When I woke up, the dorm smelled like high school. Salty alcohol sweat mixed with the fading stench of weed, cigarettes, and dirty sheets smelled like angst. A tattooed german had finally found his bed at 7 am after drunkenly stumbling through the two street desert oasis for most of the night. The English schoolteacher rustled her thin hostel sheets. I tried to piece together a hostile dream.
Traveling solo is the embodiment of opportunities seized and opportunities missed. Each day carries with it only the promise of place. Everything else is up to the traveler, whom, as each night ends with him in a bed as foreign as the language, has only his memories for company.
The memories of a day well lived, of new friends well met, of things well learned, of dunes well sandboarded, of opportunities well taken, leaves the traveler with the slightest sense of security in a landscape of uncertainty. The memories of a day spent poorly leave the traveler to fall asleep to the pestering whisper of opportunities missed, the lonely reader left unspoken to, the hike left untaken, the sunset left in ignorance. Yet no matter what, his dreams are filled with the past. People not thought on for years make appearances, former lovers, friends, teachers, strangers met just once, return to remind the traveler of his insecurities. Ghosts sensing vulnerability return to taunt and terrify. He sweats them out in his sleep.
I have never had nightmares with any regularity, because I have never really been afraid of anything . Sharks, spiders, and serpents, cliffsides, calamity, car crashes are never things I worry about during the day, so my dreams are free of them as well. At home, when honest caring is never far, the poltergeists are denied access. Out here, I have no protection. The fear is fought off during the day by friendly conversation, exhilarating experience, and that feeling every so often that I am precisely where I should be, precisely when I should be there. At night, I am at the mercy of the ghosts.
The landscape of the desert provides a battlefield unlike any other. The conquering of 400 foot dunes make men feel the invulnerability of gods. Wide open spaces with a million places to hide, the desert has the ghosts of failed adventurers, native tribespeople, and millions of years of sea animals. The terrain is tough, each step taken pushes you back. There is nobody, just you and your failures, successes, insecurities and arrogance. Out in the desert, you have only your own protection. The nights are frigid, the days are hot, the dunes are huge, the sand is endless. The ghosts have a clear shot from a hundred different angles.