“I don’t want to travel,” is all I can think as I land on the island of Sri Lanka at midnight.
After three months in Thailand, taking a six week intensive dance training, leading a retreat in a country where I couldn’t speak the language, fourteen hours of flying, and five years of being a nomad, I was tired.
I wanted a break. To finally finish all of the projects I had talked about doing for way too long. To cleanse my body of all the crap I take on while traveling. I wanted to rest.
In the back of the taxi I watched the city lights fly by and asked
“Why am I here when I really just want to go home?”
Well, I knew why.
Despite being a full time traveler, I hadn’t really traveled in ages. And something about that seemed… wrong. Yes, over the last eighteen months I had been to Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Thailand. But it had all been for work or training. What I hadn’t been doing… was wandering.
As someone who has adopted the identity as a constant wanderer, adventurer, no-planner, it felt strange to not be fulfilling that role. Traveling was my passion, the thing that made me feel most alive, and writing about it gave me a sense of purpose. Right?
So why wasn’t I really doing that anymore? Why had I gravitated more and more towards rooting myself in my community in Puerto Viejo? Why had retreats and personal development and my own healing journey become more important than being untethered and getting lost?
I went to Sri Lanka to find out.
A seed was planted in Morocco two years ago when I heard about the island from other travelers, and I got that familiar feeling. That subtle tiny spark that I know so well, when something deep inside of me says, “yes Camille, you need to go there.” Which frankly, is how I always choose my travel destinations.
See, I’ve got this relentless dedication to following my intuition even when it gets me into situations that I don’t particularly like or enjoy. I guess that’s really what made me a wanderer. My dedication to following the signs.
Call me superstitious, and maybe I am, but when my intuition comes tapping
and I listen
incredible things happen.
I have every realization I’ve ever needed
and it feels like pure magic.
Six years ago my heart whispered Puerto Viejo.
I left my entire life behind, and I never turned back.
Four years ago my soul guided me to Southeast Asia.
I spent nine months there and left a different person.
Three years ago I followed an oracle card reading
And healed my history in the Arctic in the dead of winter.
Two years ago I got messages from the Mayans
And followed their trail through Mexico and Guatemala remembering along the way.
And now it was Sri Lanka who called me.
So there I was, exhausted, with no plan, no knowledge of the country, so behind on work, low on money, and just wanting to go home. Yet open and curious, trusting that my soul had a plan for me.
My first morning I bolted out of the city and took a tuk tuk to the bus station. In ten minutes I’d be going direct to Kandy, a place I heard about but really knew nothing about. It was certainly the easiest way to go. But it didn’t feel right. I ordered a mango smoothie at a road stall and was handed a weird concentrated slightly moldy syrup. “We’re not in Thailand anymore sweetie,” I thought.
Then I felt this strong urgency to leave. Riding a chicken bus with Bollywood videos wasn’t how I wanted to spend my day and for some reason that felt important. The bus driver thought I was insane but I grabbed my bags out of the back and took a tuk tuk for over an hour to get to the train station.
When I arrived all tickets to Kandy were sold out except standing room only third class… and I really had no idea where else to go. To be honest, I was full of anxiety. My mind was going insane as I dripped in sweat and my back ached carrying all of my belongings. “What are you doing here? Why are you doing this? Why do you choose the difficult way always Camille? You could’ve been halfway to Kandy by now.”
I quieted my mind with my breath, leaned into trust, and paid 200 rupees, a little over a dollar for my ticket. That’s when I glanced up at a sign at the ticket window beside me. “Anuradhapura” it said.
Instantly I felt relieved. In Sri Lanka “pura” means “the city of” and Anuradha is my vedic astrology sign, something I learned in August in Costa Rica that gave me incredible insights on my path. So, there was a city of Anuradha in Sri Lanka. The sign reminded me I was in the flow and needed to go visit this ancient city after Kandy.
With a couple of hours until departure, I went next door to a small hole in the wall restaurant. It looked dirty but busy with locals and I was starving. When you’ve traveled the world for years you get a lot less picky about food. But to my delight they brought out five dishes of different veggie curries and a laughably enormous plate of white rice. Local men politely asked me hundreds of questions that I would come to know well, “Excuse me madam, your country? Married madam? You, how old?” I quickly sunk into what delights me about travel: the confusion, the colors, the aliveness, the vulnerability, the magic.
