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Wanderer

Genre: YA

Blurb: "I'm done. No more sheep, cows, pigs, or people not knowing what Marinara sauce is." City girl -- un-named throughout the story -- moves to her home country and ends up in the countryside. Not willing to admit that moving was a mistake, she feels like she doesn't belong anywhere. Tired of making plans that never work in the end, she decides to forget about making plans for her next move: traveling the world in search of herself and of what life is truly about.

Word Count: 1,848

Chapter 1:

I'm done. No more sheep, cows, pigs, or people not knowing what Marinara sauce is. If I have to explain the difference between pasta sauce and salad dressing to one more person, I will go insane. Moving to the country, in literally another country, was supposed to be my escape from my incredibly dull city life, but I did not sign up for this; no way. If there was a club for people with tendencies to constantly shoot themselves in the foot, I'd probably have become president by now.

"You know, it's actually kind of funny that you felt like you didn't belong back home, but you don't belong over there either," Olivia would jab at me. Olivia was my best friend, and even though we had been friends since the 1st grade not even I was safe from her way of saying things so matter-of-factly.

I used to live in a city. It wasn't as beautiful or busy as Los Angeles was, but it was still enough for me to eventually get tired of it. Living in the same place can wear on you until you lose sight of yourself, and I was there for half my life. Pretentious office jobs with no hope of a social life, traffic both in and out of rush hour, and the mental exhaustion that came with having a 9 to 5 job. My life was completely and utterly mundane with almost no chance of seeing my friends, but at least if I didn't see my friends it was out of choice.

Moving to another country, my home country, was supposed to be fun. My life in the city had resulted in my feeling like I was just another stranger struggling to find herself, and I'd be damned if I didn't go without a fight. After countless weeks of research and meticulous planning, I was finally ready. I was moving back home. Goal: get my life back.

"Go for it! You're still young and can make mistakes. You can come back if things don't go as planned," my coworkers would cheer for me as I told them the big news. I booked my ticket and set out onto this new and exciting journey. Unfortunately, what people don't tell you is that things rarely go as planned, but it wouldn't be until much later that I would learn that life doesn't happen in the form of plans.

"At least now I know who to call when I need someone to kick me while I'm down," I retorted. Even if Olivia was right, I never enjoyed admitting that I was wrong. We may be 4,000 miles away, but our Skype conversations always made me forget the distance each time we talked, not to mention she was my unofficial therapist whenever I needed it. With a sense of ultimate defeat I muttered, "I had everything lined out: what areas to live in, my rental budget, job connections if I needed them--everything for nothing at all..."
I never could have foreseen living in the country. Suburbs would have been more manageable than this. I always dreamt of getting married and having a house in the country, away from all of the city noise but there are two types of "country" here; both enough to make me reassess my marriage plan: the type of country where the majority of the population is below the poverty line and doesn't possess the skills or resources to get a job with a good company and the type of country where you make a living out of the natural resources given to you and become a farmer. Lucky me, I ended up in a place where I'm right in the middle of both.

"You can't expect to hide from life by holing up in your room and binging on Netflix all day. How long do you think that's going to last? Either face your current situation or come back." Olivia demanded. Admittedly, I preferred staying locked inside my room so that I could avoid the same harping questions: Do I have any kids, am I married, do I just not want a family, etc.

Olivia's words resonated with me later that night. If I don't belong here either, where do I belong? I yearned for being in a city again, but I wasn't ready to come back. Frustrated at the lack of solutions I could come up with, I decided that it was time to call it a night. Maybe an idea would come to me in my sleep. If it happened to The Beatles and Salvador Dali, maybe an idea will come to me in a dream.


Exploring the world. For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to do was take a journal with me, a camera, and see the world. My hope was that if I went out and saw the world then I'd learn more about life and consequently about myself. I had no idea of knowing whether traveling the world would be possible, let alone if it would work, but even if it was a mistake it would be at least another learning experience.

