This is a moment. We’re going to remember this.
I said casually, hoping not to sound as out-of-my-mind as I felt, to a near-stranger who bobbed alongside me, on the front of a speedboat, on a Sunday night in the middle of Croatia. I had first adored her via her Spotify playlist, secondly through her easy, genuine sweetness and lastly thanks to her wit. We had made it through a day of island hopping – but just barely – and we had the hour-long return sail to talk about our past and our hopes, our future and our dreams, but mostly, about what was shining so brightly in front of us, there was nothing left to do but, well? Gaze.
To my left, a vibrant, oversized sun melted into the unpredictable waves, while cascading shades of purple and pink, blue and green encircled the sky, casting shadows across my unintentionally-rosy legs. My heart was racing, thanks to a healthy mix of nerves, thrill, rum, tequila and whatever else one of my new 56 (or is it 57? 58? I lost count) friends shoved in my direction.
My roommate, a generous soul from Mexican soil tapped me on the shoulder, giggling with her green eyes as she handed me a bottle of red wine. I scrunched up my forehead in query, to which she explained it was not from Croatia, but from Spain, and it was for the boat. Without hesitation, I took it to my lips, without being thirsty for any more alcohol (truth be told, I had definitely had enough) but to digest as much of this feeling as I could. It tasted a lot like freedom, a bit like fear and mostly, like curiosity, as a heaping tablespoon dripped down my cover-up, igniting laughter from our dinghy and it’s captain. I inhaled the smell of the salty, gassy air, and exhaled out the little of New York I had kept on my back. I didn’t need an address to have a home, I had found one, in just a week, with these people, in a place I’d never visited – and may never see again.
Remember this, Linds. Engrain it in your memory, right now.
I repeated over and over again, making eye contact with an entrepreneur whose business I still didn’t quite understand, but whose not-so-gentle encouragement to drink wine out of a plastic jug I abided by. The said jug was currently on the top of my head, lid-secured, halfway finished, as a handful of drunken friends watched me attempt to balance. It was more than a gallon and I knew it was likely prosperous, but I had already lost count of the stars above me and the chugs I had devoured, and I was up for the challenge.
As it fell, he caught it and I splashed back into the sea, tangling myself into a web of legs and arms, torsos, ponytails and grinning, toothy smiles, all just above the water, all looking at one another, at the sky, at the sea, at nothing at all. I thought about my leotard for a moment, considering if it would be ruined by the grit of the ocean and hoping no one could tell I skipped underwear for the evening. (Whoops.) It made the ideal bathing suit, especially when I could only pack a few for a year away from the life I knew to create one I can’t yet fully describe.
Remember this, I urged myself as I floated effortlessly into the abyss, closing my eyes to feel the laughter instead of hearing it, and making a mental note to Google why it’s so easy to tread water in the Adriatic when I got home. Home? Hm. Wow. I caught myself, stunned to realize the only aspect I missed from my previous zip code were the faces I had lovingly grown accustomed to. Remember to tell them about this, I repeated, fully knowing I could never put it into words, as a friend from Chicago passed me the jug. It was my turn for a swig.
You’re going to want to remember this. It’s okay to cry. They won’t mind. Will they?
“You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” echoed from the corners of the graffitied wall, protesting my hungover state-of-mind from the night before. Twenty of us had danced on five of the five stories of a dried-Vodka-smelling dance hall that stood bravely contrasting its neighbor, the Charles River Bridge.
Less than a few hours later, with eyeliner still cat-eying my blues, that gal with the great music taste, the New Yorker who used to live on my same street, the marketer who would rather rap, the Brit with a heart of gold and the Irishman who rallies the troops in the wee hours of the a.m., had insisted I joined their adventuring through Prague. They even found me much-needed coffee at the train station, a few moments before it deported. Truth be told? I hadn’t wanted to go, craving the comfort of the bed I claimed for a month, in a new country with trams I was still learning. But I had gone, I had caffeinated, I had conquered my own reluctance, and now this musician was playing a Beatles song. No, the Beatles song. The one I heard my mom hum a million times while she cleaned our humble home in North Carolina, reminding me of the world I could see if I merely believed. Remember this, I said as I clenched my fists and fought tears, not ready to be 100-percent-me just yet, fully knowing I’d never forget.
You’re going to want to remember this, I smiled to myself, trying to accept the fact I was actually in Germany.
And no, I didn’t need my passport – really – to get here. No one had checked it, there was no customs line or agent, no rules to follow. I merely took my seat in the passenger seat, as one country blended into another, the Hansel and Gretel rooftops lining the green-as-you-think-they’ll-be hills. Greener, even. And green was how my heart was beating, jumping down on a wayward trampoline that had long been forgotten inside of a German beer hall. Definitely meant for children, but intended for those young of spirit. The blue sky teased me from above the trees, reminding me of how small the planet can be if you brave it’s size. Relishing that against any odds I could count, any doubts I could use as an excuse, any nothings I could turn into meanings, I was lost in the translation of another country. Never mind the language or the guidebooks, the must-see’s or the must-visits, the sound of four feet pounding against the rubber was the serenade of something that was still blossoming.
