The Bottom of My Lungs

I’m nearly five months into a six-month solo backpacking jaunt. But despite the element of aloneness, I’m almost never without company.

Sometimes the company is better than others. Faithful readers remember Vern, who I couldn’t shake off my Everest-bound trail fast enough (and, owing to my lousy karma, I ran into on the beach in Kerala months later). Then there was Meghan the Canadian, who was a true pleasure to be with–through trying to keep a straight face at the ashram in Nepal to zany adventures in southern India.

But nothing really compares to the company of real friends, friends from home, friends from other moments of life, that know me beyond this trip and its inherent character confines. I can be whoever I want when I meet other travelers out here, but real friends know Anne Marie as I truly am. And that might just be the most comforting thing in the world when you’re five months into a six-month, sometimes lonely, solo backpacking jaunt.

I was lucky enough to spend the past five weeks entirely in the company of such friends. I’m way behind on blog posts, but it’s because I’ve been soaking in the revitalizing lift of being with close friends. Frankly, I haven’t had much time to think of anything else, and even the winter holidays passed with only a sideways glance cast at the calendar.

Now that the last of my friends has left and gone back to their real life–and it was just this morning from a fancy hostel in Bangkok–I can sit down and recount the incredible memories recently made. That’s what I’ll be doing over the coming days: Finally writing about the holidays spent with Sameeta, Emily and Caralyn between Malaysia, Singapore and Bali; a visit to Katie and Tim’s Peace Corps site and exploring the cities of Cambodia; and the most recent visit of Eric, a sight for sore eyes and a wonderful companion in Bangkok and a handful of luscious Thai islands.

The past weeks felt like taking a long, deep breath–and finally, after holding my breath around Chinese soldiers with rifles in Tibet, gasping for thin air on Everest, and covering my mouth and choking on fumes in India–finally, finally, taking that breath and feeling the bottom of my lungs, clean and true.

Be patient. I’m just beginning a slow, steady exhale, and there’s a lot to tell. Behind eyes full of tears from laughing so hard, veins full of alcohol of fancy cocktails served in rooftop bars, and a brain blurry with delirious happiness of so much love all around, it might take me awhile to get the details just right. Stay tuned, friends.

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