There is nothing quite like slipping into the ocean stripped of all but your skin, letting limbs slip silk smooth under the waves as the sun sinks on in, just as lazy and dusk dazed. There is a freedom, a joy, in standing bold, bare under the sky, even if the winds can hear you giggling and think you kind of foolish for your age.
An evening skinny dip made me realise that as I’ve travelled I’ve rediscovered the innocence of my skin. I’ve learned to live a little better in the only home I’m ever likely to stay life-long in.
On the road south, I’ve shed layers, sloughing off jackets, trousers, dresses and shirts like dead histories, the fabric of a life I no longer want to inhabit.
In days of warmth and laughter, all I want to wear is myself. I need less, but perhaps more importantly I’ve also learned to care less.
Travelling leaves you at liberty to set your own standards, to bend the rules and bin your bra. As a friend of mine said, ‘it is ok to smell a little’.
I am still sticking with the soap but my bag has lightened out of many ‘necessities’ I used to need to make me look like me, to feel like me. Now I see that me is simply who I am. I need not apply myself or spray me on.
Oddly, it is not an easy path to learn to walk naked in the skin that you’re in. I find myself scowling at the stubbly stretch of my legs, frown to feel the wilder strokes of my eyebrows, pucker up perplexed when I remember the way the smooth cherry shlick of lip balm would pink up my pout.
But I am on the path to recovery and here there are few mirrors to fuel an unhealthy addiction. Without Spanish I can’t read the adverts that would tell me I’m not beautiful enough and bill boards don’t seem to apply to backpackers. I’ve found a loop hole, some wriggle room to grow.
My glow comes from a diet of joy and just a touch too much sun. I am lit by a light that I need not rub on. If I earn wrinkles looking up at the bright blue sky, I tell myself that I’ll treat them like love letters, stories of beauties written gently on my face.
Surely a life well-lived can be forgiven for making a body lived in? And I would much rather be at home in my skin that make an exhibit of it.
Having found my way to the comfort of all alone, it is much easier to forgive my bum for jiggling, to let my curves wend where they will and laugh when my hair looks like a bird nest for ideas that fly forth. I have nothing I need to buy so I need be neither coin nor currency.
There is a luxury to be found in the flow of my limbs when I quit cursing them for the shapes that they’re not and the way they should look, when I own them, mine.
I can lift, walk, reach. My arms seem just right to stretch the skies wide.
Each step might be the start of a dance I’ll dream with the ground beneath my feet, a flirtation, a bid to bed down with the cooler, deeper roots of the earth I’m born of.
There is a poetry that seduces in the language of flying hands. I hear it speak even when my red painted nails are all chipped and my knuckles bug-bitten.
I have learned to look for beauty, to seek it out, to sit waiting for it, to journey for it. And I have discovered it here in the simple touch of fingers floating over warm skin, in an everyday love affair that might just last forever, with a little work.