Living with depression is hard enough, but traveling with depression can be much harder and even dangerous. And I’m followed by its shadow around the world.Read More
Budget travel allows you to see the world on the cheap, but sometimes that extreme low budget travel breaks you. This is one of those times.Read More
Depression can hit you hard at any moment, but when it hits while traveling, it can be even more difficult to handle. And it’s just hit me more than ever.Read More
To say that travel changes you is a vast understatement. Whether you like it or not, long-term or frequent travel will have some impact on your life and your mentality — but it is up to you to be open-minded enough to absorb and grow from those experiences. And travel did more than just change me. So what life lessons have I learned after 4 years of travel?Read More
Excitement. Fear. Elation. Anxiety. Euphoria. Hesitation. There are many words that can be used to describe the millions of emotions one experiences when traveling abroad for the first time, and when I first stepped foot into New Zealand — my first country ever, I experienced all of these and more.
[icon type=”angle-double-down”]I’ve already stated that stepping onto my Air New Zealand plane and flying to the other side of the world was the scariest moment of my life (not because of the Richard Simmons intro they have), but stepping off the plane onto foreign soil for the first time was a whole different bag of emotions. Even though it has now been 4 years since that day, and I’ve flown well over 50 times and traveled to 18 different countries, I still remember that moment vividly.
It sticks with you, the feelings when you first embark on this great adventure not knowing what will follow, or what you will do, or what the country and the trip will be like. There are those of you that have been traveling since you were that crying baby on the plane, and surely there are some people out there that can’t recall the time a country stole your passport’s virginity, but for me everything about life was in a little town with a little town mentality that never thought much about the outside world.
I gave no real thought to the rest of the world. I cut grass on weekends. I worked in a job I hated. I drank more than 3 people should nightly. I obsessed over fleeting hobbies that usually involved get-rich-quick schemes. I dwelled over the small issues, I tried to date everyone I could and then got over them within days, I loved to talk shit about other people and lived in a constant state of anger.
It wasn’t until I started reading travel blogs and flipping through inspirational quote pictures on Tumblr for hours a day that I began to believe there was a much bigger world out there. Ignorance made me think that other countries were only seen in movies and on TV, something of fantasy. Those people, like me, forever stayed in their country and in their home city. Until the passport came. It still seemed like a fantasy — the ability to go to another country, but it was fast becoming reality. A mysterious reality.
Beads of sweat crawled down my forehead as I crossed the gangway and into Auckland Airport from the intense nervousness that had made me gnaw off my fingernails, and probably because I was wearing a winter hat and it was summer in New Zealand. Summer! It was November and I had just left the nipply weather of Los Angeles and it was as if I landed in some mythical land where everything was opposite. It kinda’ was. However silly it is to read that one of my first emotions when I entered New Zealand the surprise that it was summer and not winter, I was then a person that thought getting a passport involved some impossible feat. Until I got one of course and realized it just involved a short trip to the post office. I laugh at things like this now, but it felt as if the plane ride was more like traveling to another planet and it blew me away that 12 hours could make the seasons flip.
As I crossed the gangway and saw the words “Kia Ora!“ upon entering the customs area glass labyrinth, I was filled with a rush of happiness. My stomach was tight and trembled, and I was trying to hold back from giggling. My skin tingles with a thousand needles and with this electricity coursing through my veins I couldn’t help but smile gigantically. I’m sure people hated me and were pushing to get by me as I stood in the way fumbling with my Lonely Planet guidebook, passport, and phone to try to take a photo. But dammit, I was going to take a photo of this sign and maybe everything else along the way. Right up until a security guard approached me and said, “Please keep moving and no photos in the customs area.”
I got a photo anyway. And managed to drop my iPhone and shatter the glass. Thanks security guard!
Making my way through the glass labyrinth and into the customs area, I had no clue what to expect. I had never gone through a customs before, but all I saw was the lot of us being herded into queues and fear knotted up into my throat. What did I think? That we were being queued up for slaughter or something? Either way, I found it suddenly hard to swallow and my hands were shaking. It was probably because I had made the mistake of watching that Kiwi show Border Patrol on YouTube before flying to New Zealand about the customs police catching smugglers. At the time I found it hilariously silly, but now I felt as though they would stop me for some reason and I’d end up in jail. Of course I wasn’t smuggling anything at all, but the fear was there.
Do I smile or not smile? What do I say? Do I make eye contact or avoid it. Did I mess up my declaration form? Should I say “Kia Ora” or “Hello“? Does my breath smell? And then I was before the customs guard. I looked down to make sure my feet were in the right place and the blonde female guard with a stern face called me forward.
“Passport?!” She called out half annoyed, and I fumbled to give it to her.
“Hi how are you?” I blurted out louder than I should have.
“Fine.” she said with a courteous smirk as she flipped through my pages.
“It’s my first time doing this” I said, and realized as my cheeks flushed how embarrassing of a statement that was, but it cracked her stone facade and she laughed softly.
“I can see that” she said, and then stamped me in. “Welcome to New Zealand Mr. Brown” she said with a smile, and handed me back my passport.
With my passport virginity taken by New Zealand and the blonde officer, I strode with awkward confidence through the gate.
I was past the gate and into New Zealand, but my confident stride stopped there. Where do I go now? There were signs pointing to go right and so I followed, but there were more queues and this time I had to choose. I ended up in the customs declaration line simply because I didn’t want to somehow get in trouble for leaving and accidentally not declaring anything. Then I realized I hadn’t even gone to get my backpack from the baggage carousel yet!
Either me turning around fast and walking away or blurting out “Oh fuck” must have caught the attention of the customs agents. I went to my baggage claim area and found my bag already on the ground, wrapped in plastic. That was strange. I didn’t before loading it on and I started to freak out a bit like it meant I was caught for something. As I tore away the plastic, two border patrol agents stepped over. “Need help with anything?” one asked.
“Uh, I just don’t know where to go after this” I said, secretly looking for TV show cameras nearby.
“Can I see your passport please?” the other asked, and my stomach dropped. I was in trouble for something.
“Do you have anything to declare in your bag” the one who wasn’t looking at the passport asked.
“Uh, maybe my goldfish?” I said
“Goldfish?!” he retorted, “You got live goldfish onto the plane?!”
“No officer, no, these crackers” I said, and pulled them out.
They both laughed. And I chuckled nervously. “First time eh?” the one with the passport stated as he saw my lonely New Zealand stamp there.
“Yes, first time outside the United States.”
“Just head to declaration and show your goldfish” A guard said with a smirk, and handed back my passport. My first time was fast becoming a joke, but I was just happy to move on.
Declarations did take away my beloved Goldfish crackers.
New Zealand was almost there. I conquered my fears and traveled abroad. I made it (awkwardly) through customs and had my passport stamped. All I had to do was leave the airport. And I hesitated. I hadn’t booked any hotels or hostels. I didn’t know anyone at all. I was afraid to speak to a stranger and ask for directions. All of these “what if” scenarios flooded my brain and made me hesitate. It was as if I thought some sort of ferocious beasts lay in wait for me ahead. I couldn’t connect to wifi so I couldn’t just use my phone to make decisions for me on what to do and where to go. And then I met Scott. He saw me standing there, frozen, when he approached.
“Hey man” he said with a California cool. I was hesitant to respond to him as well. Was he some slick scam artist? Did he want to rob me? But he seemed like a nice person, and though it was hard to drop my guard I did.
“You’re from America too aren’t ya?”
