Once I got to Austin I was a little museum-ed out from the past few days. However, I was feeling super pumped about getting back up to date on the blog, especially with the halfway point of the trip coming up. So, I decided to use the rest of the day as a work day and blog my heart out. Which is precisely what I did.
I sat at a library for — I don’t know how many hours and just blogged and blogged and blogged some more. I did get slightly distracted on Facebook when someone from college commented on a video I posted and I felt morally obligated to respond. Unfortunately, before I finished my second response to our Facebook back-and-forth it was time for me to go meet my Austin host.
When I arrived at my host’s house I was all pumped up. Whenever I do something related to social justice I just feel like I’m on fire and living my passion. It’s awesome. As it happens, my host in Austin is also super passionate about social justice. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to stay with him in the first place. He has this website called SocialGoodNow where he hosts a web series about social issues and challenges people to take some sort of action. He is also really well-traveled and made a high-five-around-the-world video that landed him a TedTalk at Tedx Houston which I thought was super cool. If you’re interested, you can watch the high-five-around-the-world video and the TedTalk here. It’s pretty great. Just saying.
Anyway, so I show up all full of energy and just have to talk about it and Alex, my host, just totally met me on my level and let me rant for a bit and then started asking me questions and it was just awesome. As luck would have it, I showed up at Alex’s house on Monday night and he’d just quit his job as a marketing guy for a Fortune 500 company the previous Friday. This left him free to hang out with me and show me around Austin on Tuesday.
We had a lazy morning on Tuesday and didn’t actually start our day and leave the apartment until around 2:00 p.m. We started with a trip to Kerbey Lane Cafe for a late lunch/early dinner and then went to Mount Bonnell to watch the sunset and checkout the city skyline. After that we drove downtown and went to the Texas State Capitol Building. So, I haven’t been inside a Capitol Building in a while, but I definitely was not expecting the guards to be walking around with guns larger than their torsos. Seriously, were they expecting an army to attack the capitol building? Because that’s the only reason I can think of that they’d need such unnecessarily large assault weapons… I mean, if one person were doing something crazy surely a taser or a hand gun would suffice. Ri-diculous.
Alex and I goofed around in the Capitol for a while, I say goofed around, because we were laughing and joking about how some of the floor tiles looked like butts… and then we wandered down 6th Street. (6th Street is where all the bars and nightlife in Austin are.) Alex showed me this one bar that had a secret entryway from the entrance of a hostel, which was super cool. — I’ve totally always wanted to live in a house that had a secret passageway.
Neither of us were much in the mood for drinking, but we were both getting kind of hungry since we ate at such an awkward time earlier. We wandered until we found The Hideout Coffeehouse and stopped and got a snack. As we sat and chatted and ate our snack we witnessed a homeless lady being forced to relocate by the police. It was heartbreaking.
The following day I was supposed to leave for San Antonio, but Alex and I were hitting it off so well that I really didn’t want to have to leave and say goodbye. Alex said I should just stay and skip San Antonio. I thought about it, but I was kind of looking forward to seeing The Alamo.
I was literally in the middle of texting my host in San Antonio to tell them when to expect me when I looked at Alex and said, “or you could just come with me to San Antonio…” He looked at me, smiled, and said, “like a day trip?” “Yeah,” I said. He smiled even bigger and said, “Ok! Let’s do it!” I was like, “Seriously?” and he said, “Yeah! Why not?” So, instead of texting my host in San Antonio to tell them when to expect me I texted them to apologize and say I wasn’t going to make it.
Alex and I got ready and headed to San Antonio together. First we went to The Alamo and checked that out. I have to admit, I was kind of disappointed. The Alamo itself was fine, I just wasn’t entirely sure why the Alamo was significant and I feel like it took me forever to read some information somewhere that helped me understand. I found that super frustrating. Thankfully, Alex was a nice distraction, so I couldn’t actually be grumpy about it.
After the Alamo we wandered down to the River Walk which was really really pretty. We took a Rio San Antonio Cruise along the river and learned more about the history of San Antonio, which was neat. Then we went and had dinner at a place called Cafe Olé. There was a balloon animal guy at Cafe Olé who made me a little hippo looking bracelet. That was fun. Then the people next to us paid for the musicians to play so we got to enjoy that as well.
