I have travelled with a fair share of Patricias whom I’ve found to be a rare mix of headstrong and vulnerable all at once. They’re an unpredictable bunch and they’re definitely set apart from the Anna’s and the Kate’s. But I doubt if any of these generalizations matters when you think of how long this gal and I travelled together. Against the time-tested advice of Paul Theroux, I bullied Pat into buying tickets with me and insisted we needed two weeks to see a lot of Vietnam.
Thankfully, she obliged. The months leading up to our journey were quietly spent doing our own thing with the occasional tweet here and there. The first time we met offline, we had all of thirty minutes to quickly chat, break some more ice and wolf down dinner–which Pat had already consumed and I was craving for because the traffic was particularly awful. When it was obvious that schedules wouldn’t permit us to meet again, we both agreed to just meet at the airport and see what would happen.
A few days after we left Manila, we were on a boat in the middle of the ocean. We couldn’t quite sort out the direction it took or pinpoint where we had come from. There was just water and beautiful rock formations. At a distance it seemed to rain while on the opposite end a patch of light pierced through the water casting a lightness to a set of rocks. Toward evening, when the last light crawled into the horizon, you could hardly see anything. There was only this sense of a boat floating in the ocean. Tiny yellow lights glowing from the dining area were the only proof that we were indeed here, on this vessel, out at sea.
After dinner, Pat and I sat outside for a long time, peering out into the darkness and finally setting our gaze up at the expanse of sky. The stars hung low and appeared bright enough to touch. We drank hot tea, betraying our youth, and spoke long into the evening of hopes and things that felt important–things that needed to be said so they could come true.
It’s not easy travelling with others and though Theroux’s advice is sensible for travelers who are seekers, there’s still an argument to made for companionship. There are still journeys worth taking with others. The sense I got was that this could be the more immersive kind of trip–one where, as in all kinds of travel, you lose yourself in another person as you would lose yourself in another place. I remember my mom fondly calling this, “walking in someone else’s moccasins.” It’s necessary to meet yourself on the road but often the newness of an encounter with someone we already know makes the journey that much more thrilling than what we had first hoped for.
Sometimes I think we only see reflections of people. Empty shells which we substantiate with our own understanding and expectations. But after two weeks in a foreign country, having only each other against the dizzying cacophony of Vietnamese, I could sense that for once I had travelled apart from my loneliness and shared joy with a real person whose acceptance and openness to adventure made this all possible.
People are places, really, and to journey need not always be to cross borders and fly into exotic lands. We could just be stuck, on the same boat, peering at one sky and wondering about a life to come.
*The first entry of three because I travelled with three different Patricias. Apologies to John Green–I’ve gotten rid of the Katherines because I’ve never met any on the road.