Something that felt like Spring at the start of Fall. Something like freshman year all over again, with all of it’s insecurities and it’s lustful, wishful beliefs. Something that sounded like poorly singing Queen across the Czech border with someone I just met, but somehow already knew, on the way back to a transient home for a day, for a week, for six weeks, for a moment that passes before you can grasp it. As I danced my hand in the wind out the window of a rental I paid for in Euros, next to a person I’ll see somewhere in the world again, I knew my memory would serve me well.
Remember this feeling, don’t ever lose it, Tigar.
I thought as I opened the doors to a fairytale suite, atop a citadel in the heart of Vienna, right across from the Opera. Walking into an unfamiliar hotel room feels much like opening a present on Christmas morning, the golden handles revealing a space to rest my head, a temporary oasis to host my carry-on. I fall silent as I explore, somehow believing I’m intruding this empty, yet lively diameter. A bathtub where others have found comfort in, a bed where many have made love, a balcony where champagne was popped, hands were held.
Travel writing was much like an ivory tower, a feat so distant it seemed impossible, like climbing up a woman’s hair, like a glass slipper fitting over my worn Toms. Can you believe editors want to know what I think about cities, mom? I asked, still touched by her tendency to get closer to the camera, as if FaceTime deletes the distance that easily.
You’ve been working since you were a kid for this, Linds. I can believe it. You earned it, she reassured. I marveled at the simplicity of her sentiments, as if diligence was really the only determinant, as if this gratitude overflowing in my soul wasn’t overwhelming in the least. For wherever my career was, is and will go, I willed myself to always feel this small, this insignificant in the world. To forever remember the roots that bore me, the graciousness that defined me, and the humility I aim to have intertwined between my sentences, cemented in my bylines.
Remember this ‘Nancy.’ Remember it.
Thirty minutes into 29, and my best friends from the Apple had conferenced-called me to sing their praises, I had received an unexpected gift from Spain, and an Italian who owned an Australian bar in the middle of Austria was attempting his best Opera impression to wish a very happy birthday to ‘Nancy’, complete with a bottle of champagne. I found comfort in the beam that encompassed my friend’s face as she videotaped the surprise, captured my effortless shriek of joy. I pinched the vision into my memory, wondering how any other birthday could ever top this one.
It was, after all, a doozy. One to remember.
Many of my 30-something friends told me how odd their 29th year was. The anticipation of entering a new decade was stressful, while the act of arriving was relieving. I’ll admit for a while, I was dreading this pivotal end of my twenties – and all of the implications that came with it.
As I left the romance of Germany via the intrigue of Budapest, hopping a train to Vienna to ring in this final 20-something excursion, I questioned what ticket I was punching. Was it the end of my playful youth, the cease-and-desist of my permission to make mistakes, the stammering halt to my freedom? What would I do before my fourth decade begged me to get serious, to make adult choices, to give into my tendency to should every aspect of my life and my sense of self?
My constant thirst to remember every little detail, as writers do. As I do.
I tried not to think about it, but signing away a chunk of my savings to go on Remote Year on April 2, had my friends singing a different tune:
“What an amazing way to spend 29! You’ll never forget this! It’ll be the best year of your life!”
The anxiousness in me that still tied successes and timelines to age shuddered at the fact I would turn 30 just a few weeks after my journey around the continents, but the optimistic backbone that drives nearly all of my intent relished in the spontaneous, liberated spirit that was saying (screaming, shouting, announcing) “YES!”
Yes, Lindsay. Remember this.
Two months as a nomad, two weeks into my new age, I can safely say that 29 is well, 29.
‘29’ is more or less one of a slew of adjectives you could use to describe me, much like writer or traveler, poor singer, lover, collector of coffee mugs or night owl. Or someone whose phone now capitalizes ‘Year’ without my permission, reminding me of how lucky we are to live each and every lap around the sun, and how each of them takes us places we could never expect.
Like being mesmerized as a new friend, from some other part of the country, hula-hoops herself through a ring, after watching a circus performance on a hill atop Prague, absentmindedly smiling as she dances.
Or submitting an article about Halloween makeup at the Prague airport, waiting for my flight to Budapest, sipping the iced americano I had to use Google translate to order.
Or waking up to texts from Manhattan from faces I dearly miss, and yet, not being able to make my date with the Sandman, as I think of the joy I’ve shared with strangers who became family…
….with names I memorized, sans effort or thought, inviting them to share my heart before I knew their start.
Or believing that taking yet another leap of faith has no age limit.
No ID requirement.
No passport needed.
No rhyme or reason, excuse or permission.
Or that no matter how far away or close I am to where I imagined I would be by some collection of candles on a birthday cake, I can always, always, always smash that sugar across the wall in the search for something sweeter.
Linds, If you remember anything… remember this: get old.
Be bold. Be you enough to become a new you. Forget the number and relish the privilege. Be 29. Or 48. 35. Or 23, or all of the ones in between.
Be it all, be it fully. Be it unapologetically. And wholly. Most importantly, in these 29 years that have taken me places I never dreamt, the greatest lesson of all I’ve had to learn over and over again is… to be.
Don’t just remember it.