By this point I’d already decided I was going to skip my next location in Texas so I could hang out with Alex for one more day. I was supposed to go to Midland, TX, which was really just a halfway point to where I needed to be on Friday. I figured another day with Alex was worth the less overall driving time, even if it meant I had to drive longer on Friday. He, of course, was thrilled that I’d be staying another day as he was taking almost a much of a liking to me as I was to him. I asked him what his plans were for Thursday and he said he didn’t have anything specific in mind. “Good,” I told him, “then tomorrow I’m going to make you fall in love with me.” He laughed, and said “Oh really?” and I smiled back and said, “Yep.”
You remember, that first day when we hung out, in the coffee shop? Yeah? While we sat and had our snack I’d asked him to tell me something people who know him really well know about him that people who don’t know him really well don’t know. His response was that people who know him really well have seen him angry. I asked what makes him angry and he said “gross instances of injustice or when people are assholes just to be assholes.” When he said that I literally felt my heart swell in my chest and was like, Oh shit, I think I just fell in love with this person…which is crazy because I’ve only known him for like 24 hours. Well, I’m just going to keep that to myself…no need to look like a crazy person. He hasn’t seen How I Met Your Mother, so I couldn’t even diffuse the situation by joking about pulling a Ted. But as we continued hanging out I knew there was definitely something there so, if I could, I had to see if he might be able to fall in love with me too.
Back when I lived in Arkansas Meghan (my roommate) and I had come across this article about a study where strangers would fall in love after answering thirty-six questions and then staring into each others eyes for four minutes in silence. I thought it was really interesting so I jokingly asked Megz if she’d like to fall in love with me and she said sure. We spent an afternoon answering the questions and then stared at each other for four minutes. After we finished I asked her if she thought she had fallen in love with me (even though we hadn’t been strangers). She laughed and said yes. Regardless of whether or not Megz and I fell in love, the questions were really interesting and I definitely feel like it solidified our already pretty strong friendship. So I told Alex about it and half-jokingly told him I wanted to try it and see if I could make him fall in love with me. For some reason he agreed.
We spent most of Thursday going back and forth answering the thirty-six questions and having an amazing conversation. Alex fell in love with me at question twelve. I wish I could articulate better how it feels to be with him. Connected, is, I guess, what I’d say. When I’m with him I feel connected. Connected to him, but also to something bigger than both of us. Something Universal. If you’ve read the intro to this blog you know I was inspired by the book The Alchemist to follow my heart and go on this trip in the first place. If you know me really well you probably know I’ve also been asking the Universe almost daily to lead me to my person and even if it wasn’t the right time for us, just let me know they actually exist. My person, being, you know, the one I’ll spend my life with, or go on my travel adventures with, or whatever.
If you haven’t read The Alchemist yet, you should do so now, but you should also know that while the boy in the story is on his journey to find his treasure he unexpectedly meets Fatima and knows she’s the one for him. While I had, sometimes secretly and sometimes out loud, hoped my journey would lead me to my person, I knew, at the very least, it was putting me on a path toward them. So, it came as a pleasant surprise to realize I found my person in state twenty-four of fifty. Alex and I talked about me stopping my trip and staying with him in Austin and about him leaving Austin to come finish the rest of the states with me, but in the end we knew we both had to do our own thing and that we’d come back to each other in the end if it was meant to be. Just like Fatima and Santiago discovered in The Alchemist. I really love that book.
Anyway, the thirty-six questions ends with both people staring into each others eyes for four minutes. I remember with Meghan we laughed a lot and it seemed awkward at first and four minutes felt like a long time. With Alex, it didn’t feel awkward at all. It felt safe. And so connected. A minute or so in I could feel myself being overcome with emotion. I felt the tears well up in my eyes and I tried to talk myself out of letting them fall, but in the end I couldn’t hold them back. I was just overwhelmed by our unexpected love and the deep connection we had. It was beautiful. Really and truly beautiful. Four minutes seemed like no time at all; I could’ve stared into his eyes for hours.
Friday morning arrived much too soon. I needed to hit the road by 6 a.m. to make it to the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, TX for the 2 p.m. presentation I’d already paid for. Alex helped me bring my stuff out to my car and we had a long goodbye. At first I cried because I couldn’t believe I’d found this amazing person, my twin soul, and that I was leaving him. Then I realized I wasn’t really leaving him I was heading back toward him again and I immediately stopped crying and smiled.