“Yeah, DC area but I just got in from LA.” I said.
“Me too, we must have been on the same plane.” he replied. “Where are you staying?”
“I have no clue at all” I said. And it was true. I may have stood there all day, but instead, he forced me from my hesitation and my comfort zone and we left the airport to both find some accommodation.
I felt the weight of fear and hesitation and confusion drift away.
Once I left the airport, I suddenly became curious about everything. It was a rush of excitement and eagerness to just wander and explore and find out more. Just to walk for hours and take everything in. New Zealand, especially Auckland, is a very easy city to have as your first because everyone speaks English and most things are familiar. But everything was still different in a sense. Scott fed that curiosity as well. He was someone who I wanted to be like. I didn’t want to be him, but he had an air of weightlessness about him when it came to talking to strangers and doing something without worrying too much and I wanted to be like that. Though I still had my worries in the back of my head, I was curious about things for once. Curious enough to take a chance even if the outcome could be bad.
That is what travel is and has become for me since; a curiosity, knowing that a decision could turn out bad, but it could also be the best decision ever. The only way to find out is to give into your curiosity and do it. If not, you’ll never know, and not knowing and not taking a chance is the worst thing you can do in life. Desiring to find out about cultures and people and curious enough to talk to strangers and make new friends.
Since that original trip, every new flight and new country bring a floods of emotions. Not like that first time though. These days, I pass through airports and land in another country and wonder “I’m already here?” because most of that has become automatic for me. I still get immensely excited in airports watching people coming and going and knowing I am too, but the procedural part of it is now automatic. But that first time flying to a foreign country at the age of 23 and only knowing a world that existed in a few states I had traveled to in the United States brought hundreds of emotions at once. Some of them made me second guess my decision, but most of them were overpowering in a positive way. Many of those emotions told me that because I was feeling these emotions, it meant that what I was doing was worth it. There wasn’t a numbness in my heart anymore, it was thudding rapidly with happiness and curiosity.
For those of you that haven’t been traveling and have always dreamed of hopping on a plane and seeing the world — there are plenty of emotions that will try to stop you from doing this. I felt these fears and anxieties and hesitations before my trip to New Zealand, and even afterward. Much of life for many of us, especially if you grew up in the United States, exists only there. And people in your life and societal norms will say that it’s crazy to quit your job and sell your things and pursue a passionate endeavor.
From 4 years traveling around the world since that first fateful day, I tell you to listen not to outside influences, but listen to your heart. There are many countries around the world that the people can’t travel or chase their dreams. Countries where people dream the same dreams as you, but it isn’t fear that holds them back from leaving, it’s poverty or inability to get visas or political instabilities or war.
It is our responsibility as a human beings with the ability and freedom to travel to face our fears. To get over comfort zones of not having secure jobs and not having a big screen TV or not having our Starbucks. To travel to feed our curiosities, which will be the best education you ever have just by gobbling up all observations and experience that come from travel. To travel for people who won’t ever have the chance to, and when you meet those people, to connect with them and share your culture. To share a smile and a meal. To share emotions. Because though you may have these emotions flood you when you begin traveling, in your travels you will see that this is what connects every human being on the planet. We all feel the same emotions and desire the same basic things in life.
It’s perfectly normal to experience all of these emotions when you first start traveling.
In the battle of hundreds of emotions when you first start traveling, once you conquer the conflicting ones and continue this amazing journey, you will then discover nothing divides the human race as a whole except the fear of the unknown — and it is the one thing that was holding you back from surpassing your boundaries as well. You will be a piece in the puzzle connecting the world by surpassing boundaries, on a map or of the mind.
What were some emotions you experienced when you first started traveling?
After 4 years traveling around the world, I’ve had some wild and crazy and scary experiences. But it was my flight to New Zealand — my first flight abroad ever, that was the scariest moment of my life. Besides a panic attack on the plane, there was another big reason I was so scared.Read More
We do so much worrying on the daily basis that it can literally kill you. If not kill you, it can make you go made. More importantly, worrying about the future can prevent you from doing anything you truly want to do. So I’m here to tell you, from experience, stop worrying about the future and think about now.Read More
[dropcap]BAM![/dropcap] Dead. It happened that quick. Well, at least it can happen that quick. Today I was nearly run over by a car. Had I been riding my bike just a little faster and had I not braked last minute, I could have been roadkill. After my heart stopped racing and I regained my composure, I began to think about what that meant. And it seems like I’ve learned some life lessons by almost dying today.
I’m guilty of getting caught up in the everyday grind of things when not backpacking through some exotic countries outside of the United States. Though my goal is always the same thing — to save up money for traveling, the daily grind becomes a normal cycle. Working, commuting, dining out, morning coffees, nightly drinks. You get the point.
Even after I moved to Australia a few months back so I could work abroad and save up more money for my next big trip, it’s become somewhat of a stale affair. Don’t get me wrong, Melbourne is a phenomenal city to live in and there are always exciting things to do — but it’s still a major city that I am working in to save money. I’m having a fun time living in a new city and exploring the uniqueness that is Melbourne. But I’m still waiting tables instead of hiking mountains. I did ask for this though. After somehow surviving the Rickshaw Run madness, and after getting so ill in India that I lost 20lbs, I needed a place to recover my body and bank account.
That doesn’t mean living life to the fullest has to stop when you settle down for a few months from adventuring.
You never should stop living each day to the fullest. As I will tell you, something bad can happen in a flash.
I was biking to one of the 5 days of work per week. It was just a normal day like any other has been while living in Melbourne. I woke up and ate breakfast. I took the familiar bike path along the Yarra, admiring a single beautiful black swan that was coasting along with the current. Maybe that was some sort of omen. Everything was as it had been lately. Normal. I came to the freeway crossing and had the green bicycle telling me it was safe to cross, and I biked across to the island in the middle. As I was crossing the median, the bike crossing light began to blink red. But I was midway across already, biking off the median when the light began to blink.
And that is when I was nearly run over.
Just as I was about to hit the 4th lane of the freeway and onto the other side, I noticed all the other cars coming to a slow stop since they obviously had a red light, but not one car. Since I make it a point to be aware of my surroundings, I noticed that one car not slowing down. I thought he would, but he was still going fast, and just as I was hitting the fourth lane I braked and slid. He zipped past me, not even slowing down, straight through a red light which would have been a wreck had there been cars crossing as well. When he sped past me and I braked last minute, the car was less than a foot away from my front bike tire. I could feel the wind on my face.
Once on the sidewalk, I paused and took a deep breath. So much was racing through my head, but I couldn’t be late to work. So I kept on cycling. For the entire day I was frazzled, and I couldn’t stop thinking about that close call. I finished the day, went back home, slept, and went back to work the next day.
But I haven’t been able to kick that feeling. I had a near death experience in a major city that is known to be quite safe, and caters to bicyclist. And though I’ve always been one to express how anything can happen to you at any moment in whatever city in the world, sometimes a close call like this brings it back up.
It makes you realize that you haven’t been taking advantage of life.
That’s why I’m sharing this today, because everyone should know that it isn’t out there in the big and bad and mysterious world that something bad can happen to you — it can be in a city at home while inside your “comfort zone“.
Yes, I have gotten sick a few times while traveling, like in India recently, or when I got a stomach infection during Songkran in Thailand. There has been occasions where I felt as though I would die on some of the sketchier modes of transport in countries like riding in the insane charter buses in India. Usually though, I feel a sense of safety and calm while traveling, because I am more aware and alert and on my feet. But also, I’m actually doing things — not just lulled into a repetition like a “safe” and “normal” life does to you.
