What If I Never Make It Home? One Man’s Self-Care Tour and Your Reminder to Book The Ticket

Like most things in my life, this tour, now affectionately called the Treat Yo’self to Self-Care Tour, was not planned. That’s mostly due to my inability to plan anything really. I’m on a train somewhere in central Italy, headed toward the port town of Ravenna to board a ship and cruise through the Greek Isles for 7 days. Yesterday, I was in London, trying to fit a closet into a backpack, wondering, like Dr. Sam Beckett, when I’ll make it home.

It’s been a good year for me as a writer who’s building credits and relationships in the industry, but I worked harder than I intentionally planned and I thought I was doing a good job hiding my exhaustion, but every time I was around those I love deeply and trust with my sanity, I’d crash. I couldn’t make it through the obscure movies we found, the outings we planned, or the conversations we’d start for no other reason than to hear each other talk after months of texting.

You’ll have these moments in springs and summers where the sun’s sitting on your head or shoulders or chest, draining you, and without your full consent, your brain sends you into a corner store to buy the largest, coldest water it can find and you barely make it out of the store before guzzling the bottle to the sounds of plastic collapsing. Your body knows when it needs love, care, and tenderness from you like it knows it needs water from the closest corner store cooler. My body needed this journey.

An accident because last month, after Burning Man and Reno and after San Jose, I was supposed to go home, recharge, wash away whatever dust remained on my clothes and in those new wrinkles on my body from aging, and build a new roof for the meditation room close to the water that I will now call my Shack of Sit. But South Africa called me home instead and as a firm believer that we must move when the people say move, I answered the call. Two 10.5-hour flights later and I was pulling up to my wing of Odysseus’s apartment with Naz, wondering why it took me three years to get back to one of the only places that’s been as warm and loving as my grandmother’s living room. Immediately, I promised that much time between homecomings would never happen again, and we carried on like it had only been a day.

South African days were spent eating fish me and my friends risked our lives for in Yeoville and drinking Rooibos alone at the Mangrove in Braamfontein while the generator fought against loadshedding. In North Africa, nights were spent pouring cups of sugary delicious Moroccan mint tea on colorful, breezy Kasbah rooftops with 13 wide-eyes travelers, talking about the lessons our parents taught us that we’d share with others.

Work never stopped. In fact, work hasn’t stopped since December 2021 and I’m grateful for it because I absolutely love creating content for children, leading folks from wherever they are to happiness or more happiness, and taking trips with strangers to Destinations Unknown around the world. I’m also grateful that I’ve found a happy balance with work on one side and pure joy on the other, even when it means praying the airplane has outlets for my laptop because a deadline is fast approaching and I refuse to miss it. In this, I’ve learned that self-care, for me, doesn’t always mean the absence of work, but an overabundance of good times when the computer closes or I find a moment to simply step away.

I don’t know when I’ll stand naked again on my deck in the Chattahoochee and listen as the water loudly fights its way through the stacked boulders in the creek, but there are thousands of miles between me and that piece of paradise. Behind me, an equal amount. Halfway home is strange. I look behind me and see there’s not so much road that it’s discouraging. I see the train from Marrakech to Casablanca to Tangier. I see the dinner at Anna e Paolo and the table of beautifully loud French speakers next to me who left just enough in their bottle to share with a stranger. I see Anas and the rocks and looking over to Spain from Africa, hating how hard it is for him to get there to be safe. I see the ferry from Tangier to Algeciras and the taxi from there to Gibraltar. I see the rock it took me 30 years to reach and the view from my favorite sleeping haunt in London after dropping my bags on the tiled floor and collapsing on the big comfy couch after taking the Tube from Heathrow. I see the flight to Venice and the train from that Venice to the Venice with the port 3 hours away. I see how someone not quite built for that hiccup would have stopped there. But seeing the waves just outside my window as this ship interrupts the water’s flow made that hiccup not-so-bad. I look ahead and see I’ve only got halfway to go.

This is self-care. This is me finding time to breathe and eat and journal and talk to strangers on elevators then spend hours with them in pool halls and karaoke lounges. I don’t fully remember how I ended up on this ship, but I thank the universe for Britni. I don’t know where I will go when this ship takes me back to that other Venice, but that moment’s days away. I will think about that then. Tomorrow I will wake up in Athens and maybe this time while standing slightly above the ruins of Hadrian Library, I will think about the library I want to build with the large window where I will sit and read and stare at the snow when I no longer run from winter.

I will take it day by day. No plans. And I will eat.

Kotor, Montenegro.

Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.