I was doing errands today when Dave Matthews Band “Crash Into Me” came on. It’s an old, sentimental favorite from a vastly different time in my life. That album was big at the same time I was falling in love with someone. We listened to it together a lot. It was playing that song at a pivotal moment which changed the depth of the relationship. So, whenever I hear that song, I consider it out “our song.” Yes, I know it’s actually about a peeping Tom watching a woman undress in a window. That said, take the sentiment of that kind of “young boy joy” at discovering the body of a woman and how the world opens from that kind of experience, ignore the illegal creepy part. That’s kind of how we were experiencing each other at that time. I thought he was showing me the world.

Here we are probably 25 years later. He didn’t show me the world and that’s ok. Boyfriends of your early 20s rarely do. Even rarer if you marry them. I have never married. I haven’t even had that many significant relationships since then. Not necessarily the world I had planned or would have chosen but it is what it is.

I just returned from a spontaneous trip to Barcelona for a few days. I did my bucket list trip to Rwanda and Kenya just a few months ago. Nothing can really top gorilla trekking and safaris. I’m also a few weeks out from an 18 day trip to Morocco, also a lifetime goal. Barcelona was more about me being able to quietly pound the pavement of an old European city where I could forget myself and just take in other people, culture, historic scenery. Other than greeting servers, saying gracias a lot and being able to order 1 croissant for breakfast every day, I did no speaking. It was all osmosis and sensory experience. The kind of trip that literally feeds me.

I am so grateful, and often surprised I have become a traveler. I have always hated flying and the fear got significantly worse as an adult. I had a period of years where I resigned myself to accepting I would only travel to places I could drive to. That was also back when I thought I’d end up married and had the idea, aside from honeymoons, married people really don’t travel much outside of weekend getaways within driving distance.

I am not saying I expected to marry the “Crash Into Me” guy. I do tend to reference him a lot when I talk about lost love, lost opportunity, the life not lived. I use him as more of a metaphor. Basically, didn’t have to be him. I just expected I’d be married at some point whether it was to him or the next guy. It’s just what I expected would happen…no different than the expectations my friends all had at the same time. He thinks I always mean him, by the way. I don’t. It’s hard to explain. It’s more of an idea than a specific. He represented an idea, a discovery, a glimpse and then nothing else really happened next. My friends all had “that guy” too. Some married him, some married the next one or the 3rd one down the line. They all married. Including him.

I’m talking about how I have landed in an entirely different life. Back then, I suffered from the belief that a man who respected and listened to me, showed passion for my body and my brain, would show the world to me. The world being getting married, picking out a house together and having friends over for dinner on the weekends for the rest of our lives. That song gives you an idea of the depth, or shallowness really, of what I thought the world was offering. My friends all chose love and marriage. Don’t think I was any different. I chose those things too. They just never chose me back.

I used to have friends I went to the bars with every weekend, until they got married. I had friends who used to come to concerts with me, until they got married. I even had friends who traveled with me, until they got married. I took for granted how often I went out to eat. Big Sunday breakfasts, being able to try any new restaurant I wanted with my friends, until they got married. Clothes shopping, trips to Home Depot, errands were always fun with 2 of us, until they got married. My world suddenly became very, very quiet. I missed a whole bunch of concerts for a period of time because it was unheard of to go alone. Bands like Pearl Jam, Midnight Oil, Sheila Divine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty….big deal stuff I am actually still trying to chase down decades later. Unfortunately, Tom Petty will always be a miss.

Eventually, I did start getting a little braver. I moved 2000 miles away for a job for 2 years. When I came home, I was a little less fearful. I was at least good with doing errands alone. I dipped my toe into going away for a weekend with my dog. I’d eat out alone when I did that. I realized going to movies alone was easy so I was fine with that. Somewhere in my 30s I decided I’d get back on a plane and do 1 trip, see everything I wanted to see and never do it again. I went to Ireland, London and Paris alone. I experienced some dark moments, especially walking around in Paris. Bad dreams of what I believed then were missed opportunities or things I screwed up. Some things I literally needed to say “goodbye” to while I was standing in front of some ancient monument.

I also had funny, resilient moments like driving right out of the Dublin airport at 6 am in a standard, on the wrong side of the road but figuring it out fairly quickly. However, I did lose a hubcap somewhere on that trip and I didn’t know that when you hit your outside driver side mirror, it’s supposed to collapse inward. It wasn’t broken like I thought it was at first. I certainly drove several circles around rotaries as I kept missing my turn off or 2nd guessing the ones I had chosen. Traveling alone, shit happens and you have only yourself to figure it out. So, you figure it out and then you “right size” it and start to realize that all the things you used to think were such a big, insurmountable issue really weren’t that big of a deal at all. You could handle it.

Despite “grounding” myself for many years after that trip, the travel bug came back and I just accepted it. I decided that in order for my unpleasant job to be worthwhile, I needed to take a big trip every year. That’s when my doctor gave me a prescription for Lorazapam so I could fly. There really is an answer and resource for everything if you want something badly enough. At first, I kept it to simple European cities I felt comfortable I could navigate. I have a good sense of “danger” and knew where I could make it alone and where I shouldn’t. Therefore, despite knowing Africa was a bucket list item, I knew I’d never be able to go unless I had a boyfriend/husband with me. That was not a “safe” single girl trip.

Many of you know the rest. I did find a safe way to go to Africa without said boyfriend/husband. Before that, I went to Sydney, Australia…once also a never because I had only worked myself up to 6 hour flights. I’d never get on a plane for that long, until I did. Now, I’m injected with yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis vaccines ( in addition to 5 Covid vaccines.). I consider it bad budgeting at this point not to go to countries where those vaccines are needed so don’t be surprised when Southeast Asia pops up on my agenda. The only “never” I think I still have is South America and yet, I’ve allowed myself to read a little more about trips to Guatemala, the Galapagos, Chile, etc. just this year.

You see, I may have “chosen” the path of marriage and the world I expected it to show me. However, when it didn’t choose me back, I learned how to show the world to myself instead. I would still never say no to a true, maddeningly passionate “crash into me” Love if it comes along (unless he hates travel and pets.) My preference would be to take these adventures with someone else…not only have my sensory experiences but be able to experience those moments through his eyes. Being an empath, I can do that….have my experience and yours at the same time.

When you talk about really seeing the world, it’s not just about your own perspective. It would certainly help prevent the “brain dump” I do on the first person/people I see when I get home (usually my parents.). This time it was just 5 days but I’ve gone up to 14 days of having no actual conversations with anyone while I’m traveling. I have A LOT on my mind when I get home. It would be a “nice to have” to be able to have those conversations in the moment or at dinner after a long day. But, it’s not a MUST have because I already know the most important thing of all to know. I can do all of it on my own, my terms. I can figure anything out, solve any problem. I have confidence I didn’t have when that DMB album came out. I often wonder if I did get married at that time, would my growth have been stunted? Would I ever have learned my true worth and capabilities? Or would I have just gotten really good at cooking casseroles, fish sticks and chicken wings? I certainly wouldn’t have been seeing the world….just a small corner of a neighborhood where we picked a house and never left.