Everybody told me not to go to Haiti, that Haiti was a dangerous place and I would be killed or kidnapped. After that first trip to Haiti, and shattering all preconceived notions of Haiti while there, I am adamant to tell everyone how much I loved it. And, to make a point, I felt more safe in Haiti then I do walking around at night in Washington DC. That was just the first real realization I’ve had of many that living what some think to be a safe life, thinking that traveling through the world might be inherently more dangerous than working in a cubicle, is completely wrong. Once I thought I would be robbed in Thailand only to come to find out they just wanted to help me.
Traveling is no more dangerous than living that idea of a normal life.
This is why, no matter what situation you are in or whatever it is you may be doing; be it working in a cubicle at home or scuba diving in Italy, walking the dog or driving a rickshaw across India — make sure you are doing what you want to do at that very moment. Make sure you aren’t thinking about tomorrow or a week from now or 5 years from now or that retirement in 20 years. Because we never know what tomorrow will bring or if there will even be a tomorrow. We have to stop living in tomorrowland and start living in the now, and even if you have to work that “normal” job for the moment, make sure there is a purpose behind it driven by your dreams and what makes you happy.
I’ve realized that I was getting too invested in this routine again, and I was lulled into not embracing every second of everyday, so I am going to try daily again to be focusing on my passions and the now. Though I need the waiter job at the moment to save up for future travel plans, that doesn’t mean I can’t be doing something amazing everyday. And more importantly, I can be living everyday instead of existing.
Need some inspiration? Check these posts out!
10 Most Inspirational Life Quotes over my Travel Photos
Everybody needs a little kick in the mojo sometimes. A jolt of energy to get life shocked back into. A dose of pure inspiration from the voices and the pens of travelers, philosophers, dreamers, and doers. Hell, sometimes you just need someone to slap you and shout, “Get off your ass and chase your dreams fool!”Get Inspired Here!
Death: My Travel Inspiration
Your life can change in an instant.
Sometimes that phrase is difficult to grasp since we get caught up in our daily lives and don’t realize when things pass us by — for example: life. But just like a lightbulb, it can burn out without a hint of notice, leaving the faintest remnant of that light clinging on to the last minutes of what once was before fizzing out forever.Get Inspired Here!
Hello Lost Ones,
It’s been quite a while since I posted on the blog. Though, with a two-week long insane road trip around India, and then bouncing around India to places with non-existent wi-fi, and then throw in big tremors felt from the Nepal earthquake, getting any writing done has been hard.
So, firstly, I apologize.
The big goal while on the Rickshaw Run a couple of weeks back was to live blog and live tweet/gram/vine all the action. What happened? Well, much of that didn’t happen. The team made a point to tweet or post photos to Instagram when possible, but driving through northern India — which roads tend to resemble a battlefield of gaping potholes — there was almost no reception. And when we would pull into a hotel, most places offer paid wi-fi at high prices that 90% of the time failed to work anyway.
Live blogging was an impossible feat.
Also, nightly, we were supposed to film brief recap videos about that day to supplement a bit until videos were edited, but with the state of wireless internet in India being the way it is, uploading a 5-10 minute video always failed. After filming and editing a couple of these recap videos and attempting to post them, nothing ever worked and we always found ourselves days past that specific recap, leaving it useless to post. So they weren’t posted.
Then there is the physical toll of the trip.
While driving across India in a Rickshaw, you run into all sorts of issues. Cows or goats or bricks or trucks always in your way. And whatever other obscure obstacle you can think up. Accidents were always a near miss. Sickness. Dehydration. Bandits. Yes, Bandits. There were some days where we would leave at 5am to get an early start, thinking we would eat at some point mid day and stock up on supplies, but usually we drove 12-16 hours per day with minimal stops, minimal eating, and would arrive completely mentally and physically exhausted. The only desire at that point was a shower from all the dust and grime and gasoline on you, and sleep. There were a couple of times that I suffered illnesses or a severe bout of dehydration that was crippling. So, to put it briefly, the Rickshaw run was physically and emotionally and mentally taxing — more than we had expected.
Even sandstorms were thrown in…
Although we were unable to meet the goals we had set for blogging on the Rickshaw Run, we did record multiple terabytes of footage, and have hundreds of photos to share. Now it is just the task of organizing and editing them. But, all of that insanity will be making an appearance on this blog soon enough.
For the past couple of weeks after the race, I tried to sit down and write or edit, but my mind was so fried from the race, that I couldn’t conjure up a sentence. Everything was blank. I needed a couple of weeks to relax and get to the point where I could go back through photos and footage and experience the journey again, because while driving, your only concern is survival. Looking back on the race is being able to actually experience it now.
Goa has been my little retreat for the past week, with a big private bungalow to call home and a beach to escape to. I don’t normally have “vacation” like travel moments where I sit on the beach and sip cocktails, but that is exactly what I’ve done all week. Mindlessly watching the waves lap onto the sand and eating great seafood and not thinking about anything has helped me reset my brain, and now I’m feeling enough energy and mental capacity to write again.
Also, I have some exciting things to announce!
Sometimes, or quite often, a life on the road will throw you curveballs — and you have to react on the fly. My original travel plans after the Rickshaw Run was to link up with Derek in Nepal, explore the rest of India, and then move on to traveling through all 7 ‘Stan countries. I didn’t expect to have a few budget issues arise. Without going into much detail, some unexpected costs have arisen and hit my travel budget hard, and though I still have enough money to travel the ‘Stans, I’d come out without anything left to keep going. Also, meeting up with Derek was a failure because of the immensely sad tragedy that struck Nepal, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving the country in shambles. Luckily, Derek was fine even while in the capital that was leveled, but for me to enter the country in the days that followed turned out to be impossible and not recommended at all. With that, and now not having enough funds to travel the ‘Stans and be well enough afterward, I’ve decided to make a decision.
[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h1″]I’m moving to Australia![/custom_headline]
Tonight, on a whim, I submitted my Work Visa application for Australia. That country had nearly been my first country, but last minute I chose New Zealand. Ever since, I’ve always considered spending a year or more in the country working and exploring. Now, hopefully, I’ll have that chance. After being lost as to what to do, or where to go now, and how to have an income, I followed a few signs. Over the past month or so, I’ve met handfuls of people that happened to have lived in Australia and worked there, and all they could do is gush about how much they loved it. And up until tonight, I hadn’t connected the dots.. Sometimes, the universe sends signals and I saw tonight just how many signals about Australia I had received. It will, given my approval, give me an opportunity to stay abroad, while having an income, and save up for the next adventure. I’ve heard so many amazing things about Australia, and though some have found finding work hard, I am confident in my ability and drive and the fact that I can live on a few dollars a day when need be.
I felt like all of you deserved an update as I start writing again. On the blog in the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting plenty about the agonies and ecstasy of the Rickshaw Run and traveling around India, so keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, please email me with any questions or if you also have advice about Australia!
On my second trip to Haiti, we travel from Port Au Prince to the south and explore waterfalls, Jacmel, beach towns, and pristine islands.Read More
This is a travel love letter. You always remember your first love. And you always remember your first travel love, and this is my story. I’ve never written a love letter, so here goes.Read More
There is a reoccurring theme with my travels. I work my ass off for months to save and go away for months. But I always come back. No more. Here are my travel plans for 2015, and how I will reach them. After another 6 months of saving up waiting tables to travel again, I’m done with that routine. This year is the year I go all in as a traveler.Read More
Ooh, those are some fighting words aren’t they? Did that hurt?