“Remember love, it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey. Enjoy,” I smiled to myself.
When I boarded the train, as the only white person in third class and certainly the only woman on her own, a couple of Sri Lankan men quickly lifted my bag and gave me the spot on the floor right where the door opened and I could hang my head out as we wove our way into the mountains.
Clustered together on the floor between the doors and the bathroom, they showed me pictures of their families and told me stories with such thick accents I couldn’t understand a word. Still, we laughed and smiled.
Eventually the train broke down in the middle of the misty mountainous jungle. Everyone got out and a man with a giant hat covered in tiny bags of dried crunchy peas and beans gradually unloaded until his head was bare. My floormates treated me to some bags and an hour later the train was fixed. Some men shuffled around and gave me the window seat, upgrade. I hung my head out mesmerized by the stunning vistas, the sun setting behind an otherwordly landscape.
Darkness took over and buildings came into view, increasing in density by the moment. The train stopped and we arrived in the hectic city of Kandy surrounded by jungle. “Oh… this is it?”
So far Sri Lanka was confusing, frustrating, amazing, beautiful, ugly… everything.
I woke the next morning with my throat so sore and swollen I could hardly swallow. My body ached. I was sick, a feeling I’ve become quite familiar with on the road. Because if you don’t slow down and rest when your body begs you, it finds a way to force you. Illness seems to be my body’s favorite way of making me surrender.
But, I ignored it. Drank a pot of hot water and lemon and took a tuk tuk to the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Hidden in the midst of highways and three story malls of iPhone repair stores and auto shops with peeling paint on concrete and neon signs, were expansive fields, ancient trees filled with thousands of chattering fruit bats, monkeys running wild shaking branches raining colorful flowers. I wandered for hours, climbed trees older than I’ll ever be, and eventually the sky opened up and I ran across the lawn to the orchid house in the rainstorm.
Despite the magic moments, my illness was getting stronger as was my desire to just be. I needed to get out of the city. To be in nature, rest, and to catch up work. And intuitively I kept feeling drawn to this Ayurvedic healing center in the jungle just an hour outside of Kandy. So even though I couldn’t really afford it, I booked it.
The next morning before my driver arrived I went to the famous pilgrimage site in Kandy, The Temple of the Tooth, which contains one of the Buddha’s teeth. Crowds of devotees dressed in white gathered at the door, purchasing baskets of flowers. I took off my shoes and exchanged a dollar for a pile of frangipanis.
Inside the temple drumming echoed off the old stone walls. There was a mystical energy, and an aesthetic I had never seen before. I felt like I had stepped into a time capsule. I walked past the red painted doors flanked by enormous saber teeth and red robed men banging the drums. Following the crowd we inched up the stairs to a grand hallway, full of men, women, and children piling flowers onto a giant table, praying to an image of the Buddha. Then suddenly we stopped.
Sweating in my long pants and shawl within inches of others, I stood for at least half an hour exchanging awkward smiles with locals who were clearly as impatient as I was. Honestly I had no idea where we were going or what we were waiting for, and I was too shy to ask, so I just waited. I did my best to meditate, to look to my flowers, my offering, for some kind of meaning. I considered how I was going to place them on the table. How I would offer my contribution.
Finally we were moving again, walking past the doorway into another gilded temple. When I got there a man hastily grabbed my basket of flowers and threw them onto a table inside before gesturing for me to move along. The exchange felt the opposite of sacred. “Oh, dang it, that was it?” I didn’t have flowers to place on the table now, which was now surrounded by at least two hundred Sri Lankans.
Just as I started to descend the stairs I remembered something and laughed. Tucked behind my ear I had placed one single frangipani flower, a habit of mine since living in the jungle. I removed the flower, walked back over to the offering table, and placed her in the most beautiful position I could.
When I left the Temple of the Tooth, everything felt different in a way I can’t exactly describe. I mean, I felt different. Possessed almost. Not in a scary way, but I didn’t feel like Camille. I felt like someone else. Someone old. Someone royal. Putting it into words won’t do it justice because if you’ve ever felt possessed in this way you know it’s not a rational experience. I walked back to my guesthouse to meet my driver, with a posture that didn’t quite feel my own.
To my delight, my driver was a lover of legends, knew all of the Hindu deities, and had read the Ramayana many times. I asked him every question I could think of and he waxed poetic on the magic of Sri Lanka. We spoke about Sita, Hanuman, Ram, Ravana, and the famous story of the Queen kidnapped and held hostage on this very island. I loved every minute of it.
