Sunday, January 31, 2010

What a Long Strange Trip it's Been...

So today I informed my parents that I'm concocting a marathon, multi-month backpacking adventure, kicking off in Jan, 2011. As expected, their response was pretty unenthusiastic.

Suddenly, I felt like i was 21 again, sitting at my parents kitchen table and informing them that I planned on living in a VW Bus and driving around the country. They were equal parts horrified and angry.

In retrospect, the VW Bus plan was pretty ridiculous. And, not surprisingly, it never came to fruition.

But this time, I am locked on to my plan of a backpacking adventure. It's something that I've wanted to do ever since I studied abroad at the age of 20, and my then-boyfriend and I would meet people in hostels who'd been traveling for months -- or even years.

My father made the point to me that I already do a pretty significant amount of traveling. It's true: my once or twice annual jaunts to far off places have allowed me to rack up quite a few stamps on my passport. And my job allows me to travel quite a bit in the country too.

But a week or a couple of weeks in a foreign country is a vacation. It's not "traveling." Certainly, there are obstacles, challenges. There is a new culture to confront, new customs to learn. There's a lot of picture taking and restaurant hopping. But the whole experience is very temporary. I'm just a transient visitor, in this weird limbo where I'm far from home, but still not completely immersed in another culture.

I enjoy my trips, and I always return with a new perspective. But I want more. I want to linger in a city for weeks. I want to get to know local people. I want to become a regular at a bar, establish a routine, have a home base. I want time to read, and write and reflect, rather than just tearing from one city to the next, frantically recording everything I saw and did because otherwise it will just become a fleeting memory.

I struggle to do the things that I used to enjoy. In New York, it's impossible for my brain to focus. Too many distractions, too many people, too much everything. I used to write -- a lot. Every day, in fact. And I used to read voraciously. Piles of books. Now, there's too many other things I have to do. When in reality, the things I have to do just leave me stressed and always, always, always anxious.

I run through the accomplishments of my twenties: moved to New York, got my Bachelors, then my Masters, started a business and watched it grow into a success. Lots of traveling, lots of friends, lots of fantastic memories and good times. I've had lots of luck and lots to be proud of too. But I know that I need to keep moving my life forward. Continuing to push myself and find out what more I can do.

If I had to pick an ideal time to go on an adventure like this, the time would be now. As my lease ends, and my NYC friends scatter, I know that it's time for me to move on too. I have no boyfriend or husband keeping me in one place. My jewelry business can be put on hold for a few months without completely disintegrating. Basically, if this journey doesn't happen now, it could very well never happen.

I'm not the type of person who believes in "living every moment to the fullest." But I do FULLY BELIEVE in taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. And the opportunity is now presenting itself. So I need to take the leap. Onward!

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