Sometimes, when everything seems stagnant and lonely, you have to spring into the unknown with dreams to keep you afloat as wings. You book a trip to Barcelona alone because everyone else is dealing with the cyclones that weather them.
You go because you have to make time for your heart—something that you haven’t honored lately, frequently working overtime for weeks. You want to allow other cities to fill your mind with dreams once again. You have to keep going. Your path is your own.
Other travelers become companions. Some are companions for the fleeting hours on the plane, like an Indian couple visiting their daughter who works for Google, like the woman returning home to Spain from France who recommends you visit El Nationale for dinner, like the man to whom you lend a pen who shares he is coming back home from a work trip with his friends, like a young woman explaining how to navigate Charles DeGaulle airport.
Some strangers become companions for the seconds between the time you ask for them to take your photo and the moment they walk away, like the girl who takes your photo in front of Botticelli’s breathtaking “Primavera.” Some strangers become companions in the stories they share, unabashed and unhinged. On a bus ride, you listen to Arya’s story of leaving Colombia at 16 and moving to New York. Her grief and determination become your own in the seconds she talks about living with an alcoholic for decades, about his death, about the brutally hard days she endured to make it to see another day.
And one day as you sit on the train to Vernazza from Rapallo, watching tunnels become terracotta rooftops and hanging clothes lines, you realize that the seed of sadness that for many years grew within the pit of your stomach doesn’t feel as heavy anymore. Not because it dissipated, but because a plethora of other seeds have grown beside it—seeds of happiness, thankfulness, surprise, beauty, and love. These seeds have not blossomed from sitting on Tiktok for distraction or on Instagram for external validation, but from being present for the not-so-picturesque moments like putting sunscreen over the sunburn that sleeps on your shoulders from a previous day’s walk in Nice, like accepting a compliment from a stranger on your walk to the Picasso museum, like spilling scorching coffee all over your favorite jeans when a sparrow lands to close for comfort as you eat a salad bowl at the Amblé patio in Florence, like laughing about how bad your French is with a Texan couple at dinner in Juan-les-Pins. These are the important moments.
No, they are not free of harrowing loneliness or sadness, but they are the ones that keep you going. They are the ones that show that you want this life amid its uncertainty, its sorrow, its brutality, its injustice, and its evanescence. Keep casting dreams into wishing wells. Some will come true and others will surprise you in the most wholesome of ways. I promise you it is worth it to keep going in the face of weariness. You are worth it.