Armed with newfound hope and a lot of courage the next morning, I went downstairs to the living room where my parents were located: dad was watching the news and mom was reading the book I had recommended to her a few days ago. "I need to discuss something with you," I informed them while cautiously walking down the steps, attempting to hide my nervousness at the incoming bit of news I was going to share with them.

"I'm not happy here," I began explaining to my parents, trying to select my words as delicately as possible. My dad didn't miss a beat; no sooner did I begin pleading my case in front of my judge and jury as my dad immediately shut me down of saying anything further. Desperately invoking every bit of strength within me, I continued making my case as I had rehearsed in my mind while walking down those stairs, anticipating my dad's reaction. My mom didn't say anything, but her eyes could say it all: while I may not have my dad's support, I had hers.

It wasn't easy, but my dad eventually agreed to my idea of travel with a few conditions: at least five phone calls each day with constant updates on everything that occurred during my travels. "Miss any of these phone calls and I'm getting you on the next plane back to us; keep our agreement and I'll make sure you're fully funded to do this," my dad declared.

"THANK YOU!" I squealed, hugging my parents tightly. I ran upstairs and hugged Temba, the only companion I've trusted all of my secrets to, a stuffed baby lion plush that my dad got me when The Lion King first came out. Temba went everywhere that I went; once when I was much younger, I needed to get my immunization shots to travel the country and I took Temba with me. My parents had told me that everyone that traveled to other countries needed an immunization shot, and Temba was part of the family now. The nurse that gave me my shot was very kind, as she must have noticed I was nervous by the way I was clinging to Temba as if I was more terrified of him running away from the shot than I was. She asked if she could give him a shot and that was the beginning of our travels together with my parents.

"We're going to see the world," I spoke softly, my eyes gazing at Temba, my friend and guardian of so many years. I began surveying my room, deciphering in my mind what needed to be charged a day before leaving: camera, iPod, cellphone. Settling for only taking a couple pieces of clothing, I sifted through my closet and chose the pieces I'd feel more comfortable in. While setting up my luggage, my mom walked into my room to check my progress--ultimately with the feeling of wanting to find out more before seeing her only child explore the world on her own.

"Your dad is asking me if it's too late for him to bribe you to not go through with this," she mentions pleasantly to me before continuing, eyeing the items I've already placed inside my luggage. "I told him that you're old enough to do this and we have to support your decision, believing that you're strong enough to do this for yourself." As she speaks with sheer determination in her voice, I can see a distant sadness in her eyes. As if realizing that she's let her guard down, her tone hastily changes. "I'll be checking my emails constantly for updates on how you're doing and what you're up to. You're taking Temba with you, right?" She inquires as she sees him propped up on my pillow. I nod, unable to meet her gaze looking at me.

"What I can't figure out yet is where to begin. What if I end up going to a place that has major monsoons, or a political coup in progress?" Almost catching myself, I start chuckling at my negativity. I look at mom and see her smiling as if she knew what I was thinking. Recognizing that I'm making progress and thinking about the next step, my mom gets up to leave the room. "Let your dad and I know as soon as you decide where you want to start and when you're ready to leave," she smiles at me before leaving and closing the door behind her.

Contemplating my thoughts, I laid on top of the bed and hugged Temba again. I began remembering a story that one of my teachers once told me: born in a small Moroccan town, he and his brother dreamed of seeing the world. Inspired by everything they knew was theirs to learn by traveling the world, they bought a small globe, spun it, and let the youngest brother decide where they would travel to first. By the time it was time to travel again after a few years, it was the other brother's turn to spin the globe and choose their next destination.


As a child repeating what his teacher says, I found myself repeating my itinerary, call schedule, hotel name, address, and number to my dad while my mom idly stood next to us observing the spectacle. Admittedly, my dad has always been the more protective one of the two, and seeing me go off on my own was something that wasn't easy for him to make peace with. I hugged my mom and reassured both of them that I'd be in touch as soon as the plane landed.

No more plans. No more country. No more feeling like I don't belong. My journey starts here. Taking a peek at Temba inside my bag, I waved back to my parents and headed towards the airplane that would bring me to my first destination.

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