It is a touchy subject when somebody takes your New Year resolutions and categorize them as trash.
Except I am right — and by the end of this post I guarantee you and I will be in agreement. Then you’ll be ready t take on 2015 punch for punch.
It’s a sick cycle that happens every year like a skipping record.
Another 365 days are scratched off that paradise calendar; and after drudging through another year of living on this planet in misery, people are in dire need of some something more.
Well, usually the bright light of inspiration that promises a better year than the last is just a gigantic disco ball distracting you with shiny lights.
Then just like a broken record your goals may be going smooth, and sooner than later you skip a beat.
Each year goals are set, and each year goals are not accomplished.
The promises made to yourself, the glorious feats you are determined to beat, the changes you decide that need to happen to live a better life; 90% of people will fail. And then it’s brushed aside until the next New Year, and next failed attempt.
Trust me, I’m not saying this to get you down. I just want to slap you in the face a little, because I have done the same thing I’m writing about, and I am damn sick of failure.
Are you sick of failed resolutions?
Pay attention. This is how we are going to get shit done this year.
The issue begins by putting your faith into thinking that promising something on the first day of the year is going to suddenly change your life.
Somehow, the 1st of the year is going to pump you up full of life mojo like Neil Armstrong on steroids, and you are going to blow away every obstacle leaving problems in the dust.
Only YOU can start to change things.
Only YOU can continue the change.
Only YOU can do the work it takes to live your dream.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
So how the hell do you take on your 2015 goals?
The bottom line is that New Years Resolutions are just a big fat excuse to procrastinate more. I am always hearing, “Oh well, maybe I’ll give it another shot next year…”
What kind of crap is that?
Just because you set a personal and you missed a beat, that means you need to wait for another couple hundred days to give it another shot?!
Quit waiting for that magical date each year, because it’ll come and go each year and you are going to still be sitting around doing the same thing.
A New Day Resolution.
One of the biggest attributing factors in the failures of resolutions is that you bunch up goals into a giant clusterfuck and think about it the terms of the whole year.
If I thought of all the things I need to accomplish before I travel again, I’d lose my freakin’ mind! Pay off debt, buy my Mother’s gravestone, save money for the actual trip, get in shape to bicycle across the United States. The list goes on.
Yeah, it’s a mess; and there is nothing that saps your motivation more than being overwhelmed with tasks. Even typing that gave me a pang of stress.
So go in small steps and work toward a goal each day. Wake up and start realizing each sunrise is a new day, each day you have a breath in your body is a fresh start, and each day is a chance to meet that next goal on the journey to your dream.
Make Daily Resolutions Matter
Nothing is going to put a stop to you momentum more than doing something that isn’t fun and most importantly isn’t something you give a damn about.
Some people want to lose weight, or quit smoking, or buy a new car, or stop eating meat, or get a raise. And they are all bad resolutions.
How will you quit smoking when you are still stressed? How will you get in shape if you aren’t happy? How are you going to be happy if you are still working a shit job you hope to get a raise in to buy that shiny car to fill a void that will temporarily make you happy?
How about you start connecting the dots with the end goal at your life dream?
-I want to Travel
-Believe in working to Live not Living to Work, I know everything I do contributes to my dream.
-Knowing this, I can focus on staying positive
-I work more because I am now not working for nothing or miserable
-I make more money because I work more
-I spend less because I don’t need shiny things anymore
-I pay off my bills because I have more money
-I save up plenty of money because I worked hard and knew it was worth it
-I can now travel!
It’s as easy as that.
And many other travel bloggers can attest to this. How did all of these people break free of their corporate confines? They did it step by step.
Once you map out the steps it will take to accomplish your goals, and as long as your end goal is something you truly want that will make you happy, you don’t need to wait for a New Year.
So this is what I want you to do: Write on a piece of paper “New Years Resolution” and then cross it out. Hell, scribble it out if you are pumped up. Then write down “New Day Resolution” and begin your first step today.
Each day see it as a new chance to create a better ending. Then repeat.
Here is an inspirational video to watch. You have 84,600 seconds in a day. What if that was money, and it disappeared at midnight? Wouldn’t you try to use every last penny?
<iframe width=”853″ height=”480″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/FA4Ce1qOSXw?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>
It was a strange feeling sitting atop the jagged rocks in Great Falls National Park — fighting for breath after running and jumping and climbing through the Billy Goat Trail. I was beside one of my best friends and we had just scaled a rock face 20 meters high. We were exhausted. Sprawled out and catching our breaths, we looked out over the river below; at some points it was rabid, frothing and surging through the gorge, and others it was calm and flowing gently. The water from millions of years ago in the ice age had carved its path through solid rock, little by little. Now it was following a path, sometimes calm and other times ferocious, that it had created against an otherwise opposing element.
A path it had created little by little.
I sat there thinking about all that I had done the past 8 months abroad, all of the places I had seen, all of the amazing people I had met, and all of the experiences I had. Also on my mind was the path that led to my unplanned return to the United States. My mind rewound through it all during that short rest.
Two days ago I had arrived back in Maryland after taking a 15-hour long bus ride from Toronto.
A week before, I had taken a flight from Munich to Madrid where I stayed overnight, and then flew Madrid to London, and London to Toronto over the course of 24-hours.
Two weeks before, I had taken a train from Rome to Munich where I spent my last week in Europe where I had decided to ultimately return.
A month before, I was just beginning to travel around Italy.
Two months before Italy, I had arrived in Europe after being forced to make the decision to leave Thailand just as I was about to begin teaching English.
And it was a little more than 8 months from this very date that I had taken a 7-day train journey across the United States, DC to Los Angeles, and flown out to Thailand to teach English.
Somehow it seemed so long ago, yet at the same time still raw in my mind. Not nostalgia, because it wasn’t a stinging pain that hit me thinking about an adventure coming to an end.
So why is it that I’ve found myself back in the United States?
There were many things that contributed to my early return: a lot of cause and effect that factored in, a lot of missteps on the road and mistakes made, and many things that I hadn’t planned for that I should have.
The main reason comes down to money. I had almost completely run out of money after returning to Italy for the second time.
When I first left Thailand I had a vague idea of what I would do next, and even less of an idea of what to expect in Europe. I wasn’t headed back to Thailand any time soon, and though I thought about teaching English in another Southeast Asian country, I had a friend’s wedding to attend in two weeks in Slovakia. I figured I’d find a cheap place in Europe to lay low, somewhere in Eastern Europe that wouldn’t rock my dwindling budget that was causing me a slight bit of angst. I knew nothing at all about Europe in terms of travel; it was a new and unknown place and one I had dreamed about seeing as a little boy.
Sometimes the world steers you in different directions, ones completely opposite than what you had planned. It turned out that the cheapest last-minute flight into Europe from Thailand was Rome. Sure, Rome wasn’t the main destination in Europe I was headed for, and it damn well wouldn’t be the cheapest, but excitement filled me. I was veering off from my original plan and leaving Southeast Asia and I didn’t know what would happen next. Italy was always the country I wanted to visit the most. I would go to Italy.
(Teacher Ryan in Thailand)
When I arrived in Rome, I immediately began on the wrong foot.
