Travel has been my absolute biggest crush for as long as I can remember. I could daydream for hours and hours about cities, countries, and continents all around the world: how it would be like, about the people I'd meet, the person I'd be.
I dreamed of walking in a tropical rainforest, the canopy trees closing in on the sky above me, the mud under my boots splashing up with every step. I dreamed of butterflies - butterflies that didn't tickle with love but with excitement - finally escaping from my stomach as I stepped foot on the other side of the planet. And all that I dreamt of, I wrote down. On notebooks, scattered scraps of paper word documents - if it was a writable surface, it housed my dreams. Together, they tell the story of my travel romance.
The first time I felt it was in an airplane seat. I was sitting alone on a plane to Copenhagen, the first of three flights taking me to New Zealand on the opposite side of the world. A place where autumn was spring, where the hills weren't just hills but volcanoes, where the clouds ran across the sky.
I get that feeling every single time I'm on the move now. It doesn't matter whether it's on a plane or bicycle, the sense of moving forward is enough to make my stomach flutter just the tiniest bit. Once travel has been injected into your blood, you never stop wanting the rush it can give you. It has the ability to make you feel alive in a way nothing else can. I fell in love with that feeling at first sight.
I got it that morning when I woke up in Costa Rica as I looked out the window and saw a volcano there, right in the middle of the city. I got it in Athens, Greece when I realized that every single day there, I was walking around on ancient history. I got it in the Arctic Circle, staring up at a sky that was no longer blue, a sky that someone had painted swirling green and purple.
But I'll be honest. There were days when it didn't feel like I'd imagined it to. Days where I was forced to dissect what I thought it would be like to make sure it didn't clash with reality. For example, it turns out that jetlag is the worst state of mind. It turns out that homesickness isn't a disease, and it isn't a feeling: it's a limb that I'd used for all of my life suddenly being torn away from me. It turns out that it isn't always great. There are days when I'll be so tired that I won't get out of bed no matter what city I'm in. Days when I've coughed so much that not even Edinburgh could make it feel better. And at my lowest, I've wondered if I would've been better off staying at home, ignoring the sense of restlessness in my bones.
When it comes to travel, there are some things they don't always tell you. Like how many dirty stinky streets that accompany one piece of gorgeous architecture. Or how living in hostels for weeks and weeks on end isn't quite optimal for an introvert. Big or small, all these flaws will sooner or later add up until I can no longer recall the reason I left, the reason I chose this. At those moments, I keep in mind that the bad times will soon be a lesson learnt, and hopefully they can shape me into someone even better, someone even more resilient and strong. That's what a love for travel can do for us wandering souls. And one thing's for sure - the lows will make the highs feel even more extraordinary, making me grow even more deeply in love.
And if I'm ever in doubt, I turn inwards. I remember that feeling I got when I took that very first leap, the flutter of the butterfly wings. I remember the hopes and dreams of a twelve-year-old girl spending all of her days writing poetry. If I can still find that feeling within me, I know that I'm on the right track, the right road. And I can only keep going from there.
To me, travel is no longer just a crush. It has become my best friend, my biggest fear, and my reason to never stop dreaming.
-Sally Alm, THINK Global School student
Find more travel writing by Sally on her blog.