Travails of Travel
The darkness behind a colorful passport
I’m currently sitting in an apartment in Hong Kong Island, thirteen hours from home. My friend is in the other room, listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love,” watching “Fresh Prince” reruns and recovering from last night. We’ve been switching these roles every day or so.
Two weeks ago, as I write this, my relationship of merely a year and a half came to an end. In another world, the friend who’s currently curled up in a ball in the other room received a text from his ex saying she’s seeing someone else. And on the other side of the world, my friend back home just began a new relationship with a girl who’s bound to leave school after this semester, leaving him wondering about long distance. All this surrounds me as I explore Hong Kong during my semester abroad, but I wouldn’t want to drag you into the depressive, self-deprecating thoughts that endlessly sprint through my consciousness like the Road Runner from Looney Tunes. Still, I promise to keep you safe from the complexities of my own situation. Here, I focus on the “logistics” of what love and relationships are, how they feel when they aren’t right in front of you and how they are rather detached from distance and time.
In the last few weeks I’ve traveled to multiple places in China, including Xi’an, Beijing, and Taipei, all of which have been undeniably beautiful. Being able to watch the lives of others continue, uninterrupted by my influence or anybody else’s influence on the other side of the world is strangely comforting. It’s actually nice to feel small sometimes. Stress has a way of making you feel larger than life and your problems as significant as the end of the world.
Locals flood the street of the markets in Xi’an. I watch as families work endless hours trying to make a living in their stores in every section of every street. Beijing and Taipei are dotted with these landmarks as well, not to mention The Great Wall, a euphoric experience in itself.
Needlessly to say, these places are magnificent, and the people are what end up making them just so. You watch as the kids run around in excitement, you watch parents pull countless bills out of their pockets to buy food and toys for them. Most importantly, you notice the happy couples who share laughs and hold hands going about their day and just like that, the Road Runner comes flying right back. Once again, you’re stuck in nostalgic thoughts and memories about the person you were once with.
You never realize how quickly the world can lose color, how easily food can become bland and how much every single song relates to love and heartbreak, and is suspiciously relevant to exact aspects of your insignificant world. Seriously, how is it possible that every lyric has a way of stabbing you in the heart with truth? I can vividly imagine a squad of tiny soldiers with bayonets jabbing every artery to the rhythm of Mac Miller’s “Swimming”.
It’s even more interesting to watch how your own brain processes memories and where it chooses to engrave its mark on common things. These songs have the ability to take you to that one magical day filled with sun and whiskey. These movie scenes remind you of personal stories filled with cries and laughter shared by the person you were once with. These travel plans make you reminisce going on adventures with your partner-in-crime, and scrolling through your phone takes you on the craziest and bumpiest recollection of the good and the bad.
Relationships are difficult; we all know that to some extent, respectfully. Still, you never know just how hard being together in different worlds may be at age twenty, and it’s even harder knowing you hold another person's love in your hand, with the ability to crush it with one swift motion. Growing up, my mama would tell me that women are like marshmallows. I still remember looking at her thinking, “what the the hell is she talking about?” Still, her only reply was that one day I would understand. Now I do.
Relationships are also selfish, yet truthfully it is a selfishness tied to a contract with love, the most unfair and complicated deal we all partake in involuntarily. It’s an agreement that is rooted in helping each other grow, which is lost in oblivion until there is no longer. And the most selfish part comes in that decision to end it. Needless to say, being abroad makes this entire situation a thousand times more difficult, with even the time of day, the sun and the moon rooting against you. Not to mention the plethora of happy couples that seem to surround you now more than ever.
Now, the marshmallow is burnt, almost like Icarus and his dumbass decision to try to touch the sun. For now, I find ease in every drink I chug and numbness in every cigarette I smoke. I know it’s not healthy and trust me, I’ll be alright, and this won’t carry on forever. I write this three hours after I got to Dubai, U.A.E., to watch my sister compete for Team USA. Hopefully seeing a familiar face will bring some color back into my colorless world.
Kuba Wasowicz is a junior studying communications and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University.