Tuesday, Nov. 25
Mahajanga, Madagascar

I feel different. High. Happy. Content.

After nearly five months of travel, I’ve hit my stride. You know how one week of vacation isn’t enough, how by the time you reach the last day, you’ve just started to relax? I’ve jumped that hurdle, finally able to let my mind go free, float from town to town.

Months ago, I worried about what I’d do when I arrived home, where I’d live, how I’d find a job. Now, with just a month before I return to the States, I still ponder how it will all work out, but without the anxiety, even though my plans are no clearer. Instead of worry, I feel excitement.

I have so much to look forward to. There’s the obvious, seeing my family in time for Christmas. But I’m also psyched about the unknowns, where the next year will take me. Something tells me I’m riding a wave into the prime of my life, that great things are in store. As Joel Osteen of Houston’s Lakewood Church says — and yes, I’m a pious fan — “The best things in life are out in front of us!”

Until now, I’ve always looked ahead to my next planned task, working for another accomplishment. High school so I could attend a good college. College so I could make something of myself. Journalism school so I could get a job. A job to gain experience and make money to travel. And now I’m at the end of that line, the end of the vision, living the travel dream. And afterwards? A blank slate, for the first time in my life. Freedom! I tell myself the same words I used to repeat to my college roommates, when they fretted over what to do after graduation: I can do anything I want!

It’s true now in my head more than ever before. After seeing how some people in Africa lack opportunity, be it because of a lack of money or knowledge, or a mindset that keeps them from moving ahead, I want even more to take advantage of my education, enjoy my family, live as fully as the cliche.

Of course, I’m not always smiling. Long-term travel, particularly in developing countries, comes with its difficulties, enough lows to rival the highs. My mood is constantly in flux, sometimes dependent solely on how much breathing room I have in a bush taxi. And this trip hasn’t been particularly good to my body: my stomach often sends me running to the bathroom, my knee is constantly swollen and I’ve become a flabby version of my runner self.

But the journey been good to my soul, a part of me that doesn’t always get priority at home. My soul has grown, flourished and now hit equilibrium. Zen.

I imagine that those of you who bothered to read until the end of this rambling bit of optimism fall into two camps, the first of which is filled with the lucky people who can relate to such a spiritual feeling (including my two ever-optimistic, wander-worthy friends who have supported me on this exploration; you know who you are).

The others think I’m on drugs. But nope, I’m just high on travel, high on learning, high on living.