On my flight from Portland, the older guy with a trim, white beard I sat next to was a doctor. When I told him that I’m writing about travel as a spiritual exercise, he replied enthusiastically, “Oh! You’re an adventuress!”
I grinned. “I guess I am.”
“You have to connect with my daughter. She’s an adventuress too!” Apparently, this former fashion model is making a splash through her Instagram account and being awarded trips around Europe.
Note: If anyone with travel clout is reading this, I would welcome trips though Europe too!
This kind gentleman told me at least three times how fortunate he felt to be talking to a real-life adventuress. It was almost like a benediction.
* * *
I’m not supposed to be telling you about where I am or what I’m doing here. Harley told me not to tell anyone about this island. He said it without menace in his voice, but I deduced that development is anathema to the local lifestyle. He’s a big, tan guy with smiling eyes and a salt-and-pepper goatee. He runs the island’s taxi service. While we drove from the airport to the mechanic’s to pick up Paula’s car, it became clear that he knows everyone on the island. Even the mechanic is his wife’s uncle.
While we’re driving to town, he passes his card back to me. “If you need anything while you’re here or if you have any questions, just give me a call.” He means it. I overpaid my fare on purpose.
* * *
The air is so warm and humid, stepping out of the plane is like walking through a permanent steam bath with all your clothes on.
On the connecting puddle-jumper, a heavy-set woman sat beside me reading a business magazine, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. I wanted to talk to the whole twenty-four-minute flight, but kept changing my mind. As we landed, I asked her about how to find a taxi. What I really wanted to ask her about was the reason for her tears and her medical trips to the different islands, commiserate about whatever she was healing. I held my tongue, though. When we got into the open-air concrete building also known as an airport, she grabbed Harley for me. Touched that she could have so much on her heart yet help me, I thanked her for her kindness.
While I waited for my bags, a skinny, blond woman in her fifties approached me with an intense expression on her face and said, “I heard you say on the plane that you’re writing a book. I’m a writer too. Do you have a publisher yet?” I know that intensity — the deep need to connect with other people doing this writing thing. We’re like refugees. Recovering addicts. We need each other. So why did I hesitate to ask her to meet up later on? Fatigue, maybe? She wished me a good writing retreat and disappeared moments later.
* * *
Paula’s car was covered with bird shit. When Harley dropped me off, it was apparent that, after having its breaks repaired, it’s just been sitting here, waiting to be picked up for — what was it, weeks? Months? A few doo-drops weren’t enough. It was splattered, nay, encrusted with dried-on pink and white goo approaching an art form. I highly suspect it was parked under a telephone wire, local birds adding to their masterpiece. Fortunately, the engine turned over when I put the key in the ignition (Paula had some doubt). The passenger seat looked as though a cat had been shacking up there; tiny mud-brown paw prints speckled the vinyl where the re-and-white plumeria seat cover had slid off. I forgot to use the clutch and ground the gears. With a twenty-mile journey ahead and the windshield obscured, I pulled into a Chevron and used the free wiper and window solution to see more clearly.
If the town was a dusty patchwork of sidewalk-free establishments, the three-digit road out to my abode was utterly barren. No lush interpretive gardens or sparkling cascades through a bamboo forest. To my mind, the sparse trees should have been green and lush but were instead brown or completely stripped of foliage. The mountains I had expected — based on previous visits to these islands — did not exist. The entire trip consisted of flat, brown plain with on a desolate road to the end of the island, with spooky clouds looming in the distance.
I was trying to outrun the sunset since I’ve never been here before. It gets awfully dark at night, making navigation difficult at best. As the car’s meager shocks jangled my spine, I rolled down the windows and the air had that dusty, tangy smell of rain. I stuck my hand out and did that wave thing (Rebecca Black-style) people do when they’re feeling carefree. Small, speckly fowl skittered away from the roadsides as I passed, their puffy brood behind them in the short grass. An enormous black bird (peacock? emu? dino?) crossed the road and disappeared into the dry grasses. “What the . . . ?” I said aloud. “What WAS that?”
When I finally arrived, I discovered that the sheets and towels had been used by the previous occupants and had not been replaced. The damp, sticky air blew through the abode. I was hungry and disoriented. Somehow, I didn’t care. Because of this view.
It just kept getting prettier. I arrived just in time for sunset.
And prettier still . . .
While I gawked at the sunset, I met a friendly mom-and-daughter duo from California who staying in the unit downstairs. I invited myself to participate in their plan to walk out to the beach to watch the Perseid meteor shower when it’s completely dark. There. I stuck my neck out.
I’m exhausted and out of my league — but that’s the way I love to travel. That’s how inner change happens. ‘Cause I am a freaking adventuress, after all.