As is my normal travel behavior, I didn’t plan a single bit for Europe. I would just roll with it and figure it out as I went along. Immediately I was gobbled up by the new surroundings and spat out. The first few hours were filled with self-induced misery as I wandered lost about lost in the Eternal City since I hadn’t pre-booked a hostel, my electronics were dead, and I had no clue where to look for accommodation. Oh, and that I had lost my adapter in route from Thailand to Italy. So, besides nobody around the city knowing where a hostel was, I couldn’t charge my electronics to search for one.
Then the shock of the Euro slapped me.
You cannot compare Italy to Thailand at all. Just don’t. Well, maybe with the insane drivers and the bum-guns on toilets, but price wise it is drastically different. Right away I could see my wallet weeping as the cheapest hostel I could find was 30 Euro a night. That cheap flight to Rome would be outweighed by the prices to stay there. I kept trying to tell myself that I shouldn’t compare prices, but I couldn’t help but think about how I was paying $3 USD a night in Thailand. Even trying to eat cheap I was spending well over 50 Euro a day with hostel and food.
I was freaking out a little.
But I told myself it would be fine. I’d enjoy being in the city I always dreamed about visiting, and in a week I’d head over to Slovakia and spend much less. And I did. I visited the ancient Roman sights, explored the Colosseum, and wandered the city for hours in the day.
Except I left Thailand with $2,000 left which was my budget for 4 more months at least, but within a week in Rome I spent nearly a quarter of that in accommodation and food.
Instead of heading directly to Slovakia, I took a flight to Prague and met up with a friend from the US who had been traveling with me in Thailand. We hung out and explored Prague for around a week until heading to Slovakia after enjoying the gloriously cheap food, beer, and accommodation in Prague.
(exploring the Colosseum of Rome, and super giddy)
Fast travel makes a slow traveler panic.
At least, it makes me freak out a bit when I didn’t know what to do next, and I’m one to usually call myself chill about most situations. But, I’m usually quite the slow traveler. Spending months on end in another country is what I like to do, and it isn’t often I bounce around from country to country every week. And after going from Rome, to Prague, and then to Bratislava, I could feel a slight anxiousness settling in. I was pin-balling from one country to the next without a plan, and that turned out to be more expensive in doing so. I had no clue what to do, and I was watching my budget sink from a comfortable $2,000 to below $1,000. When we arrived in Bratislava, we were both shocked at how expensive the country was. Hostels were on average 20 Euro, and food was comparable to Italy in price. Both of us were low on money, and had to think of how to last it out until the wedding.
We went to Hungary for a few days since I had found a few hostels that were advertised for 6 Euro a night. A bus ticket to Budapest and sleeping in those hostels, and then busing back, would be cheaper than staying in Bratislava. But when we arrived in Budapest, these cheap hotels seemed mythical. They didn’t exist. The only ones we could find wanted 20 Euro, so we were again in the same predicament.
In a predicament, but still in Europe, and still exploring as much as our broke asses could.
This is when the bread eating began.
We did eventually find one of those cheap hostels in Budapest, but they are so hidden and usually tucked into an apartment complex with no sign that it was only within the last few days we discovered one. They do exist! But it was too late. We both had been eating cheap rolls of bread and only drinking water since we both couldn’t afford much else. Though my friend had already planned on returning to the US after the wedding, I was hoping to keep the adventure going afterwards and find a place to base myself to keep traveling.
Though staying in Europe or continuing traveling was fast becoming unlikely.
I was getting extremely low on funds and I didn’t even have a ticket back to the US even if I did run out of money. I attended the wedding, and went back to Prague since it had been the cheapest destination I had visited in that part of Europe to come up with some sort of emergency plan to keep going.
(one of the “signs” for the hostels, painted on the ground where we didn’t look)
There was a back-up plan. Though not a great one.
Just before leaving Thailand, I had announced that I was brought on by a popular travel booking company to be a content writer. It was, and still is, a sweet gig with a high pay-per-word rate and a promise of a long-term writing contract. I assumed that this would be the ticket to traveling long-term around Europe and offer me a bit of padding while I figured things out. Well, I had fully banked on this, but it would turn out to be a bad gamble. Not bad at all because of the company, but because I was relying on a job that was just starting, and if you are a freelance contractor, you know it doesn’t happen quickly. And I had naively thought it’d be instant return.
Since they are a major travel company, I hadn’t realized I would need to be added to a payroll and file taxes in the US, which means payout wouldn’t be as soon as I wanted
*I still write for them and love it, and it was silly of me at the time to think I could just hope for them to pay me a huge amount after only a couple of weeks on board.*
What was I to do when faced with no money left?
While I was in Rome the first time, I had attended a few Walks of Italy tours around the city where I had met a guide who was setting up her own travel blog tour in Italy, and she had invited me to attend one in June. I promised her that I would attend, it seemed like an amazing opportunity to explore more of Italy. Yet, here I was in Prague, broke, and I had to figure out a way back to Rome while only having around $200 left. Once on the trip, most of the expenses would be included, so I gambled again. I told myself that if I could make it to Rome and get on this trip, I should have my paycheck by then. And after, I could decide better how to make my next move.
I used $175 of my remaining budget for a flight to Rome, and used my last bit of money to book a hostel. For a day and half my only food was a sole banana.
Finally I could eat again.
For that week and half before returning to Rome, I had been living on bread rolls and ketchup (for flavor) and stayed cooped up in hostels since I had no money. I had already explored every inch of Prague and most parts of Rome that I could walk to, so I just waited it out until the blog trip. I couldn’t even afford a coffee so I could go to a café and write. And cafés are my creative zones. To be honest, I felt a bit trapped leading up to it. But the day came where I linked up with the group of other bloggers to kickstart our gnarly #ThisIsYourTime blog tour of Umbria and Ponza. I was stoked. If I had to leave Italy without actually exploring other parts of the country, I would have been super bummed.
To say I gorged might be an understatement. We were in red wine country and I drank my weight in wine from vineyards like Fontanaro Farms and stuffed myself full of pasta and meats. Sometimes people would comment with something around the lines of, “Wow, you must love to eat!” and my response would be to smirk through my bulging cheeks and declare, “You never know when you’ll be living on bread and ketchup!”
South of Rome we visited Ponza Island where Prosecco flowed like water and I ate some of the most delicious seafood of my life. I was again in the company of amazing people, tasting the flavors of a country and of the sea, and sleeping in comfort knowing I had a bed for the night.
(cheesing in Ponza, and happy to have food again!)
Of course it wouldn’t last. It couldn’t last.
The blog tour had been an amazing 10 days, and during that time my worries had faded and I was enjoying the experiences to the fullest. What else should you do in that case of course? I had to soak it up baby! But once it was over, I was back in the same position. I had no money and I was in Rome, the most expensive place I had traveled thus far. Linnea, our amazing blog tour guide and now a person I am happy to call friend, had a boyfriend on the tour that was equally an amazing person. Knowing my situation, he offered me to stay in a tiny loft above a theatre he owned in the heart of Rome. It would save me from finding a quiet alleyway to sleep every night, and would give me time and a bit less pressure off my shoulders to figure out my next move.
Again I was eating bread and ketchup to save the bit of cash I had. Some family sent a bit of money at random to which, they may not have known, helped me eat for the day. And allowed it to not be just bread once or twice a day.
(my little theater window)
This was the moment where I began to think that I might have to return back to the United States.
However much I wanted to try to keep traveling, and however much I stubbornly didn’t want to return earlier than I had intended, I had to consider my position. I had little to no money and no income at the moment. Living on a tight budget is not at all a difficult thing for me. Though I love eating the dishes of all the countries I visit and exploring, I also have no problem surviving on instant noodles and toast and exploring. But when you have no budget at all, when you are completely bottomed out, and you know that bread roll is what you’ll eat for the day because you can’t afford something else, it saps a lot of the fun out of the experience.
