Chapter 1: Leonora The Traveler
It was dark. Without the vibrant hues lighting up my eyes, the world turned dull. There was nothing, neither black nor white. The deeply knitted void offered no solace.
If anyone were to ask me what it felt like to be here, I'd have a simple description - falling into a sludge of quicksand, sliding snail-paced into the depths of the abyss.
The cold icy breeze blew into the back of my neck. The wintry crisp compelled my parched lips to quiver. I tried to open my eyes, but to no avail. I moved my hands, but they refused to cooperate. All my limbs trembled, weakness and pain had eaten them from the inside out. The only thing that had been working for me was my hearing. Aside from the blowing wind, I heard the rattling of metal as it struck the ground.
Is this the underworld? Alas, the snowstorm has spelled my end? Or was I buried underground? But what the hell am I hearing?
How did it come to this? I wonder. Well, I know where it began. Let’s start right at the very beginning.
Hi, I am Leonora. Just call me Leo for short—a free-spirited sojourner.
A boring lady who loved to run from place to place with a big smile on her face. I am a potful of laughter and fun. Or at least that’s what I like to say when describing myself. The year-long journeys and adventures had led me to become a bundle of grins and beams.
I was far from the smug, cold, lonely, and unhappy corporate pickle that I was a couple of years ago. Yeah, that's what my colleagues tell me. Not that I was expecting them to like me.
The new experience I found during my airplane escapades changed me for good.
With my own two eyes, I saw the magnificent beauty of this blue planet. Secrets withheld. The hidden wonders. The marvelous sceneries, deemed exclusive for those who seek... and pay big bucks.
The exquisiteness of nature and the sculptures of time.
The breathtaking scene of creation.
The brilliant sights humbled the contempt I hid in the depths of my heart.
I never thought that a little internet ad would show me a hobby of a lifetime. A lifelong pursuit that flipped my monochromatic days upside-down. A renewed sense of purpose.
Who would have thought? A simple promo from an airline would run the gears of everything…
My ventures to the unknown.
I started my travels in Oceania. Sailing the far seas, I discovered the marvelousness of the Great Barrier Reef. Trembled before the Great Ocean Road in Australia. The Waitomo caves of New Zealand.
The first voyage transformed me.
Unexplainable happiness bubbled from the tip of my soles up to the top of my head. And with every step that I took towards the unknown, the mirth on my once-stiff face turned deeper. I felt satisfied. It was a thrill that I never experienced within the compounds of my house or my squared office. Something that the large bustling cities couldn't provide or offer.
Peace and exquisiteness.
The first journey that I took was like a drug. A small dose and you're hooked, I mean, booked for another taste. It was addicting. Thus, I returned home thirstier and hungrier for more adventure.
One day, I discovered myself sitting on the customized crimson couch. I bought it from Pottery Barn. Costly, but worth it. My favorite spot where I just let my thoughts run wild. Taking a fleeting breather before finishing a business plan for Legato's expansion. That flippant president threw the heavy lifting part at me again.
A warm cup of self-made cappuccino laying beside me. With a blue-inked ballpen and a short green notebook, I hustled. Yet, I soon discovered that instead of a business plan, I wrote something else. It was about the destination I wished to go to. And before I knew it, I was already scouring the internet for new marvels to visit.
The little notebook quickly turned into a slovenly list of wiggling letters. It was full of tinkers and erasures. As I surfed the internet, I held the small green booklet in my arms. A grin breaking out as I searched for new countries to visit. Touching my usually stiff face, I felt the edges of my mouth curling up.
It had glee as its flavor.
I picked up the pen again, letting it hop on the smooth paper surface. My tickly hands wrote two sentences. One on the top of the page. And another below the page. I gazed at it and nodded.
‘Bucket List on the topmost part.’
‘How much? On the bottom part.’
You thought it’s cheap?
Making ends meet was hard! I tell you! It was challenging! I even had to spend some days in hunger after eating only sandwiches and cheap fruits every day for an entire month. Still, I was happy. I had to give up my chocolate cravings. Heck, that was hell! It was a worthy sacrifice that I made. After all, I chose the priciest travel plans. If I am going to do it anyway, I plan to travel with a bang.
