Every now and then without thinking about it, I move part of my body and catch a glimpse of something that didn’t always used to be there. My body is a map full of memories of my travels.
I have a scar across the back of my right ankle that looks like teeth marks from falling off of a scooter in Goa. Initially a scrape, it got infected after going swimming. A few days later I got a $0.50 Tetanus shot just to be on the safe side.
I have a dime-sized circular scar on the inside my left ankle from a mysterious bug bite I got in Istanbul. The bite took a long time to heal because of the anklet I wore given to me by a friend in Goa kept rubbing against it. I only succumbed to removing the anklet to allow myself to heal when my ankle was so swollen that I was limping.
I have multiple scars on my arms and back from unfortunate bed bug bites from hostels all over Europe. I never caught the suckers in action, but I have the scars to prove they were there. Oddly enough, I’m always the only person in the hostel dorm to get bit by bed bugs. I think I have sweet blood.
I’m not sure if the faint scars on my right foot are from sliding down a trail while bicycling through rice fields in Ubud, Bali, in 2012, or from the multiple tumbles I’ve suffered after refusing to trade my flip-flops for sturdier shoes. Still, I can clearly recall the stinging pain in my foot while struggling to pull the bike out of the bushes. I just brushed away the blood and hobbled to a nice lunch near the fields.
Sometimes I forget that I have my nose pierced until the stud catches the light. Then I remember waking up on a Wednesday in Kochi, deciding that I wanted to get it pierced, and following through with it on Saturday in Mumbai.
My right wrist is covered in bracelets I’ve acquired in Brazil, India, Nepal, and Turkey. Bracelets from Thailand and Bali have long since fallen off. My right wrist hasn’t seen the light of day in three years. When one of my bracelets accidentally falls off and gets lost forever, I’m sad at first, then I realize it’s not so bad having a piece of me remain somewhere else in the world.
My fingers show off rings from Turkey and a ring with an elephant on it gifted to me by a friend who knows how much I fell in love with elephants after visiting a sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The elephant ring is one of my most favorite things.
I have so many tan lines that I’m always multiple shades of brown. I’ve learned to embrace the awkward lines that can’t be hidden when I wear tank tops or swimsuits.
I don’t have tattoos, (yet…don’t have a cow, Mom and Dad), but I do have a few scars. They may not be pretty, but they tell stories that make me smile whenever I look at them. I would rather live with them than have never had these stories. The scars and mementos keep the memories alive of some of the most enriching experiences of my life. All while traveling.
I know they aren’t extraordinary. I’m sure there are others with more remarkable tales to tell. But this my story and in the end, it’s all I will have. I love maps. Ever since I started traveling I am constantly looking at maps to learn more about the world. I am a storyteller. My body is a map, and it pinpoints my stories. What’s your story?