Some people can do that, and I definitely have been down that road in New Zealand where I slept in my hammock above Wellington and nibbled on what I could afford because I was out of money. Even though bits of that were wonderful, like waking up in the woods everyday to the sun rising over the city, most aspects of being forced into that position weren’t pleasant.
I sat each day atop that theater looking out of my small window watching people wander around, and each night watching groups heading to go grab a drink or a bite to eat. It was an absolutely romantic scenario living above a theater in the heart of Rome, but I still felt trapped. If I wandered around and met new friends, I couldn’t do anything they would be doing around town. I couldn’t explore parts of Rome I hadn’t seen since I couldn’t afford the subway. And I couldn’t relax in a café in the city while I wrote.
Even though there was a play every night in the theater I lived in about a brothel romance with ladies in lingerie strutting around.
(why yes the theater came lingerie ladies & nightly plays about a romance in a brothel)
That’s when I decided it was my time to head back to the United States.
If I was going to explore more of Europe, I wanted to have a budget that would allow me to do even the most minimal things around the city. Some opportunities presented themselves for possible work, and working in Rome would be a dream come true, but I had already used up 2 months of my allotted time in the Schengen Zone and I would have to leave soon anyway.
Now it was time to figure out how the hell to get back to the United States. During that last week in Rome I finally received a chunk of my pay from my freelance contract, but it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for a last-minute flight back. A friend I had met while traveling in Thailand invited me to come visit them in Munich, and after realizing flights were drastically cheaper from there to the US, I said farewell to my friends in Rome and took a train to Munich.
During the week spent in Germany, I sucked up my pride and asked friends back home if they could help spare a little cash for the difference I needed for a flight. I knew that in Washington DC I had friends I could stay with and that I could have two jobs in a jiffy, so that would be the plan. Return, work my ass off again, save money, leave.
And after three flights in 24-hours and a 15-hour bus ride, I was back in Washington DC. I was somewhere I never thought I’d see myself again that soon.
But, I also had never thought I’d see myself living in Thailand or exploring Europe either.
(at the John Lennon wall in Prague)
So, was running out of money all a mistake?
Or going to Europe a mistake?
The thought of course had crossed my mind a few times. I could have planned better, or come up with one that would have allowed me to stay abroad. There are times when my thoughts about this beat me up, and that I feel bummed about returning to the US. Maybe I should have gone back to Southeast Asia to teach English. Sometimes I think “dammit, I could have saved money better here by not doing this” or “if only I would have done this than I’d still be traveling.”
Then I have to shake that bad mojo off. I left what-ifs and I-could-haves behind, they are all useless thoughts.
This is the essence of travel. This is what makes it exciting and demanding and difficult. And ultimately, why traveling is so rewarding. If it were easy and everything was laid out before you, then the soul of the adventure wouldn’t be there. Was it all for naught? Absolutely not. Are there things I would do differently? Yes.
Lessons on the road are the best lessons learned, because it is a trial by fire. They are situations you may never find yourself in at home, and whether it be figuring out how to save money for something special you want to do, or budgeting just so you can make it to the next destination. Traveling the past couple of years after leaving the United States for the first time taught me to open up my mind to the possibilities that are out there once you begin to look for, and follow your dream.
I gained knowledge and important lessons about Southeast Asia and Europe that couldn’t have been read in a book. And being quite new to travel, each lesson will make the next trip better.
(looking out over Loh Dalum Bay in Thailand)
This trip also showed me another key piece to my life.
When I began traveling just a mere 3 years ago by going to New Zealand, my heart and mind were filled with sudden possibility and inspiration. But my heart was also still filled with things that always held me back. Though that first trip was life-changing, it had also been used as an escape from something I was running from most of my life — however much I told myself I wasn’t running.
When I had to leave New Zealand after 9 months of traveling the country because I was out of money, I berated myself for failing. I had told everyone that I was going to travel for a year or two, and I snubbed my nose at my brother after he had disowned me for wanting to travel. I would prove the world and my brother and society’s demands that I was better than it all and could chase my dream. In that sense, my dream became about other people and other things, it was no longer in pursuit of my own happiness. When I returned early from New Zealand, I faked that it was no big deal, but inside I was crushed. I had felt like I failed at pursuing my dream. And worst of all, I was thinking about how I had set out to prove others wrong and failed.
By being consumed by this fear of failure, something I always struggled with growing up, it had taken the true meaning of my dream and replaced it with self-loathing. The fact that I had traveling nearly across the world, and the fact that I was the first in my family to leave the US, and the fact that I did it for 9 months — that all didn’t matter. I had failed at something I set out to do. I had failed at my dream.
As was one of the first articles to be published on this blog when I began it again last year, I shared how this exact mentality and demoralizing view of my own self drove me into a dark place, a place filled with depression and monster that I had hidden away. It was a place where self-worth did not exist, just personal demons I created and that I succumbed to. During this period, things I had never dealt with — the deaths of my parents, the feeling that I would never be good enough, and the feeling that I had failed myself — it brought me into an abyss where the choice of living or dying was the only thing left.
When I shared the affects of keeping this all hidden in far corners of my mind since I was a child, it was after a time when I had hit the lowest point in my life. My drinking had gone beyond bad. I felt worthless and ashamed. And I was also facing a possible jail sentence because I had been drunk and broken into a house, one which I thought was mine that I had simply and drunkenly locked myself out of.
After months of facing the consequences of those actions, and looking at the internal monsters for the first time that manifested, I knew I had to make that decision to live and change, or else end up dead. There was a choice to be made, a choice that could only be made by me and carried out. The day I walked from the courtroom found not guilty, I vowed to live my life for myself and do whatever possible to chase my dream. A vow I had said before when leaving for Thailand, but one I had said while still holding onto things from my past.
(standing atop a temple in Angkor Wat)
The significance of this trip was that, this time, I don’t feel like a failure.
Months before I had even began planning my trip to Thailand, I began to share personal memoirs about those struggles I had faced, and some of the most personal events from my childhood that had haunted me for years. That had led me to that dark place. By sharing the stories, it was almost like self-counseling. I finally revealed to myself the things I never could face before, and it helped me discover clarity and strength.
Sure, before I left I had told people that I wanted to travel for a year, teaching in Thailand, and then maybe moving on to explore other parts of the world. It was a rough plan, and though teaching in Thailand was a main goal of mine, everything was truly up in the air. I was just ready for another adventure. Even with my trip only lasting 8 months when I wanted to travel for a year or more, it was still 8 months abroad. I still lived for 8 months in other countries. I was able to experience multiple cultures and make friends from all over the world and share experiences and laughter with them.
I was pursuing my dream. I still am pursuing my dream. Because a dream isn’t a destination or a finish line, it is the journey of the body and mind and heart and soul in pursuit of what makes you happy. In pursuit of what you love. It is something that, if you are truly chasing, you can never fail by not reaching some peak or apex, since the glory of a dream is never-ending. You can only fail if you choose not to follow it.
And this is why returning. Though it is something I didn’t think to do this early, it wasn’t something I am going to let bring me down this time. The choice was made by myself to return, and though eating bread and ketchup everyday could have helped with that decision, I know that I will make my time back in the States another piece of the adventure. A catalyst for continuing my dream.
