Anyone who knows me knows I adore flying. I don't just mean going to new places, I mean the physical act of flying. The anticipation that builds as the crowd boards the flight, the roll in my stomach every time we hit turbulence, watching the clouds float peacefully beneath me... I live for these things.
And then, of course, there's the emotions. When I'm going on an adventure, it's a mix of excitement and nerves. But when I'm coming back? That's a whole different story.
How to describe the mix of emotions that overwhelms me when I board that final flight... the one that brings the end of the adventure I've so treasured?
First there's excitement. I think about hugging my mom and dad and drool over my favorite restaurants in Danville. I list the things I want to do while back in California, remind myself which friends are going to be in town, and listen to songs like "Save Me, San Francisco" and "California Girls" on repeat.
But these flights are never short and as the plane pushes through the first layer of clouds, the excitement fades. That's when sadness comes in. I think of all the friends I've made during my trip and mourn the depressing odds of seeing them again. I think about how stale and quiet my town is compared to the wild, free life I've been living. Suddenly all I can think about is the impossibility of relating to city that raised me. I bite back tears as I watch the world melt away and feel the airplane hurling in the opposite direction of everything that shaped me for the past months of my life.
Then comes the fear. "When will I travel again?" The fear is especially bad if I don't have another trip planned. Travel is my life-blood and if I cannot clearly point to when my next adventure will be, I get anxious. And I mean really anxious. "If I start yelling, will they let me off the plane?" I wonder. Then I desperately grasp for vague dates in the future when I might be able to travel again, but these feel weak and unlikely and the more I grasp at them the more afraid I become that I've unknowingly just completed my final trip.
Next, reason starts to set in. "Adventure is in your blood," I tell myself. And it's true. There's no doubt I will plan another trip to some exotic land before long, but even if I don't there are going to be plenty of adventures. Travel has taught me how to find adventure anywhere, so as I get closer to California I think about all the ways I can keep adventure alive, even if I am not halfway around the world.
As all of these emotions course through me, there's another one... a quieter one... more of a feeling than an emotion... lingering below the surface. I don't have a word for it yet. It's a bit like hope, only more personal. Maybe like pride, but with less ego involved. I guess if I had to describe it I would say it's a warm, twinkling feeling that seems almost golden and stretches from the pit of my stomach up to my heart.
I vacillate endlessly between excited, sad, scared, reasonable, and a slew of other wild emotions that often make it hard to feel that warmth, but it's always there. It's always there reminding me that all the adventures, all the trips back to California, all the friends, the ones that last and the one's that don't, all the places, all the experiences... they are all part of who I am. And on that plane ride home I know that I am a fuller person. Because though I may be leaving the country behind, I've taken a part of it... all of it... and stored it in that place where the warmth lies.