1 Month and 7 Cities Later

Flights start blending together one after one. Washington D.C. used to seem like a world away but now is a quick afternoon drive. Early morning drives to the airport only to make it through security before the sun rises and the Dunkin’ opens. Paying an inexcusable $4.18 for a 16oz. bottle of water, only to down it moments later.

Those lines have described the past month making my way around the east coast. I really should have been home, but something in me can’t just stay in one place at a time, constantly having the need to move around from place to place, not staying for more than three days in a city.

A stop at Stamford to revisit memories made during summer, another in NYC to spend time with family on Labor Day, and a quick jaunt around Back Bay–an upscale area in a part of downtown Boston. Feeling the train slow down, I haul my suitcase down from the overhead compartment. Covered in dents, scratches, and grease marks, the silver of the suitcase looks as sleek as ever in the afternoon sunlight as I make my way to the airport.

“Boarding groups 1 and 2 may make their way to the gate now”

A mad scramble ensues to the front of the line when boarding starts, all to claim the best overhead bin space. Boarding a plane in DC, I’m currently on my way to Illinois to visit some college friends. Having been on the road for 7 days already, the glamour of perpetual travel has started to wear off a bit as I long for a home-cooked meal.

Since graduating from college in May, I suddenly find myself with an abundance of time. Class schedules no longer exist, leaving a void in a what-used-to be orderly day-to-day schedule. From 9 to 5, I envelop myself in work, oblivious to what is going on outside. From 5 to 9, I make my way over to the late night burger joint, or an Amtrak, going hundreds of miles away from where I currently am. Many people talk about settling down or taking a break after college, and I ask myself why I haven’t done the same.

The flight attendants start the ritual of going around, checking everyone’s seatbelts, and making sure devices are put into airplane mode. Shortly after, we take off. Some small talk with my seatmate and we both settle in our own rhythms and business.

At first, going solo into a large airport is intimidating with not much room for thought; the only one thought being how to get to the destination. Subsequent trips become much easier. TSA goes from being a scary entity to being a minor inconvenience to get through. You learn to embrace the tradition of scarfing down Mickey-D’s right before a flight or scrambling to catch a last-minute gate change.

Traveling by air, rail, road, you tend to encounter a wide variety of people and perspectives. There’s something unique about meeting someone for a few hours and then parting ways with them, never to be seen again. We exchange stories, in the rare case a phone number or email. However, a majority of the time, their contact information sits there collecting dust, the only digital artifact of them from a sea of people, never to be contacted again.

You can’t forget your firsts when traveling. The first time you experience the rush of the plane taking off, the first road trip, the first “Welcome to [insert state]” sign you see on a road trip. As the years go by, these firsts become memories in an ever-growing tapestry of travel memories–a tapestry where each experience is it’s own unique hue–culminating into a beautiful work of art. The thrill of takeoff might become routine, but it never loses its magic entirely.

“Please put your electronic devices away and your seat trays up as we prepare for landing in Chicago”

Through travel, I’ve picked up some uncanny abilities. I can now pack an entire week’s of clothes inside a backpack. I can figure out how to time my meals in transit. Even if that means taking an 10 AM “lunch” before a 6-hour flight at 11 AM. There’s also the unexpected moments. A cancelled flight leaving you in an unknown city, late night conversations with strangers in the back of a train, or the impromptu boba at midnight with a group of recently made friends.

During my first year of college, I have only truly felt free. Growing up in Western PA, there was only so much you can do, people to see, and places to visit. A “night out” consisted of going out to the local Target only to end up in a random parking lot, reminiscing about memories and dancing to music in the parking lot, toes dancing over the painted white lines. Only until I forayed into the Midwest have I realized the excitement of changing scenes, leaving the familiar behind, and venturing into the unknown.

As the wheels touch the ground, I realize that the tapestry of travel is constantly being reworked. Every stitch, twist, and turn adds complexity and depth to the overall composition. The journey is not merely a passage from one point to another; it is an ongoing masterpiece, crafted by the experiences and stories that unfold with every step.

Stepping off the plane, I wonder of what will become of this tapestry.