“I look back at my 18-year-old self in the departures lounge and realise that one day, history will repeat. They'll buy a ticket, pack their bags and go. I understand that in letting them go my heart will shatter, but their adventure will be worth it.”
Sitting in the departures lounge, I nervously shuffled my boarding pass on the seat next to me, my eyes to the ground and tears streaming down my face. I glanced at my one-way ticket to Buenos Aires and reassured myself silently that this would be a great adventure.
I was 18 and unsure of the path ahead – all I knew is I had to take it. I was looking for something I hadn't found. Then the gate opened, and I boarded.
I saw my mother’s heartbreak as I waved her goodbye at the airport that day. Tears filled her eyes, and her shoulders slumped as I proceeded into departures. I would miss her – she's my mum after all – but only now that I am a mother too, do I truly understand the bittersweet pain she felt. She knew she had to let me go, but it went against every instinct in her being. My 27-year-old heart now aches for her.
That year flew by and entwined in my adventures were a series of emotional highs and sometimes lows that made me feel so far away from the safety of home. I would cry a river of tears, the loneliness all-consuming. The weight of feeling homesick fell heavy on my heart. The safety of what I knew and all that was familiar was so far away. Accompanied by the low times were amazing highs and immense self-growth. I learnt to stand on my own. I made huge mistakes. I learnt to persevere with the bad times, to trust people selectively and wisely and to use my intuition. I learnt not to judge and to be kind. I learnt to take leaps of faith because often they deliver you right where you're meant to be, and as a result, I met and fell in love with my now husband.
There were times when I was too poor to afford a bus ticket, and I lived on cold canned food. I once went for months without a hot shower – only swimming in the sea and camping on beaches, waking every day to nothing but a stunning French coastline kissing the sand. I ate obscure foods, danced to bongo drums until sunrise on the street in Rio, skinny dipped in tropical swamps, cycled the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia and jumped off a bridge in New Zealand. I've climbed volcanoes. I've shared a dorm room with 30 smelly backpackers, our beds stacked three people high. I've been braver than I ever knew I was.
My love for the world made me brave, but it could never have adequately prepared me for the moment I looked into my daughter’s eyes for the first time, almost seven years later. She completely unravelled me; she disarmed my bravery with her mere presence.
There's so much joy in sharing those first words and footsteps, and immense gratification in full tummies, clean faces, finger paintings and their infectious laughter.
There is fear. It's the fear that my babies don't know the extent of my love for them. The fear that anything may harm them is a fear bigger than my body can hold. How can a little person the size of a burrito make me more fearful than climbing a volcano?
And finally, there is the love that wraps around me and holds me together like glue but at the same time weakens me to the core. The world once so big to me is now so small. My world is held between two arms, the people I meet are the eyes of my two creatures first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Parties have been replaced by cuddles and bedtime stories, and no longer do I feel in charge of my own destiny because my destiny is in front of me, separate to my body.
I look back at my 18-year-old self in the departures lounge and realise that one day, history will repeat. They'll buy a ticket, pack their bags and go. I understand that in letting them go my heart will shatter, but their adventure will be worth it. My world will be big again because although they won't be in my arms, they'll be amongst the world. They'll be shaped by the experiences that change them and hopefully make them stronger, just like mine and my mother’s adventures did.
No matter where they go, I'll always be there with open arms to welcome them home and to pick up the pieces of their broken hearts. I'll kiss away their mistakes and love them fiercely when the world seems against them.
I'll do this because they are my heart, my travels gave them to me, and in turn, they became my biggest adventure.
Author - Stephanie Wicks
Stephanie Wicks is from Sydney, Australia. She is a mum of two little girls and passionate about her family, good food and wine, travel and all that goes in between.
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