Note: A few months ago I posted a story called The Traveler. The experiences in the article were mine, but I wrote the traveler as a man. A friend that has traveled with me around the world questioned this and challenged me to write a second piece as a woman traveler. What a fun challenge it has been! Here she is, La Viajera.
The sun emerges between passing clouds and transforms la viajera’s auburn hair into a fiery red. The wind carries her hair in nonsensical patterns of dancing flames. She does not try to contain it. She lifts her face to the sun and her heart to the sky. A smile rises from her chest and gently appears on her lips.
La viajera sees a clearing along the path where a large flat rock juts over the river, beckoning for her to rest. She sits and quickly tugs off her hiking boots, peels away her socks, and plunges her feet into the icy river. The pristine waters of Patagonia rush around the contours of her feet and between her toes. Cold penetrates her bones and provides relief against the miles of trails la viajera has covered today. A thundering roar catches her attention and she turns with just enough time to see a glacier calving upstream.
Her legs are depleted, but her soul is replenished. She feels the energy of the earth and the glory of being alive in the world. Here, thousands of miles south of her home and surrounded by unfamiliar landscapes, she is free.
She lays back on the rock. The warmth of the boulder seeps into her body while the icy water continues to barrel past her feet. She relaxes fully into the sunshine, breathing it in and radiating the light back out into the world around her.
This feeling of freedom and connection isn’t new for la viajera. It bubbled up when she explored a temple in Angkor Wat with a friend. A rickshaw driver waited somewhere on the other side of the temple, but he was patient and there was no hurry. They turned among ruins of sculptures and tumbling walls towards whatever captured their fancy. Curiosity drove their path forward.
And again when she cycled along one-lane farm roads through endless vineyards in Provence. La viajera got lost more times than she could count in that afternoon of biking, but it didn’t matter. The kindness of strangers and multifaceted communication of English, French, gestures and smiles reminded her of what is good in this world.
And the many times she packed up her Honda Civic and left for a week, a month, a year. The exhilaration of unknown destinations flooded every corner of her body as she drove away from home. Excitement, fear, and wonder merged to form an addictive elixir streaming through her veins. The open road temporarily satisfied this yearning, but it’s only a matter of time before the hunger for new lands flares up and demands attention.
But la viajera is not thinking about that today. Right now she is laying in the sun on a rock next to a river, eyes closed and heart beating in tune with the pulse of the earth beneath her.