Every buck I could save made me excited.
After all, I knew where it was going.
Scrimping money, all in the name of my newfound hobby! So what else is the next step? Buy the frigging air ticket, book the hotel, search for the best buys, and prepare the backpack.
In a matter of months, another adventure was set to begin.
I waltzed through the breathtaking view of the tropical islands in Southeast Asia. Hitting island after island. Coron, Bali, Palawan, Boracay, Hsipaw, Jaco Island, and a few hidden islands.
In East and Central Asia, I toured through the beautiful Jeju Island. Drank Yoruzo Tea as I watched the cherry blossom season in cultural Japan. I watched the pink flowers drifting along with the light whispers of the wind. Freer than a dove, the petals went where they're blown— following where fate sends them.
I also conquered the wonders of China. The Yellow Mountain, Precipitous Pillars, the Li River, and the Alpines of Jiuzhaigou. Don't forget the iconic Great Wall. In awe after witnessing the architectural wonders in bustling India - the Taj Mahal and Delhi. Believe it or not. Traveling was far better than reading those history books and feature magazines.
My adventurous spirit carried me to the wonders of the deserts in the Middle East. I saw the rise of the gulf's futuristic cities. The unique mixture of the ancient heritages as I jump from one country to another. The Holy City of Jerusalem, the Estefan, the Petra, the historical Dead Sea, and many more.
I truly felt the thrill of ingenuousness springing from the depths of my heart. My face slowly transformed from the usual 'hardly thawed' ice into a bundle of wild grins. My sudden change even made my parents tremble. After they saw me grinning so much, my parents almost invited an exorcist.
It was a type of happiness that I didn't find in my work. Not even the bliss when I ran an enormous project could compare.
In Europe, I held my breath after seeing the picturesque nature of this continent. The Swiss Alps, the Cliffs of Moher, the Kirkjufell, and the Giant's Causeway. Soon flipping through the Caucasus Mountains, and the palaces of various European royals.
I could feel the ancient European ambiance seeping into my bones. The flashes of history passing through my wide pupils. I felt like I went back to the past, especially during my stay in old cultural cities. Some roads and streets even had their own stories of romance, tragedy, and comedy.
My journey didn't stop there. I also saw the untouched wilderness of Africa, bringing me to another incredible adventure that would change my views. I beheld the beauty of Victoria Falls, the Avenue of the Baobabs, and the Egyptian Pyramids. The Hoggar Mountains, the Namaqualand, and many more. The unique flavor of life kept me in wonder.
Then, I reached the untamed riches of the Latin America Continent. My heart galloped after seeing different wonders such as the Machu Picchu, the Iguazu Falls, and the Easter Island. The Perito Moreno Glacier, Cano Cristales, the Fernando de Noronha, and of course, the Amazon.
Still, everything has an end.
I finally reached the continent of North America. My voyages took me to the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the Yosemite National Park, Hawaii, Death Valley, and the Rocky Mountains.
I had seen and experienced a lot. But the thing that stuck on me was the food. I realized I could picture the image of the place I visit based on their menu. Each place had its specialty, speaking volumes about its history and heritage. To speak and understand a culture, you must also taste their local cuisine.
Different cultures have different tastes.
Filled and fulfilled.
I also learned another thing.
Do not fully believe what you read or hear in the news and media. See for yourself! Just don't go to the war zones. Only a stupid man will do so. There was once a man who sought such a thrill. And the thrill was what he got.
He turned from an adventurer to a captive for three years and lived off eating bugs. I wonder if he would still want another electrifying adventure once he arrives home. Though it’s good that he escaped and was able to tell the tale.
The journey that I took had finally reached its end. It ended simply because I had already spent my saved-up money. It took me ten years to reach this point. It took away most of my savings, but… it was worth it. During my travels, I found out a lot about the meaning of life through the lives of others and mine.
I had searched the depths of my soul.
The meaning of a good life varies from person to person. For me, it wasn't money or position. Not in my comfort zone. I had seen its meaning in those dark, unknown lands. In the blissful and tiring adventures.
The life that I sought is not only for me.
The art of adventure is free for everyone.