What comes next in the journey?
Well, I’ve come back “home” as I can say, though I know that even if I grew up in Maryland, my home is somewhere else out there. It’s in the wind and the mountains and the forests and the road and everywhere else. Fernweh, that longing for a place I’ve never been still holds on tight. So my goal (which I don’t often set goals unless relating to travel) is to work and save and travel again soon.
To be honest, I am also very excited to be back for fall in the Untied States. Autumn in the US has always been magical for me — Halloween is my favorite holiday, pumpkin flavored everything is my obsession, and the beauty of the changing leaves. And since I will be in the US for a bit, I’ve been considering going much more in-depth about travel around the US and places I’ve been. This is the perfect time to add this aspect to the blog, and maybe a perfect time to become a tourist of my own home country.
Where might I be looking to go next?
Since I had always wanted to visit Europe, the good thing about traveling there and spending two months hopping around different countries is that it gave me a sample. A tantalizing taste. Of course I want more. And it also clued me in on what to expect and what to plan for when I do save specifically to travel Europe. So that is an option, but there are many others. Each time I embark to a new countries, my mind changes and grows and evolves, and I discovers different possibilities that suddenly change my desire or course.
Maybe I’ll want to return to Southeast Asia and explore and teach in Vietnam or another country. I also will be researching what it takes to stay longer in Europe without having the 3-month cap to worry about. Also, I’ve always wanted to explore Central America and South America, and Africa. Hell, I want to see it all!
During my time back I’ll be doing exactly that: deciding where to go on the next trip. I’d like to give myself 6 months to save up, so I’ll be working hard to accomplish this. I’ve already had two interviews at previous jobs, and this month my freelance writing contract should finally have the kinks ironed out.
There is also the idea of moving to New Orleans after fall when it cools down and the festivals take over. New Orleans is one of my favorite places in the world, and I’ve been wanting to spend a few months living in that city for a while. It’ll be crazy busy and should be a great place to make some money.
All of this did, in fact, pass through my head during that brief rest in Great Falls.
Not nostalgia at all, but a pang inside my spirit of a sudden excitement — the excitement of a new adventure and continuing the chase.
We had been scrambling up fissures in the stone formations, leaping over moss-covered logs, bounding off angled boulders from one to the other, scaling sheer rock-faces, swinging from branches, and running full sprint while dodging sharp outcroppings. We were hot and tired and slightly cut up, but invigorated. We had been running free for the sake of the spirit and for the challenge. We were creating a path where no path existed. Sometimes head-on, and sometimes with caution.
We were creating our own path in that forest and in the gorge even though obstacles stood in our way. Yes, it felt strange being in Maryland again and sitting atop the high jagged rocks, but as the water below us flowed forward, and the breath came back to my lungs, and the memories raced through my mind, I knew one thing for sure — little by little I would keep carving out my own path.
Though the adventure seemed to end, it hadn’t. It never does if you don’t let it. Step by step, little by little, I will keep pushing forward.
Here is to today, and the adventure it holds wherever I find myself, and wherever you find yourselves chasing your own dream every today following.
If you also want to check out another article by a travel friend, Flora of Flora the Explorer Blog, it shows another perspective as she suddenly is returning home after traveling 3 years. Read: After two years of travel I am returning to London
And so the lost boy arrived in the Eternal City. But I hadn’t actually arrived yet. Having an aisle seat made me envious of the red-shirted woman with the views out the window. But the worst part of that envy wasn’t because her face was smushed against the window and she was wide-eyed at the Italian landscape below — it was because that woman was dead asleep as we began our descent. Oh how I was tempted to just lean right over her to peer out the window. But I suspected that if she were to suddenly wake up, I might appear to be sneaking a smooch instead of my simple desire to see Italy unfold below.
She’d be wrong though, I’m not quite into stealing a secret kiss from a drooling elderly woman with a slight mustache and a snore worse than mine.
We arrived on a reasonably smooth landing, with only a few jolts and shakes exciting my fear of flying before screeching onto the landing strip. After that mad rush subsided that happens when all flights come to an end and people scramble for their luggage, I was waddling with my bags toward the exit door.
Finally, I was staring out at a land (which arguably didn’t look different from most airports) that I had waited all of my life to see. I took a deep breath, my nostrils full flare and filling up my lungs with as much of the brisk Roman air as I could take in. It smelled more like burning rubber and jet fuel than fresh air, but it was still marvelous. Then I realized I was causing an annoying jam while exiting the plane, so I continued on waddling down the stairs. Though there was a slight anxiousness in me that I couldn’t explain. Stark shadows of our figures cast long across the tarmac from the early morning sun just beginning to peak over the Roman umbrella pines in the distance.
I stopped into a bathroom once inside the Fuimicino airport terminal to change out of my spiffy clothes and throw on something much more normal for me (leather jacket, jeans, boots). Reading about a trick online that says it’s possible to get upgraded to first class if you dress nicely, I decided to give it a shot when checking into the airport in Bangkok before leaving for Rome.
Did the dress-nice-for-an-upgrade trick work?
Well, with a button up shirt on, a vest, dress pants, and schnazzy shoes, I approached the Sri Lanka air counter with confidence.
At first it didn’t seem like I was making any leeway with the girl at the counter. I was smiling. I complimented her. I asked her how her day was going. But all I received in return was business attitude. She went through the standard routine of asking me for my passport and credit card. She really didn’t even look up at me after the initial greeting I received. But, after putting my backpack on the weighing machine and cracking a few jokes, the barrier broke down finally.
“You look like a rock star.” she said and smiled.
I laughed, “I get that a lot.”
“Are you in a band” she asked.
“No, just a writer”
“Oh wow, so you have a book or something?” she asked.
“Not yet, but I write a blog though”
“Maybe I can read it sometime” she said.
So, of course feeling like a cool cat, I pulled out my wallet and I passed her my blog business card.
“This is my website if you want to read it”
“Okay I will. By the way, I moved you to seat 20H” she responded and flashed a smile.
With a thank you I walked away — a small bounce now in my stride. I had no clue what my seat was changed to, but she told me she had changed it. Could it be to first class? I’d only know when I boarded the plane.
Ultimately, it was not first class.
It was an aisle seat that allows you to just peek past the curtain and see the happy people donning suits in first class. I wondered whether first class seats while wearing dress pants gives you less of a wedgie.
So, either this was a failure at the attempt at an upgrade, or a victory. Though I was teased by seeing the “greener grass” ahead of me in first class the whole flight — she had also placed me in an exit row which gave me more space to stretch out my legs than I’ve ever had on a prior flight. And there was nobody in front of me to flop backward and crush my laptop.
After I was out of my stuffy suit I headed eagerly for the train that would take me into the heart of Rome. A great big green and white and red colored beast huffed and puffed on the platform waiting to take people into the city center. I nearly missed the train as I stood in front of a door waiting for it to open sesame, until someone pushed past me and pressed the button on the door to enter.
I would have totally missed that train otherwise.
We pulled out into the rural Roman countryside. Small farms and more Dr. Seuss-esque “truffula” pines flashed by while the occasional graffiti that was rebelling against the bland concrete buildings it was sprayed on broke up the views. An Italian flag flapped in the wind , except unlike the American flag in the United States, it would be the first and the last I saw that day.
As I sat on a fold-down seat by one of the doors, I scribbled observations in my leather journal. One observation was someone who I deemed The Man with Overblown Expectations. It can get exhausting having expectations about places you visit. Sometimes a city or a country can exceed expectations, and sometimes the expectations are crushed by disappointment. So I try not to have expectations, just an excitement from the mystery of a new and unknown place.
