Disclaimer: I’m feeling nostalgic and a little dramatic. Carry on!
Sometimes when I’m front of a mirror I still lift the hem of my shirt to inspect the dark stains on my hips where my pack straps rubbed my skin raw over a thousand miles. I wonder if they’ll ever really go away, but I don’t really want them to. I earned them.
Sometimes when I’m trying to pull my slowly-growing-out hair into a nubby pony tail I tug at the short strands above my neck and remember when I snipped those curls off with a foldable medical scissors in front of a grimy motel mirror because they were too long and stuck to my neck in the heat of the day as we crossed sun baked fields and lonely balds. It’s only a matter of time till they grow out completely, but I’m impatient and wonder how long it will be.
Sometimes when I’m walking across the road to the mailbox I feel the familiar, sharp twinge in the arch of my foot. I wonder if the tendon will ever fully recover from those hours of scrambling over jumbled fields of rock in the White Mountains.
But every night when I’m falling asleep to the glow of my phone screen and the hum of our space heater I know how much I miss it: falling asleep to the rustle of gusty mountain breezes and the startling crackle of nocturnal wildlife —“It’s probably just a raccoon, Lara, go back to sleep”—, waking up crusty eyed and sore to the glow of early morning sun through our yellow tent walls—“Hey, Levi, it’s 7, we need to get moving if we want to make it to Gorham today”— spending day after day coated in the grime of the woods and eight muggy hours of hiking, thinking of how many miles I need to walk before I can take a snack break and dreaming of the 1 lb. burger I’m going to eat when we hit the next town. And always, always feeling fully, painfully, exhilaratingly alive.
People often make wanderlust sound romantic and exciting, they paste pretty words about it over pictures of mountains or the ocean. I don’t know if those people know about not being able to sleep because the ache in your chest is yelling at you to get up and go. I don’t know if they know about the equally miserable ache of homesickness begging you to sit still and be content for a while. I don’t know if they realize how much it can hurt.
Sometimes I wonder if this feeling will ever really go away, but then again… I don’t really want it to.