You were my first. And forever I will remember you for all that you did for me. You changed me just enough for me to leave my comforts behind, just enough to step out of my boundaries and explore, just enough to know I’m not ever really alone and just enough to make me lust for more of your kind.
At 34, a mother, a Tamil woman, visually impaired and surrounded by loved ones who have always worried about me and kept me cocooned, I thought I would never do it. I thought I would never travel alone, see the world and become independent of my disability. After all, taking a trip downtown Toronto to a new location in and of itself is a big production of planning and frustration at times. It seemed it was never going to happen; it seemed Toronto was going to be my safe haven always, but this is what impulses are created for…
I woke up one day on a warm July morning, my son away with his father on a 5 day camping trip, packed up my bags and got a ticket to fly out solo the next day for a 5 day romance with you.
Anyone that knows me will attest to my resort going, can’t touch the toilet seat, can’t use anything that’s not new, must be in a 4+ star hotel and can’t travel alone, ways. Yet for the first time ever, having always loved to travel but never having the sense of being well-traveled, I booked a 4 bed dorm in a hostel and off I went to meet you.
From the get go, the beauty that is your city and ocean excited me and gave me a sense of wonder. I met people from all over the world, on adventures of their own and realized very quickly what a small fish I am in this vast space called Earth. The stories, the conversations and the ideas that were shared were simply beyond me. It’s incredible how you can meet those who are so much like you and those whose perspectives are worlds apart and both can capture your curiosity.
My most memorable moment with you was at your suspension bridge, staying long past closing time to gaze into the sky; just me and serenity for company. Solitude, as I came to know is quite far from the feeling of loneliness. More accurately it’s as Thomas Mann once said, “Solitude gives birth to the original in us.”
When I finally left the bridge, well after sunset, I felt anxious about how I was going to get back to the hostel. And then I met her standing at the bus stop, waiting on what I hoped was the route back. She was the epitome of wisdom. At 90 years old, she had traveled the world, visiting over 40 countries, starting at the age of 34, as a woman who hardly got out, as a mother, as a social worker, much like me—how ironic that our paths should cross. We made the 2 hour trip back to the downtown core, talking about life, love and travel. Her motto: fill your life with many roots (God, your children, your love, yourself, your passion) so that if one of your roots becomes weak it will not shatter or break you; all your loves will continue to sustain you just as the roots of a tree do.
My 5 day romance in your city came to an end all too soon, and though we are only 4 provinces apart, you gave me something far beyond the average traveler’s experience; you gave me hope and strength to pursue my passion. Though my love affair with you was brief, you were the “one” that kept me safe enough to take my first step solo, that spread my wings to yearn for more and that filled my heart with gratitude knowing that you will not be my only, nor will you ever be my last.
With love that brought me to LIFE (Living In Freedom Everyday),