No two travels are the same. In some ways, it is metamorphosis. It changes one, so subtly that often, one is caught unaware between losing parts of oneself and/or evolving into someone, however better, different.
That is why and how travel is interesting. We always see destinations with new eyes, no matter how many times we return to the same one, summer after summer.
I have been challenging such fact by immortalizing my trips, encapsulating the mood and the melody into something I can reopen and relive at whim. You see, I fancy looking back, even to aching.
And so I collect mementos from trips— sun-aged, whitewashed, and at times, tie-dyed. Sometimes, they come in forms of fragments– verses chopped from whole love letters; love-letters fractured to fit into postcards; postcards with stamps licked with the aftertaste of it-just-happened kisses.
I collect things to remind me of feelings; of the fleeting.
In the movie Heroes, Sylar’s adoptive mother collected snow globes. I guess that’s what appealed to the geek in me. Despite my indifference to trinkets, because above all they only collect dust, I caved in to the idea of containing entire worlds in glass domes.
I started the collection not long after unearthing the genius of Gabriel Gray, on my first trip to Brisbane a couple of years ago. Like Sylar, snow globes are a toss between stubborn and special. Lugging around glass figurines was not particularly advisable for a backpacking female. Especially because I didn’t know how to exactly handle it– hand carry the fragile stash or check it in because it contained liquid.
Over the course of my travels, I have been pulled aside by border security one too many times. Round, liquid-containing unidentified objects, heavily wrapped in newspaper– lugged around by a Philippine passport holder with “Lanao del Norte” printed as birthplace– warranted suspicion more than I ever deserved.
Then again, that was maybe part of the thrill. At the end of the day, it was always rewarding to successfully “smuggle” a snow globe of one country to another: the closest I have gotten to conquering universes.
When I first migrated to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, at the beginning of 2008, I was invited to dinner by a Filipino family. In the middle of Magic Sing, I excused myself to get a glass of water. But what was supposedly a minute, turned into almost an hour, when a magnet-laden fridge commanded my attention.
The magnets bore names of cities the family has visited over the years. I pored over the fridge’s double doors like a little girl stumbling upon a map for the first time; like someone born blind and was learning the braille as if it would carve eyes out of her fingertips. The magnets sure seemed like badges worn proudly by the household, telling stories of adventures like how trophies and photo albums did in the olden days.
I knew since, I wanted to do just that: welcome people into a home that will live to tell my own adventures– even if at that time, I only had a small bar fridge to fill with magnets.
STARBUCKS CITY TUMBLERS
On Valentines day many, many years ago, I had coffee with someone who, to this day, I couldn’t afford to see hurt. It was during a time where I was neck-deep with poverty. But I managed to scrimp enough to buy myself a grande, if only through that, he and I would be on the same sphere in life.
I’ve always been successful in armoring myself with an insincere, shallow and superficial facade. But inside, I took notes. I saved coffee-stained table napkins, a stirrer that we once shared, the empty bags of brown sugar we used to pick over whites– from that date, and all the coffee dates after that.
As with everyone in their early twenties, we, too, have had to move on with life. He was going to the states, and I, to the bottom of the world. We shared one last coffee on a Tuesday afternoon, with the promise that we will have another one, one day someday, anywhere in the world.
Between then and now, I may have been looking for him in Starbuckses all over the planet. I would buy a city tumbler, to mark the fact that I have been somewhere in the world, claiming his promise. It’s been six years and more than two dozens of Starbucks city tumblers later, and I still haven’t found him. Maybe not ever.