Archive for November, 2011
Two years ago today, I first set my foot on Irish soil with the intention of living there. That dream was nearly hampered by a grouchy customs agent and myself, a naiive and underprepared world traveler.
Wait, scratch that. I was never supposed to be a world traveler. Two years ago my future-self was supposed to be back in the U.S. by November 15, 2010. I was supposed to be making an honest living. I could never have imagined that I’d end up here: Working as a tour guide, getting paid to travel and feeling more comfortable abroad than I do at home.
Wait, scratch that too. I have no idea how it will feel to live at home. This is the first time since I moved abroad that I am returning to The States with no return ticket to Europe.
I guess that’s the problem with anniversaries. It’s as if it’s trying to get me to assign meaning and a bookend to something that might not be ready to end. I feel far from finished with adventuring. Yet, with my most recent gig, I do feel something. A culmination.
Unless they suffer a dramatic injury, most professional athletes need to make a determination of when to retire. As countless examples show us, professional athletes’ best season is seldom their last one, and why would it be? Why would you want to quit something at the moment you’re the best you’ve ever been on it? The problem is, life doesn’t follow a traditional Greek dramatic structure. Major League Baseball players don’t finally win the Pennant only to retire. Only years later do they realize that their culminating moment is in the past.
And that’s how I feel at my two-year anniversary. I’ve culminated. I’ve taken all the skills I’ve learned from living in Europe and applied them to my last job. Two years ago my lack of self-confidence nearly defeated me before I even began in Galway. The John of 2009 spent a week building up the courage just to drop off a CV at a coffee shop in Ireland. I actually remember standing outside a cafe window, CV in hand and walking away because I was too scared to ask for a job. That person seems like a stranger to me now.
I now have the ability to find the cheapest plane ticket to any destination in the world, but also the knowledge that saving that much money probably won’t be worth it.
I’ve gained the courage to fly to a city without the faintest idea of what I want to do there — as I type this I’m on a train to London Heathrow Airport for a four-day trip to New York City with no plan other then where I’ll sleep. If this doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, you have to understand that when I was 13, my mother once typed up a FIVE PAGE ITINERARY with a schedule down to the minute of which place we should be going to — in Disneyworld.
I’m not at the terminus point of my globe-trotting adventure, but I do see my current situation as a direct result of the previous two years, and I’m proud of that. Every time I feel I’ve culminated — whether it be working in retail in Galway or at a hostel in Cardiff — I move to another adventure. Denouement is not for me. That’s why after the holidays I’m planning a new experience altogether different from anything I’ve done so far. I dare not say it here for fear of jinxing it, but with a little (more) luck, I’ll be able to build on the experiences and lessons I’ve learned so far.
It’s been a good two years.