In twenty-seven hours I will be en route to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. I will fly through Chicago O’Hare on to San Francisco International. From there I will be picked up, have a bottle of wine or two with an old friend, only to be immediately carted back in the still-dark hours of the morning to board a non-stop flight to Seoul. Despite all of the recent political turmoil being caused by their unfriendly neighbors to the north, my nerves are humming for another reason. One of which I am not quite sure. I have dropped myself in many a country without a plan, without knowing a word of the foreign language that whips past my ears in every direction, and I have survived just fine. But today I am nervous. Scared of the small things like finding the right bus or getting lost with my hundred pounds of luggage in tow. Even though I have a close friend whom I am a meeting, and a welcome place to stay. Even though my boyfriend of over a year and a half now will be meeting me there within days, I am more scared than times I have been completely alone with no idea where to go or who to turn to.
Perhaps it is the comfort and stability of the last two years that is frightening me. After so many days melting into one another for their striking similarities of work and drink and sex and television, I don’t know how to be courageous any longer. Or perhaps I never was. I have been yearning to leave the country again for so long you would think I would be buzzing with excitement. Instead I finish one last load of laundry, make sure my bags are well-packed and I will have everything and I need and numbly check and double-check and triple-check my flight times. Or maybe it just hasn’t really sunk in yet.
I had a nightmare the night before last that I missed my flight. It was just an hour before I was supposed to depart and I was in a random hotel suddenly realizing I had none of my luggage with me and knew I would never be able to make it on time. The tension was consuming. When I called the airline in a panic to try to change my flight there was nothing but garbled nonsense on the other end of the line. I somehow ended up on a tiny prop plane, apparently illegally, because we landed in some strangely hospitable American town and I was being chased by some sort of federal agent, being forced to hide my identity. I’m not quite sure what it all means, but clearly my life on the lam has a firm place in my subconscious. Only this time I’m not running from anything, but rather to something. Maybe I just answered my own question.
Either way, I will get on the plane tomorrow afternoon. I will land in South Korea on Thursday afternoon. I will struggle to communicate the address of my friend’s apartment and I will drag my over-stuffed bags through the overwhelming capital with a confused look painted on my foreign face. This kind of travel will be different than all the other travel I have done. I will have a closet and an apartment and a part-time job. I have packed art and trinkets and almost all the clothes I own. I will explore the country not in the vast glory of unemployment, but on weekends and in my down time and for the next forty-eight hours I will hope that the whisper of nerves inside me effloresces into the familiar blossom of thrill that has never escaped me before. Because there isn’t an inch of room left in my bag for apprehension.