The Quarter-Life Bucket List Trip

I originally wrote this post two weeks ago, but trashed it. I never want to come across with a  boastful or "holier-than-thou"  tone and sometimes I write posts like this, but then delete them because there's too much of "me" in the writing. However, this morning as I sat perched in the living space of my hostel on the island of Fuerteventura, listening to the sounds of the street and overlooking the North African-style flat roofs out to the ocean, my eyes welled up with emotion as I considered just these last two weeks and a strong sense of gratitude came over me, both of what I've put in over the last two weeks, as well as what is to come. As I've always said, if I can inspire just one person with something I say, then I feel like my job is complete. So I *virtually* dug this up from the trash and present it to you now.

It finally hit me, just moments ago. Thousands of feet in the air, cruising above the Atlantic Ocean, with the entire cabin fast asleep. I had been waiting for the moment. The moment being that point in time where reality hits me and I’m flooded with emotions. I went years without crying; I didn’t even cry at my father’s funeral. Yet over the last year I’ve become what Ron Burgundy would probably describe as a "glass case of emotions”. But I think John Denver really sums it up better in the song Leaving on a Jet Plane, with the words: "Cause I’m leavin' on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again."

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I have few addictions that compete with the former television series LOST. One of the many things that I loved about the show was the transformation that each character underwent. As Jack stated shortly after their crash: “We should all be able to start over.” What appeared to be the worst tragedy in the lives of each of the passengers, ended up becoming a defining moment. So many of them had such deep character flaws, yet what’s tragedy to one person is opportunity for another.

The metaphorical island plane crash happened to me just two years ago, at what is considered a ripe age of 27. However, it was more like a series of crashes over the course of a couple years that hit a point in April of 2010; losing my father, then my grandmother, losing my dream job, and then a divorce. Nonetheless, while the natural response would be to have felt like that was the end of life, as I knew it, in reality, that’s when life just began.

As my family dropped me off today to catch my flight, we casually joked that I might not actually come back. I shrugged my shoulders and laughed it off, but yet as I look back at the last couple years, I know that anything is possible. I’ve come to take on a mantra that I’ll commit to a sense of routine each and every morning up to the point that I tie my shoes, and then from there, anything is possible. There’s nothing beyond the realm of possibilities. Attempt to write a novel? I’m up for the challenge. Take a surf lesson? Sure, sign me up. Travel with someone I’ve never met? Why not?

I often talk with people about my traveling lifestyle. Their response is often one of envy mixed with a desire to do the same, but a sentiment that they could never do it. I can relate to most of the reasons, which may include a full-time job, relationship, mortgage, and financial obligations. And so frequent or long-term travel is filed under one’s bucket list - that it’s something that will be done after all of those obligations have been fulfilled. I recently read about one person doing that, a 95-year-old man who has set off on a backpacking trip around Europe, one of a few he has done since 85. However, I think he’s the exception.

If you want to call this a bucket list trip, then so it is. It’s really my second. The first long-term trip was in 2010/2011 and took me across North America over the course of 9 months. It was unequivocally the best decision of my life. The person I came back as, isn’t the person I left as. Yes, travel changed me; and because of that reason itself, I’m on a plane to Europe. This is week seven of a trip spanning at least four months. When this week is said and done, it will have involved visits to seven countries in six days, including a couple Olympics events, attending two soccer games in Glasgow, Scotland, followed by the start of surf camp in the Canary Islands. August will see me hot air ballooning for the first time and then?

I don’t tell you this to rub it in your face or boast. I’m not better than you and don’t consider myself to have arrived in life. I hope, if anything, it inspires just one person. And you know what, it doesn’t have to be inspiration to travel. I want to inspire you to do what you want. Make an investment into what you’re passionate about and what makes you come alive.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.-Howard Thurman

For me, that investment is in the one thing that has always given me more then I gave it: travel. Maybe for you it’s tackling a hobby you’ve always wanted to do. Or maybe it’s starting your own business. Maybe it’s moving to another state or even another country. Or maybe you want to adopt a child. You’ll have some reservations from others and people may try to persuade you otherwise, but the question you’ve got to answer is this: Who do I want to see when I wake up each morning and look at myself in the mirror? Nobody can answer that question but you.

My current feelings are ones of excitement, mixed with gratitude. I’ve had the privilege to make my greatest passions of travel and writing into a career. I have multiple assignments on this trip and will be working part-time while I’m traveling. I could probably wrap up most of the work I’m doing in just a few weeks, if not less, but when an opportunity like this comes, I can’t afford not to take it because it may not come around again. After I close my laptop, I’ll shut my eyes and wake up in a place I’ve never been: Amsterdam. I’ll tie my shoes and then from there, anything is possible.