Upon my arrival at the center the manager assessed me while speaking on the phone with the Ayurvedic doctor. “How old are you?” “30,” I replied. “Are you married?” he asked. “Why does he need to know that?” I thought. (Later I asked the doctor this question, to which he explained it was to make sure that I wasn’t pregnant.) “No,” I said to the manager. He responded into the phone, “No.” Then, clearly embarrassed for me to be such an old maid by Sri Lankan standards he quickly said “Ummm I’ll marry her I’ll marry her,” and laughed awkwardly.
At the Ayurvedic center there was nothing to do. Which I suppose was exactly what I needed. There wasn’t a wifi connection so getting work done was out of the question. I spent four days getting slathered in oil and being baked in an Ayurvedic steam bath, napping, and doing everything I could to clear up my tonsilitis.
One of the days I decided to read the story of Sita, the goddess of dedication and self sacrifice. Despite having a regular goddess practice for the last year, I had never connected with Sita. Just reading the words “self sacrifice” made me queasy, she seemed to be everything I wasn’t. But I decided to finally learn about her, because she was the goddess of this island after all.
To my surprise, her story follows a theme I know well: rejection from the masculine. Unflinching in her devotion to her husband King Ram, she is left by him like a whore after being held captive by the alluring sexy Ravana for years. And she goes back to him, again, and again. A woman so unrelentingly loving towards someone who clearly doesn’t deserve it, she represents the love of Earth itself. Her suffering represents the suffering we feel when we see this Earth die. In other words, she embodies everything I’d been processing for the past year.
Reading Sita’s story, I felt my ache and sadness for the unfulfilled love story with the man in Costa Rica who never loved me. I felt my ache and sadness for the land I never knew if I’d return to. I felt my ache and sadness for the wild world that I didn’t want to lose. As I cried tears of catharsis, I wondered if I was crying my tears or Sita’s. Whether it was rational or not, the suffering was there, and like the Lady of the Lake I allowed myself to wallow.
Things just got darker at night. The center sat on beautiful land with a tranquil river, chirping birds, and a beautiful view of the hillside, with the kindest most accommodating staff I could dream of, but at night I felt terrified. Paranoid. Imagining dark spirits in my cottage.
Meanwhile, the kind and fascinating owner befriended me, wanted me to lead retreats there, and to even be their onsite yoga teacher. He upgraded me to a room bigger and more beautiful than any house I’ve ever lived in and leaving didn’t much appeal.
That is, until night fell. Laying in bed trying to sleep I had visions of myself being murdered in so many different ways on that land. “They’re trying to keep me prisoner here,” I thought in my half awake state. It had been four nights of this and I knew that I had to go. I needed to go to Anuradhapura. Besides, my symptoms weren’t getting better. Despite the natural medicines from the staff, napping for hours, and doing steam baths, I was actually getting sicker.
I’d managed to get a lukewarm wifi connection at the top of the property, and had researched the ancient city of Anuradhapura, the most famous pilgrimage site in the entire country. However every blog and tourist review I read told me that it really wasn’t worth it. The temples were poorly preserved, it was expensive, and it was kinda out of the way. Logic said don’t go, intuition said I must.
The next day I continued on my journey to Sigiriya, one of the country’s major tourist attractions. I still wasn’t sure if I was going to Anuradhapura, but I had a few days before my train left from Kandy and I knew I needed to be somewhere. Leaving I felt scared, dependent on the staff who had made me so comfortable, and also liberated from from these people who I irrationally feared were holding me captive.
Sigiriya was quiet, in the jungle, and I think I was the only person staying at my guesthouse. I went from sleeping in a palace to a small room with fluorescent lighting and an unfriendly staff. The Sita in me was unimpressed. I instantly felt uncomfortable, still sick, and my feet itched. I wanted to get out of there stat. But… I didn’t know where to go.
Another feeling I’ve come to know well on the road: wanting to escape discomfort at any cost, but never making it into the comfort zone. Because well, wherever you go there you are.
In the morning I woke early, packed up my bags, stuck them behind the reception desk, and walked down the one lane road to climb to the top of Sigiriya rock. On the path to the entrance I saw signs warning, “Dangerous: Elephants Crossing.” I reflected on the stories I heard about Sigiriya, and wondered what it all meant and why I was there.
