On the train to the Teignmouth Poetry Festival, I felt this strange tingle from the bottom of my vagina to fall in love. I realized in that moment that I was alone. I had been traveling alone for the last two weeks, and yet I’d never really thought about it. I was one of those brave solo female travelers, and yet it didn’t feel odd, it felt normal. I knew that I could take care of myself if anything went wrong and I trusted people to help me along my way. From my previous experiences, I had relied on the kindness of strangers and, so far, they had not let me down.
The first time I traveled alone I was 16. My parents nurtured my love of traveling and helping people, and supported me to volunteer with Amigos de Las Americas – basically Peace Corp for teens. None of my friends from Calabasas wanted to go with me, and so I went alone. Thus, the summer between leaving Calabasas High School and starting at the High School at Moorpark College after my second depression, I spent six weeks living in Honduras.
At the age of 16, I was not able to think six weeks into the future. I felt like I was dying. I hugged my Mom and Dad, who also cried like I was dying, and then I turned around. In less than a millisecond, I was alone.
I boarded the plane, buckled my seatbelt, and burst into tears. To comfort myself, I repeated the last two lines from “Remember” by Christina Rossetti,
“Better by far that you should forget and smile
than that you should remember and be sad.”
I stopped crying and focused on the present, on the excitement and adventure that awaited me.
That summer changed my life. I went from the suburban luxury that is Calabasas to living in a jungle village where there was only one oven, one TV, and one market for the whole community. There were no washing machines, you had to scrub your clothes on ridges of stone. There were no showers, you had to use a bucket and a sponge. When it rained, the noise was so loud that all we could do was sit and listen. It was beautiful.
I met such genuine people who truly loved and valued each other. Because there was no bowling alleys or movie theatres in the village and very few economic opportunities – the men worked on the coffee fincas, while the women sold at the market, prepared the meals, and took care of the children – people found their meaning and joy from relationships. On Friday nights, the entire family would talk, play games, and dance until late in the evening. I taught them many dance moves that were ‘really cool in America’, and from them, I learned bachata.
When my partner (another teen from the East Coast) and I went around meeting the community and asking them what they needed, the parents said the same thing, “We want computers, we want books”. In that moment, I realized that these people living in mud huts in Honduras were exactly the same as my parents; they just wanted the best for their children. By the end of the summer, I had concluded that my host-family in Honduras were happier than my real family in Los Angeles, and was anxious to go back.
I returned and was glad to be home, but I had changed. I started at my new school, and restarted the process of making friends and communicating who I am. When I graduated, I was voted “Most Likely to Become an Erotic Novelist.”
Read the next post in the series, “Poetry is Radical Genuineness”
Read the first post in the series “Hi Again”.
Check out the full list of blog posts “How to Value Your Own Thoughts”