While I am indeed sitting in precisely the exact chair as I was last year at this time, a neon green and orange crutch that was, how shall I say, “borrowed” from the Palms in Las Vegas back in 2002, the details and destinations of my life’s itinerary could be no more estranged from those of last summer.
On June 24th, 2010 I authored a guest post on one of my favorite blogs, Twenty-Something Travel. It was titled “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Besides being an excuse to use one of my favorite songs of the last fifteen years in the heading, my musings that day were a warning to those with fewer rings on their tree trunk to avoid travel procrastination. If you didn’t heed my advice I blogged, the eventual entanglements of life would no doubt cement travel as just another assignment hastily finished or not even bothered to be turned in at all. As the ultimate example of a travel procrastinator, I detailed that my dreams of one day embarking on a long term trip had drifted away engulfed in flames like a burial ceremony on the Ganges.
Even though my digital thoughts on that early summer day may have led a reader to think otherwise, It was not solely the year etched on my birth certificate that was holding me back. It was that I was actually engaged in an extremely risky circus routine. I was trying to juggle the flaming torches of wanderlust and being a boyfriend. I was in a relationship that I thought was going the distance and would require picket-fenced suburban stability in the very near future. And I cannot type a lie, that was what I had convinced myself that I wanted too. Thoughts of friends who had settled down and worked towards a business, technical, or even nursing degree fought with my dreams of traveling. Although a life in a medical field would be admirable, I could not shake the urge to travel. Every once in a while though, the right travel show would air late at night, setting my heart racing and illuminating the bedroom. I would glance over while she slept, almost feeling like I was cheating on her somehow, because I knew my two lives could never truly be reconciled. Maybe, just maybe though if I could somehow merge traveling with career, then I could have my cake and eat it too.
All this internal juggling led me to hatch a plan. I designed backpacking-themed shirts, called the brand “Been There Wear”, and declared I would make a trip to Europe as a trial run of the product. I knew it was a longshot at best, but at least it was an excuse to eek out one last trip to Europe and if it went really well maybe one day I would be get to travel to exotic locales as some sort of "business man".
Deep down though, I knew that wasn’t what I truly wanted. I wanted the exhilaration and freedom I felt when I spent two summers in Destin, Florida. I wanted the exhilaration and freedom I felt when I moved to Las Vegas. I wanted the exhilaration and freedom of planning my backpacking adventures to Europe. I wanted the exhilaration and freedom that comes with living out your dreams and doing things that make you feel like you are in a movie. Regardless, I headed to Europe t-shirts in hand to try my luck. While the shirts received a decent reception, my heart wasn’t truly in it.
The truth is that I knew one of those torches being juggled had to be extinguished eventually. On a chilly September night last year at an overpriced, shady, Internet cafe in Amsterdam, one flame went out for good. I'll give you a hint, it wasn’t the travel torch. It took about two minutes into my walk back to the hostel for me to formally declare my next move, it was the long term trip I had always dreamed of. In a second, everything changed, and everyday since has been even more exciting then the last.
In addition to planning a round-the-world adventure departing early in 2012, I have vowed to dedicate my life to the pursuit of travel happiness for the foreseeable future. If it takes two or three round-the-world trips, so be it. I will not look back in anger one day and think of what could have been. I’ve been there, and I have the t-shirt to prove it.