Also known as Lion’s Rock, this massive fortress surrounded by ruins of temples and gardens, allegedly had a large head of a lion at its entrance once upon a time. Apparently you could climb to the very top only by first entering the lion’s mouth. They say that a Sri Lankan prince hid there after killing his father, and the gorgeous nymphs painted as frescos inside of the cave walls represent all of his concubines. As I climbed the metal stairs now built around the sides with 300 white uniformed school children, I wrote a different story. I saw these nymphs painted on the walls, adorned in jewels and wearing Mona Lisa smiles, as magic keepers. Goddesses.
When I climbed down and headed back to my guesthouse where my bags were waiting, my anxiety flared up again. Why was I here? Where was I supposed to go next?
A decision like “where should I go?” becomes such a champagne problem when you’re traveling the world without a plan on your own. And yet it can feel like the most monumental challenge you’re ever faced with. I suppose because the physical act of moving from place to place becomes our expression of moving through life, the same way making major decisions for a commitment like “who am I going to marry” or “should I quit my job” feels like everything when you’re at home. In the big scheme of things, all of it is trivial, and yet in our humanness all of it matters as much as we feel it does. Rational or otherwise, “where do I go next” feels like a serious consideration on the road.
In those moments I knew that judging my privilege and ridiculousness didn’t help matters. Doing whatever I needed to do to feel better… did. Could I just laugh about the fact that I had no idea where I was going, was sick with tonsilitis, my funds were running low, and I feared that my business was falling apart while I failed to have wifi? Actually, ya, I did.
“Figuring it out” wasn’t going to happen amidst my anxiety so I went for a hike up a rock near to Sigiriya, which would give me an eagle eye view. I went for higher perspective.
Looking out across miles and miles of jungle, seeing hoards of people crawl up Sigiriya Rock like ants in a traffic jam, I relaxed. I focused on the beauty. Nothing to figure out. Just enjoy this moment.
A thought came to me. What if Sigiriya wasn’t ruins like everyone said it was? What if it, and all ruined sites for that matter, were enlightened temples that my consciousness couldn’t see yet? What if the lion paws guarding the front were a portal into another dimensional reality? What if I just didn’t vibrate high enough to enter? Maybe I was just too dense to go there.
Looking out to the rock from high in the distance, I imagined it. Mountains of flowers carpeting the stone floors, angelic voices echoing in layers of song, mystical magical beauty more immense than my logical mind can fathom. So in a way, I guess you could say, I was there. After all, everything is a story, none of it we can really know, why was my story more ridiculous than a Prince murdering his father and turning it into a sex palace? I’d rather tell myself a story that makes me feel magic.
By the time I got to the bottom of the rock, I had already decided I would go to Anuradhapura. ‘Cause the anxiety actually came from rationalizing why I shouldn’t do the thing I needed to do, but was resistant to doing: going to Anuradhapura. Face the resistance, problem solved. That’s the power of higher perspective.
To make sure that my Queen Sita would come too, I spent beyond my budget and booked myself a room at a resort with a swimming pool. I judged myself for this, “wtf kind of adventure traveler are you?!” So I compromised and took the chicken bus to get there.
We rolled into Anuradhapura at the golden hour, and the energy soothed my nervous system instantly. The difference was palpable. I believe that places where monks have meditated for eons compile a peaceful energy that we can feel in this present moment. Anuradhapura was one of those places.
At the resort I collapsed on my bed, took an amazing shower, squealed when I saw I had an electric tea kettle (so necessary when you’re sick), and lit candles on my balcony. Sitting there, sipping my hot water, I placed my hand on my heart. “I know you don’t want to be here sweetie. I know this is my wild goose chase. I know you’re tired and you want to go home. So as long as we’re doing this together, I will do everything in my power to take good care of you. I promise.”
In less emotional terms, I committed to racking up my credit card as much as necessary to make sure that I was comfortable.
I was under a major time crunch in Anuradhapura because a week prior I had booked my train ticket from Kandy to Ella, a famous route that sells out far in advance. That meant I had just half a day to see Anuradhapura which apparently is sprawling with temples. Though to be honest, I really didn’t care what I saw. I wasn’t there to learn about temples. I was there because the name of the place was “Anuradha,” and yes I’m aware of how crazy that sounds.
