something like, “I quit my job to travel and am now my own boss” or “I quit my job to travel the world and am now happier than ever”, and so on, and so forth. I feel like Business Insider and Buzzfeed do some variation of this almost weekly.
But wait… did I just follow their advice and quit my job to travel, too?!
As we said goodbye, she lifted one hand up in a half-wave, her bracelets glinting in the sun. She had beautiful silver hair that nearly reached her waist, and I remember turning around again and again to wave until I could no longer see the flash of her.
My time in South America was nearly over, my bag full of sand and souvenirs, my journal laden with nine months of memories. Like all good things, the trip had gone by too quickly, and I was left with very little time to explore Brazil. I had already spent three months in Central America, bussing from Belize to Panama and then sailing to Colombia, where I started a six month overland journey down to Brazil.
I was on the last leg of my trip when I met her.
Found in the Himalayas between China and India, Bhutan is a deeply Buddhist country. As I’ve written about before, there is no limit to how many tourists enter per year, as some people may believe; however, each tourist is required to pay a daily fee, part of the “High Value, Low Impact” policy of the country. And as I’ve written about before, Bhutan is worth every penny of that daily fee.
For starters, there’s the backdrop: the snowcapped mountains rising in the distance, the sweeping forests of green, the emerald rivers that run throughout. There’s the culture: the dance festivals, the archery competitions, the spicy, delicious food. There are the people, so welcoming, helpful, and enthusiastic about sharing Bhutan. And then there’s the architecture, the ornate monasteries, nunneries, and dzongs (similar to fortresses), each one beautiful and unique. The most famous of these? Taktsang Palphug, commonly known in English as Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
The last time I saw you, you were walking away from me, your hair shining blue-black in the streetlights. I had turned back to wave again, but you didn’t, and so all I saw was the back of you, disappearing into the night.
We met at a beach party on another continent, a place where the water turned smooth as glass. The night we met the moon shone low, turning the sand a pale grey.
“You don’t need salt,” I said to you, reaching for the salt shaker in your hand. Those were my first words to you, leaning up against the bamboo bar.
“Oh, I don’t?” you replied, the shot of tequila in your hand full to the brim. You smiled a wicked smile, your teeth flashing like the Cheshire Cat.
“No, you don’t. It will taste better without salt, trust me.” I was flirting with you, my hand still lingering on top of yours, both of us holding on to the salt shaker, neither of us breaking eye contact. I was wearing a long turquoise dress; it brought out my tan and my blue eyes. I felt good that night. I felt like flirting with you, the most handsome man at the bar.