learn, live

Why I got on the plane anyway

Iguassu Falls

The last time New York City had a hurricane on the way all the panic and grocery store raiding turned out to be a big waste of time, as expected from we Floridians. So when I left for Nashville in October and heard murmurs of a maybe, could be follow up, I thought nothing of it. Even when the airline got antsy and rescheduled my flight a day later just in case, I thought nothing of it.

A week later I was still in Nashville, crying over photos of my neighborhood flooded, and panicking about missing my flight home which was the means to an end…my next flight to Brazil. I still had to get my visa between 2 and 4 pm in midtown with subways not running, I caught a cold, I needed to change my packed clothes from winter to summer attire, and I had guests arriving to rent out my room while I’d be gone. Not to mention I had a new roommate moving in the second bedroom.

When I finally got a flight back with 24 hours left before the next one, the pilot discovered mechanical problems as soon as we’d boarded. I can’t articulate how a plane full of New Yorkers who’d been stranded from home in the south reacted to the possibility of another day, but no better than I did thinking Brazil was off.

When we fortunately made it on another plane, I finally got in at 11 pm and experienced lower Manhattan’s black out firsthand. Much like I Am Legend, there were people to be found, much less cell phone service, power, or traffic lights. My cab from the airport was my only way out, so the driver gave me five minutes to run inside before he would drive me to a friend’s to stay. I used my cell phone flashlight to climb the stairs, examine my apartment, dispose of a dead mouse, and pack whatever felt like what I wanted to bring to Brazil.

After a fortune fare, I stayed 120 blocks north on the Upper West Side, where I would wake up to find my new roommate had backed out the day rent was due. I now had 10 hours to get my visa, secure another roommate, finish the work I’d gotten behind on, and get to the airport. I still had to meet my renters and let them in my apartment downtown during the fiasco, while going through a hundred tissues an hour with my cold.

What frustrated me more than all of this stress hitting at once, were text messages asking if I was sure I should go and if these weren’t a bunch of giant signs I should back out…the day of a free trip to Brazil. First of all, a merely proud person wouldn’t cancel a two-week vacation to South America, but travel writers legitimately do not have the luxury of backing out. You simply can’t tell all the people who’ve made arrangements for you that you’ve changed your mind. But there are other reasons you know better.

When you’ve had that one experience on each trip that makes you stop and forget about being lost or frustrated or tired or dirty and realize why you came, you know the feeling, and you crave it over again and everywhere else. It’s the feeling that made you realize you had to be a traveler, by profession, and as a lifestyle. And when you’re chasing that, you’d never settle for staying home and being responsible or practical or careful.

The truth is, it would have been much easier to stay, rest up, feel better, and sort out the mess that is my life, but I knew what was coming. Having never been to Brazil, I knew somewhere in there that moment was waiting, and I needed that high to get through everything else. And when we arrived at Iguassu Falls and gradually approached the Devil’s Throat passing the over 250 waterfalls on the way…it happened.

The giant cascading monstrosity came into view, but it took over more than the view. The crashing sound and ricocheting mist and fresh smell encompassed me and hundreds of other people in awe. My shoulders relaxed and I closed my eyes and felt the breeze and took in all the surroundings captivating my senses, and I knew this trip was worth it. As my face and hair were soaked and I struggled to use my camera without killing it, the moment outdid the attraction and the whole experience exceeded that idea we had of stopping by to see a famous waterfall really quickly. And even when I would be back in the giant mess of my life, I would have this in my memory and be able to feel it again from a photo or mention…or the mist encompassing the city today.

And the moment came over and over again in the amazon chasing caiman, in Salvador dancing to African drums, in Rio looking over the city through the clouds…I felt it. And if that doesn’t sound familiar to you—and maybe moreso if it does—you have to hit the road. Plan that trip in your head, book the tickets, map your route, pack your bags. You need it, more than you know, especially if you don’t have the time. And I promise it will put that giant mental list of reasons you can’t go into perspective, much like everything else in your head.

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