A cool morning wind swept through an oddly German town delicately settled on the cold sea waters of Namibia. An off-white van peeled through the morning dew and then stopped abruptly allowing the sliding door to swing open just long enough for me to pop in. With a quick “hello” we shot off to the brilliance of the coastal dunes for a morning of sand boarding.
We arrived under blue skies and stood deep in the shadow of an imposing dune. We stuffed our snowboards under our arms and snaked our way up a ledge of sand towards the top. In a group of 7, I was the only guy, and I didn’t have a problem with that, but I’d long come to the conclusion that I couldn’t have another relationship until I settled, or at least slowed down.
But within seconds of seeing her, I had changed my mind.
The first time I saw Tiffany (of World meets Girl) she was sitting on a ledge of sand trying to catch her breath. And well I’m not one to believe in love at first sight, I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t bungee jump through my stomach when I saw her. I pretended to be short of breath so I could plop down for a moment beside her, catch her name, find out where she was from, and ask her what the hell she was doing on a sand dune in Namibia.
There was an instant connection, and for the rest of the day I constantly found myself trying to be near her. I was intrigued. However, after a couple runs on the board, I managed to smash my face for 5 stitches worth of damage. With a Hitler-esque band-aid-stache, I rode off to the clinic, and Tiffany went another direction. We met up for dinner as a group later, and I again vied for her attention. When I had it, I couldn’t help but fall into intrigue.
What happened next can only be summed up by a passage from my up-coming book from Africa:
“There’s desperation in the evening wind as we walk away from the restaurant. I feel like every step is leading me towards the expiration date of this moment, this stupid feeling that clings hopelessly to my desires. I walk a half step behind her, and fight the urge to say something cheesy, something honest, something about how I feel. The corner approaches and I grab her by the waist and twist her into a casual hug. I restrain my tequila-inspired thoughts, and simply wish her goodnight.
At the corner, she turns left and I right. In the morning she’ll head north, as I travel south. The road is cruel sometimes; it’s a constant reminder of what you don’t have, or what you could have. In the films, I would turn around and run after her. But in reality I know that doesn’t work. I’ll never see Tiffany again, the road has taught me as much.”
You see, I’m not the type of person to miss someone, certainly not someone I just met. Sometimes I long for some sort of stability in my life, and I imagine things to be different than they are. It’s always a girl with me. It’s always a girl that makes me think that I could settle, or that I should travel north when I’m headed south. But at the end of the next day, I’ve usually forgotten their name and am again intoxicated by the road.
But four days later, as I crossed the border into South Africa, I was still thinking about Tiffany. I couldn’t stop. Two weeks later, as I arrived in Cape Town, it was still this pretty Swiss girl from a sand dune in Namibia that is dragging through my thoughts and causing me to second guess the night I let her turn left, and let myself turn right. I should have chased after her.
However, travel has also taught me that you can’t predict the future. The road can always surprise you. This time, it was a facebook message that turned it all around. “Are you in Cape Town? I’m in Victoria Falls and on the next flight there.”
In Cape Town, we had a week of sushi, road trips, and wandering through the city. A week of laughter, storytelling, and a fair amount of unsuccessful wooing on my part. A week we spent together in Cape Town before I again moved south, and she north. But on the night I left, I saw in her eyes, that she was feeling the same as I was. I knew we’d eventually be together. I just needed, again, to let her go.
Yesterday, after one last-minute cancelled flight, and one flight I somehow booked for the wrong month (don’t ask), I arrived at the airport in Amsterdam. Yesterday, after some 90 days, a couple dozen silly snapchat photos, and a couple hundred thousand facebook messages, I got to see Tiffany again. Yesterday, after some 2160 hours, a couple skype dates, and more stupid emoticon kisses than I’m willing to admit, I got to have a first kiss with my girl.
Today, I start a new adventure, and this time she and I will take to the road together. You see, when I met Tiffany she was a bit lost. Sometimes she tells me I saved her, she tells me that I put her on a path to happiness, she tells me that I’ve helped her escape from her cage. But what she might not know is she’s the one that saved me. I was alone, wandering this world in search of self-satisfaction and finding only loneliness. I was in love with the road, and depressed by the fact I had no one to share its beauty with. I couldn’t look out at a beautiful view, or be inspired by the world without looking to my side and feeling like my life was missing something.
Happiness really means nothing, if you have no one to share it with. Happiness becomes momentary rather than residual; it pops out for moments than disappears into the shadows. When you’re alone, you find yourself chasing those moments of happiness, but the longer you’re alone, the shorter those moments feel, and the farther you have to search to find them.
Tomorrow, Tiffany and I will leave Amsterdam and head east. Where we go from there is an open book, and for the first time in my life it doesn’t really matter to me where I am. Like me, Tiffany wants life to be adventure, she wants to explore. Like me, she is driven, passionate and wants to succeed. And like me, for Tiffany success isn’t defined by money or fame, but by happiness. And me? I’ve never been happier than since the day I met Tiffany.