Consequently, due to lost in translation poorly spoken English and no spoken Sri Lankan, I spent six hours in a tuk tuk visiting all of the temples that weren’t actually part of the major temple site. But that story is much longer than it is interesting. What is interesting, is that I went to Anuradhapura and didn’t really “see” Anuradhapura at all. I certainly felt it though. And that’s really what I was looking for anyway.
When I finally left on the chicken bus to return to Kandy, I felt inexplicably relieved. “It’s done now,” I thought not knowing what “it” was nor what I felt was done. But I did feel more like myself than I had in over a week.
The next day on the train to Ella, known as one of the most beautiful rides in the entire world, everything felt lighter. I decided that riding trains was my favorite thing to do in Sri Lanka. I loved hanging my feet out the door, listening to teenage Sri Lankan boys sing songs terribly out of key, seeing the incredible landscape, and eating weird fried balls of vegetarian things sold out of a wad of newspaper.
About halfway to Ella we stopped and a middle aged French couple got on. They were assigned the seats directly across from me. I instantly recognized them from the Ayurvedic center where I stayed the week prior. We hadn’t spoken at the center, but they recognized me too. As we ascended the hills and looked across the tea plantations, the woman told me about her journey through India staying in one ashram after the other. We both studied yoga, meditation, tantra, and Osho and could have talked forever.
Just before we got off I asked her, “how did you feel at the Ayurvedic center at night?” She shook her head, “I couldn’t sleep at all. I had horrible nightmares of being murdered that woke me up constantly. Terrible.” I guess I wasn’t so crazy after all.
Ella felt so different from anywhere I had been in Sri Lanka thus far. First of all, there were other solo travelers something I hadn’t yet seen in the country. It was less developed than other places, but comfortably more touristic. Off the train I grabbed a taxi, really just a beat up old sedan driven by a rastafied Sri Lankan.
While the main strip seemed like a tourist trap, I stayed a mile outside of town in an inexpensive guesthouse owned by two Sri Lankan sisters with impeccably clean rooms and a priceless view of the waterfall. They served me afternoon tea and made fresh dahl and coconut hoppers in the mornings with the kindest smiles I’ve ever seen.
The four days I spent in Ella were the highlight of my trip. Taking early morning sunrise hikes from just outside my front door. Dipping into towering waterfalls. Eating dozens of vegetarian home cooked rice and curries. Walking along the railroad tracks during the golden hour. Feeling safe. Feeling comfortable.
Part of me wishes I had stayed longer, but my mermaid soul craves the ocean when she’s away for too long. A friend I met traveling in Koh Phangan years ago recommended this little beach town to me, in the South near Tangalle. I booked myself a room but it wasn’t available for a few more days. I also wanted to take a wildlife safari, so I decided to spend a few nights in Udawalawe, the most famous place in Sri Lanka to see elephants.
The day of my departure from Ella, I got a message from the owner of the beach place where I was heading. He asked where I would be arriving from and if I needed transportation. I told him I was coming from Udawalawe and staying at this glamping place. Apparently he was also going to the same glamping place as me… for the same dates. I was dubious about this coincidence but we had some friends in common in Thailand, and he seemed cool enough. Besides, I hadn’t met many other travelers in Sri Lanka and the road was feeling lonely.
At Udawalawe we hit it off as friends. He was funny and we related over creating our own businesses and living in small beach towns. He spoke about wanting to buy land in Udawalawe to create a yoga resort. I asked him about his yoga practice, and he revealed that he had never done yoga.
Oddly, I noticed that socializing with him at the lodge meant that the workers no longer addressed me. They would just speak to him in Sri Lankan and have him translate. So, I didn’t really know what was going on most of the time. I was itching to get out and explore, to go for a safari, and he asked if I wanted to join him. He had his own jeep and I’d save tons of money not doing it on my own.
We ended up spending the day driving to different land plots while he negotiated with uncles of friends of brothers of landowners and asked me with his best poker face what I thought of the land. I tagged along, trying to be polite while silently judging him for chain smoking and drinking orange soda.
His sense of humor gradually evolved into insulting me, a tactic I’ve seen men preach as an effective way to get women. Over dinner he nonchalantly asked questions like if I wanted kids and where I saw myself in ten years. I told him I was having trouble seeing past tomorrow and that if I got married and had kids I would want my own separate bedroom. He said he wouldn’t be disappointed if he accidentally got someone pregnant. That he was ready.
