Some of the richest experiences I’ve had in my life have been when I’m alone, far from home, often in another country. There’s something about being one single human being standing on my own two feet, far from the comforts of home and the things I think I need to make me happy; my friends and family, my routine, the roles I play, and who I think I am. Alone and anonymous, I feel like a citizen of the world, wandering among strangers, eyes wide open and letting every new sensation pour right into me.
I will never forget the run I’d take each morning on the wet streets of Bali. I remember the early morning mist as I began to climb the hill from town, and that one turn in the road where the monkeys gathered on phone lines above my head, how I had to keep my eye on them as I ran in case one swooped down to grab my hair. I remember the shopkeepers with big buckets of water, splashing the streets outside of their shops, and that one woman I saw every day, sitting on a milk carton, selling small bags of fruit and hot tea to school children and people heading off to work. I remember entering the outdoor marketplace, the commotion of voices, the piles of bright fruit; bananas and papayas, durian, mangosteen and snakeskin fruit. I remember walking through the market under the morning sun, often the only white person in the crowd, and telling myself, “I am here, I am here.”
Or the time, alone and feeling a little lost in the town of Carcassonne in the south of France. I’d come all the way alone from Paris on a train because back home I was losing myself in a relationship, and I believed I was going to reconnect with some ancient, fortified part of myself. I meant to come home stronger. But Carcassonne wasn’t an old, medieval castle – it was a tourist spot littered with tchotchkes, cheap ornamental trinkets and throngs of people filling the castle streets drinking Pepsi and Coke. I remember walking all the way through the village, as far as I could go and stopping at a stone wall that looked down into the rolling hills below. “Oh my god,” I thought. “What had I done? What was I thinking?” And the voice that came, “but here you are, here you are.”
And later that night, alone in the brightly lit town square, watching a mime who stood in the center of 100 tourists, how at one point he told us with his hands that he needed actors for his show and the way my arm shot up, and I became one of 10 people who, without words, enacted a play he made up, each of us taking on some wonderfully stupid roll – I may have been the town sweeper who chased people with my broom. All I remember was laughing – laughing harder than I’ve probably ever laughed in my life for the absolute joy I felt. How could I be this happy? I wondered, so far from home, and alone?
“Here I am, here I am, here I am.”
And of course, San Miguel de Allende, one of my heart spots in the mountains of Mexico, where I’ve taken many creative journeys with my friend, Andrea Scher. Andrea and I started taking groups of women there a number of years ago and we keep returning. We return for the amber glow of magic hour, for the blue and salmon walls of the town, the church bells that ring on the hour and which you can hear from wherever you are. We come back to be woken up by the rooster’s cry in the morning, to walk the cobblestone streets and follow our noses to the taco stand. We return for the altars throughout town that are lit at night with candles and photos of loved ones who have departed.
All this beauty, it’s a lifeline for me, a way to wake myself up and take a big drink of magic from the mouth of the world.
That’s why I travel and why I’m inviting you to join a small band of women in San Miguel de Allende and us this coming March. This will be our only trip to Mexico in 2023, so if you’ve been wanting to join us, now is the time. Spots are limited, but the magic is everywhere.