“Please fasten your seatbelts… Put away your electronic devices…”
I’ve already read every word in the inflight mag during my two previous flights this month, so I read my own diary and discover with delight a journal of contentedness, growth and gratitude. (Who knew?)
It’s a backward-looking journey to share, because there are lessons there.
24 November 2016, Wattay International Airport, Vientiane, Laos.
Across the tarmac to the plane, zigzagging between stalled Asian tourists all taking airplane selfies… Grin. Gratitude. I’m here for work.
I was 23 years old when I flew for the first time; 24 when I left the country for the first time. Since then, my every teenage dream has come true.
Dear Younger Self… The one who is literally nauseous with envy at others’ travels… The one who has no faith that she is unique in any way… The one yearning for adventures off the exotic horizon…
Dear Younger Self… You will go far. In travel and work and pleasure. Earnestly doing what you love. You will find yourself on the tarmac one day heading towards your 6th flight in that month across 3 countries. You will be working on projects to save wildlife and wild places, to lower childhood malnutrition, to build schools and wells and autonomy.
You will be fit and strong and lean enough (though that will always be a head- and heart-struggle), and you’ll just be recovering from cocktail-fueled partying in time for another jam-packed social calendar of a weekend. And you will feel so loved and nurtured by your village.
Chill, Younger Dominique. Wipe away that frown and those worries. Dream some more. They will all come true.
5 December 2016, Paksane, Bolikhamxay, Laos
Today I stood on a podium again. (Oh, how nonchalantly I can pretend to say that!) It was only in my age group. Out of a very small field. But it was a real podium. And it was for running! (5’19 my average speed for 12km – I’d aimed for 5’40.) And so many PBs (Personal Bests) there: 12km, 10km, 5km, 2 mile, 1 km… Pretty damn happy with that!
What a reminder to reevaluate my beliefs about my ability. A realization that there has been a recalibration. That, here on the wrong side of 40, my best is not behind me!
And I have a crowd of friends with me. We’re all cheering eachother on. A union of friendships and exercise and affirmation and achievement.
16 January 2017, 30,000ft, somewhere between Cape Town, South Africa and Vientiane, Laos
Homeward bound from my homeward journey. It’s been a trip in which I have found my home again. “I am an African…”
It was in the soil and the flesh that I found my soul again. In the charred landscape of Red Hill, the soft bosoms of Belinda and all those other great warm welcoming huggers… In the sunshine and the wind and the vagaries of a country at once so warm and so fraught. Even in the guilt and the angst that I find myself so gratefully free of elsewhere. Guiltily so.
All the layering of memory. Of tripping along Red Hill’s paths, shores and crags with Kenneth. Understanding that I am fynbos – that is the landscape and the essence of my heart. I need to burn at regular intervals. But then Kenneth gets attacked, not I. Yet he apologizes to me.
But I remember too the night swims in the surf with Matthias, drives in the car as we sang ‘Hall of Fame’ together… Of that voice – Daniela’s – duoing with her dad. Never did I think my kin could do that. And twinning with my twin. Feeling I’ve come home. Biking and sharing and confiding and laughing with her.
I have found my home again. And, conversely, perversely, it sets me free to be more fully present while away.
6 March 2017, 30,000ft, somewhere between Chiang Rai, Thailand and Vientiane, Laos
Well, I have always said “I am a late developer.” This year I’ve learned another important saying: “It is what it is.” Now, as I take off from Chiang Rai airport, I can endorse both of those. This late developer is putting in faster times after 40 than she ever did before.
Age is what it is, but I don’t need to accept a slowing down yet.
Yesterday I stood on the Golden Triangle International Triathlon podium again. Way more important than that 3rd place (in my age category) was my performance: cutting 4 minutes off last year’s bike time and a full 10 min off the run in the 1.7km/52km/12km event. And I’m only just getting started.
Recalibrations. Recalculations. New dreams. Silver linings.