I witnessed myself falling into old patterns with this man. Feeling ashamed of who I am, trying to please him, letting him get away with insulting me as a “joke,” feeling small, and not enjoying my time yet feeling trapped. The difference was, in the past it was always with men who I was attracted to, and that was definitely not the case with him. Since my pelvis wasn’t clouding my judgement, I could see it clearly.
But every moment was worth it.
Because after just twenty four hours with him, I had the most obvious to everyone else, and yet the most mind blowing for me realization:
I don’t actually want the man in Costa Rica I’ve pined over for so many years.
I don’t want him.
I want so much more.
And not from him. From someone who can offer it.
Maybe we were at the same vibe when we met, but I have died and been born again so many times since then that the only part of me resonating with him is the part that I carry from my past.
I realized, the reason we’re not together isn’t because he doesn’t want me
it’s because we’re not aligned.
So, I actually don’t want him.
I want someone walking on my path.
Yes, the same man who a few weeks before I had finally accepted I would never get over
I… got over.
In an instant.
All because of my orange soda drinking pack of cigarettes a day smoking sweet intelligent funny kinda asshole narcissistic new friend. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, a million times thank you,” I told him without saying a word.
He left and I stayed one more night before going to his place down on the south coast. I was dreading the experience and knew I would need to learn boundaries to not get sucked into being his tag along or do the opposite and give him the cold shoulder, another pattern of mine.
To my surprise, over the five days I spent at the beach town that was half the size of a New York City block, I barely saw him. Instead, the universe brought me a different man to learn from. My yoga teacher who embodied what I had fantasized yet didn’t think could actually be real.
He was tall and masculine, had long sun bleached hair that he wore in a bun, thick dark eyebrows and was unshaven enough to be sexy. He gave exceptional cues, held space compassionately, was so connected with sensation in the body, and read beautiful poems while I lay in meditation. After class we chatted about gosh who remembers but with full eye contact and I felt both exhilarated and relaxed in his presence.
My mind dove into fantasy. Was this a sign that I was supposed to extend my trip and start teaching yoga in Sri Lanka? Was it going to be a five day passionate affair with a conscious peaceful parting? Was this finally my reward for all I had let go of, transmuted, and healed so many times for so long?? Was the universe finally throwing me a bone????
Well, actually, the universe is always throwing me bones. Lots of them. They just don’t always come in the forms that I want them to.
This was no exception. Which is to say, nothing romantic ever happened between us. He politely treated me like a student and when I saw him outside of class he all but ignored me.
Which triggered all of my insecurities.
And when it comes to men, I’m still full of insecurities. And ya, I’m sure my insecurities are what initially drew me to my Costa Rican flame and kept me coming back. He was just so unbelievably gorgeous and I loved how intensely he wanted me when he did. When that sizzled my mission was for as many men in as many places in the world to desire me too.
I’d even go so far to say that for my first two years of travel, that was a big part of the appeal. I loved going to the tourist bars and getting as much attention as I possibly could. At the time, that felt… good… in its own way.
But the more I practiced yoga the emptier it felt. My focus turned inward. I practiced giving myself the attention and validation that I needed from within. No hangover necessary. I was focused on healing instead of indulging. This journey eventually led me to where I am now, celibate for over three years.
Perhaps because I’m afraid of swinging so far in the other direction, my perception now is that men simply aren’t interested in me. In my bathroom mirror I can witness my own beauty, but my perception is that the outside world reflects that I’m unwanted romantically. I once used the attention of men to feel love, now I use their lack of attention to feel love… as a reminder to love myself. I’m not saying that’s the ultimate goal, it’s just where I’ve been for a while.
Since this hot yoga teacher in Sri Lanka wasn’t giving me the attention I wanted, I knew it was my opportunity to be with myself and ask, “Well, Camille sweetie, are you paying attention to yourself? Are you seeing in you what you wish he saw in you?” No, I really wasn’t. And when I slowed down and did give myself that attention, there were still wounds from men of the past that came up.
Not to mention, the more I talked to him, the more I noticed his wounds and insecurities. I saw negative talk that I interpreted as cultural conditioning. I saw ways that he wasn’t seeing his own light. One night before bed I was deep in a dance meditation and he appeared as a vision before me. I remember looking him in the eyes, opening up his shirt, and showing him his wounds. Then, I humbled myself, pulled open my chest and showed him mine. We looked at one another and for a moment we were looking in the mirror. Of course we were. We always are.
