Today's guest post (a great one on a topic I'm very familiar with!) was written by Val of This Way to Paradise. Val is convinced that she is half mermaid and is always looking for the next great beach. She writes the travel blog, This Way To Paradise, which is a guide to some of the best islands and beaches in the world. She is getting ready to head to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Follow along with her on her adventures! Find her on Facebook and Twitter.
I remember when the glorious colors of the sunset faded into darkness. It was then that it started to hit me. The feelings of ecstasy that I felt at having just witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen started to plunge my very being into loneliness with the fact that I was alone. Darkness started to descend on the island. I made my way back to the porch of the only hotel on Kai (also known as Kei Island) with its flickering lightbulb, where my dinner sat waiting for me.
In daylight, I had treasured the fact that I seemed to have this entire island and its beautiful beach to myself. I had swam in its gorgeous waters alone, had loved the break in having to make conversation with anyone in this untouched place where not even an Internet signal connected me to the world outside. But the sight of the table with five huge overflowing plates of food consisting of fried whole greasy fish, rice, water spinach, cold omelets, and green beans just made the blackness of the night and my mood seem even darker.
There is nothing like sitting at a table full of food set for one to make you realize that you are in Paradise, but you are in Paradise alone.
Halfway through my meal, it happened. The power went completely out and I sat in darkness. Darkness thick as black velvet surrounded me. I could see nothing as the whir from the wings of bats whizzed by my ears. I suddenly felt more alone than I'd ever felt in my life.
But then, the owner of the hotel appeared. He held a lighter over my head so I could eat. My eyes met his, and I knew I was never really alone. There was always someone watching, someone who cared.
This led me to go onward. Onward to Ambon, the bustling port city where I met the only other foreign tourist, who asked me, “What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?” and proceeded to guide me through its durian-scented streets showing me fruits I had never tasted and sights I'd never seen.
I then journeyed all the way to Papua to Raja Ampat where I swam with manta rays and starfish and sharks. I danced by the light of the full moon as I waited alone for the sun to come up. I listened to flying fish jump through the water. I saw people whose only transportation was a canoe glide through the waters with the fish they had caught that day.
I saw the happiness of people who had very little, and thought of the contrast with how busy my life had become. So busy, always surrounded by music and chatter and technology and people, that I could hardly bear to watch a sunset alone. I started listening to the silence around me and started looking at who I was and what it was I wanted from this life. I realized all that I still wanted to discover and that, more than anything, I just wanted to be still.
And so at the end of my journey, I came back to the Western world, and I started taking time each day to just listen. And to watch. And I started noticing the shadows of the clouds and not just the clouds. I noticed the light in between the tree branches. And I listened to what the breeze said to me.
And then I sold everything that I owned.
And pretty soon I'll be off on a journey. A journey to see more of this beautiful world and see more of its beautiful people, but, most of all, to see who I am in the center of it all.
Have YOU ever had this kind of defining moment during your travels?