I used my experience with this man to help me in two ways: first, to know that any kind of man I could dream of does exist. Meeting him validated my desire to be with someone beautiful and manly who was also on a path of consciousness, and living unconventionally the way I that do. Second, to remember that I want and deserve someone who sees my light. Not feeling received by him showed me what I need to feel fully received.
Maybe I didn’t find a soulmate in a man, but I did discover a beautiful community of women in that small beach town. At yoga and the few places with healthy food I connected with other solo female travelers and even led two women’s circles. Holding space pulled me out of my indulgent mindset, “why doesn’t he like me?” and “where am I supposed to go next?” and reminded me of what I really care about: sharing my gifts with others.
Which frankly, hadn’t been easy to do constantly hopping around the travel trail. I was neglecting the blog, all but forgot about the dream of writing my book, was holding back on planning new projects and retreats, fell out of my meditation practice, and wasn’t showing up as fully as I knew that I could. I thought that would make me feel free, but it actually gave me a lot of anxiety. Cause… I wanted to be doing all of those things. I wanted the responsibility.
On the other side, I thought that because I had this freedom, I had to get lost like I used to. Backpack indefinitely. Keep going for as long as possible. Follow the synchronicities endlessly. Go to India, Nepal, Indonesia, the whole world. Because I could. And I was so lucky that I could.
But… I didn’t want that anymore.
I wanted to sit with the ocean with no one else for miles. To cry with a tree and not need to have a reason for it. To wear next to nothing and for that to be ok. To dance alone in my garden under the stars. To cook my own food and make my own medicine. To be in the community where I know I belong.
I wanted home.
And I knew it was time to stop pretending that I didn’t already have one
by looking for something better.
I finally admitted to myself, something I’ve been afraid of for years.
That as much as travel will always be part of my life, travel isn’t my entire life anymore.
Travel isn’t what matters most to me anymore.
So I booked my flight home.
There’s a hundred more stories of magic and of struggle I could tell you from the rest of my trip in Sri Lanka. A huge snake crossing my path in the jungle, watching women trance dance and pass out in a famous temple at night, rolling my ankle and giving up on climbing the tallest peak in Sri Lanka, seeing a leopard in the wild and feeling forever changed, hating the Southern beach towns and feeling like I was wasting my days, swimming with sea turtles in the ocean, and riding a train through the ramshackle ghettos where people lived poorer than I’ve ever seen. But I can sum them all up quite simply: I was ready to go home.
So I’ll resume there, on my journey home.
I got off the train in Colombo, surrounded by dozens of people, sick with the same illness from the start of my journey. We had pulled in late and there was a good chance that I would miss my flight. My ankle wrap started unraveling as I carried my two bags like a turtle, tripping on myself while rushing through the crowds. A woman stopped me and offered to help. She was in her twenties and backpacking on her own.
She was also on her way to the airport, only she was headed for India. The place I had originally intended to visit next. She told me she was both excited and scared. We decided to share a tuk tuk.
Our tuk tuk drove like a maniac, weaving in out of traffic, trying to make a ninety minute journey in under an hour. We spent that time talking like soul twins. About her journey. My journey. Love and loss on the road. She had recently quit her job to travel the world, and questioned how she could make it last forever. She spoke of the heartbreak of wanting love but not knowing how to sustain it when moving from one town to the next. She wondered how she was going to make her unconventional dreams come true.
I wasn’t concerned about making my flight anymore, because I just felt blessed to be talking with her. She was the friend I was looking for all through Sri Lanka.
Eventually we arrived at the airport where a line for security stretched a hundred people long. She had me wait while she ran to the front and begged the guard to let me pass since otherwise I would miss my flight. He agreed, which meant she and I would be saying goodbye right there. To my surprise that felt… devastating.
Looking into this woman’s eyes I realized that despite knowing her for just an hour, I loved her tremendously. I loved her because when I looked at her, I saw myself. I saw a sweet tender part of myself I’ve held onto for so long. I had reached the end of this road, and she had just begun it. She was the part of myself I was bidding farewell.
We hugged each other fiercely, and then we let go.
She caught her flight to India.
And I began my long journey home.
Stay tuned for the next chapter…