This is why I don’t read guide books about places I visit. It sets expectations for the place to be sunny and beautiful and that going there will be flawless. That isn’t really how travel is. So, instead, I wait until I arrive to really begin the experience, and whether or not it is good or bad, it isn’t influenced by an outside force. Usually at least.
Standing over me was The Man with the Overblown Expectations; flowy white buzzed hair, bushy eye-brows, tan pressed slacks and a golf shirt, giant Nascar-like glasses dominating he face. He had a gold watch on, alligator skin shoes with little gold plates on them. He looked uncomfortable standing in the crowd of strangers on the train. He had tucked himself into the corner near the doorway and strategically place his absurdly large rolling luggage as a barricade between himself and the rest of the car. His wife sat on her luggage with what seemed to be a permanent frown that had hardened over some years.
“Gardens. Gardens everywhere you look. Do you see these gardens?”
The train was now passing by older apartment complexes or smaller houses alongside the tracks that had little patches of flowers or vegetables sprouting in their back yards.
“Gardens. Do you see these?” he asked his wife.
“Gardens, yes, I see them” she said without looking, and obviously not as amused as him.
“We finally made it to Rome” He said with excitement.
It seems those small and not-so-Roman gardens had triggered it. And it made me glad I had not waited until I was much older to visit, even though I most likely had 1% of his budget to explore with.
I was excited as well, but peering out at that window I was observing something much different.
Life; the beauty and the bad. It seemed as though he was blind to this. Blinded by his expectations I believe. Everything had to be the way he imagined it to be. And however cookie-cutter perfect that may sound, that can take away from the unexpected joys and surprises. He refused to see anything in the landscape other than what he wanted, which I think takes away from the actual soul and life of a place. Its reality.
We passed through an area now lined with small tin-roofed shacks close to the train tracks; half rusted or half collapsing but fully occupied. Stained and tattered clothing hung on the clothes lines outside. Rusted bicycles lay unused and overgrown with weeds. Trash strewn across their yard which was a 5×5 patch of dirt surrounded by a chain-link fence and barbed wire. I guess there wasn’t much neighborly love there. The tin shacks were half hidden by infertile corn stalks growing all around them.
“Oooh! Little balconies! Look honey, everyone has little balconies!” He said.
Apartment complexes with exteriors of faded paint rose up beyond the tin shacks which were hidden from view, except by a passing train like ours. They did have balconies, but had nothing distinctly Roman about them. Nothing out of the ordinary. The area more resembled pulling into Bangkok train station which had the same tin shacks lining the sides of the tracks with the dated high-rises behind.
“Balconies…wow. Beautiful” the man said under his breath.
The train screeched to a halt into the Roma Trastevere station. The station was shaded by a massive metal awning; pieces of the cracked and aged black paint has chipped away to show the rust beneath. The wrought-iron construct was adorned with twisted metal, spiral designs, and intricate hammered iron leaves — beautiful in its day surely, and beautiful in its decay still.
The Man with the Overblown Expectations seemed to quiet after a while as his wife was ignoring him and wearing her seemingly standard frown. But he still would whisper to himself in amazement at the cute hanging laundry and balconies. He didn’t ever mention the graffiti, or the people living on the side of the tracks, or how this landscape had shown centuries of the numerous rises and falls of this region.
After all, Rome is one of the most war-torn cities of the past 2,000 years.
We left the station and passed more embankments covered with the same infertile cornstalks like the ones that had hidden the tin houses before. Not producing anything, yet still growing. It made me think about how this region may have been a vast farmland in ancient Rome before the urban decay that has sprouted up all around.
It reminded me of when I was a little boy and would help my mother with the gardening.
We used to grow corn in a small patch of flat land at the bottom of a hill in our yard, and I used to help my mother tend to them. More like I would sneak newly ripened cherry tomatoes into my mouth. Over time after my parents split up, nobody planted anything there. Weeds grew, but still even without care those corn stalks sprouted each year to the dismay of my father. But infertile still, the only thing they could bear was the memories of a time past just like these alongside the tracks.
It began to seem as though we were passing through different decades as the train continued to close in on Rome. Through the 1920’s to the 1980’s, buildings with distinct styles for their era rose up around us. Some with the pre-war pastels, some with the cold-war staunchness.
We had been leaping forward through decades shown in a timeline of aging apartment complexes, and then history unraveled before me and we plunged back centuries.
Above us towered an ancient aqueduct, the first of its kind I had ever seen. Bricks nearly a third of the thickness used in modern construction, stacked perfectly upon each other and held together with mortar to a height above most buildings in the surrounding area.
We passed under one of the archways holding up this aqueduct and I marveled at how old the structure was, yet how dominating it was to the modern buildings around. That arch towering above was our gateway to the Eternal City as we crept into the Termini station.
Though I had stifled my expectations that had been building up since I was a very young boy, I couldn’t help but secretly hope that it was just as the books had made it look when I flipped through them at age 8.
Years and years of wandering the history sections of libraries and always finding myself pausing at the books about Rome. Years of hearing stories about Italy from other people who had visiting and thinking of Rome as a fantasy place. Something only in imagination and on pages. Years of that feeling of fernweh, the longing for a place I had never been.
Even though the train had just pulled into the city, the sight of that ancient aqueduct made it unbearable to hold back the excitement. I had a big ole’ cheesy smile on my face.
No longer was it just for books and stories and photos, for I had arrived in the Eternal City.
*The next part of my Rome series will be landing soon, so make sure to keep stopping by, or sign up for my weekly newsletter!*
How was it when you first came to the place you always dreamed of? Did it live up to your expectations, or like me, did you try not to have expectations? Share your story and your place of your dreams below!
Welcome to your weekly travel digest. Just like a young chap in the early 1900’s, I will be playing the role of town cryer telling you all of the best travel articles hot of the (word)press.
Each week I will be posting up my favorite blog reads that catch my terribly low attention span. No, I will not be in overalls and a golf cap like this dapper young lad on the left.
When I’m not wandering around the world, I’m reading about it, so I want to collect some entertainment to light that travel spirit under your ass!
There will be no “Top 10” posts here, no “Best Beaches” bullshit, just straight up travel adventures and motivation.
Are you a real traveler? How the trip can change your approach to people
by Clelia Mattana of Keep Calm and Travel
Excerpt: “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they would ignore at home.”
There’s a punch in the stomach for a lot of travelers. Many of those who travel for leisure or vacation go to places abroad and gawk at everyday life of other cultures. Hell, backpackers can be guilty of it too — especially snapping photos of everything that catches our eyes. One thing that travel can change in you though, if you allow it to, is the ability to notice and acknowledge other human beings around the world — who are quite similar to ourselves. The only thing separating us is our refusal to interact with one another. Clelia does an awesome job of analyzing the disconnect and showing how travel can change how we interact with each other.
Falling for a traveler: My on the road relationship
by Flora of Flora the Explorer
Flora has quite an adventure spanning multiple countries over an extended period of time…but an adventure not of the romance of travel, but of travel romance. From the unexpected beginnings and the intense and passionate rise of feeling, to the struggle of keeping the spark alive as they part ways numerous times — Flora chronicles an emotional tale of fleeting love abroad.
What I learned from my round the world trip
by Hayley of Love Puffin
Travel is full of ups and downs, moments of ecstasy and agony, and most importantly — life lessons. On a round the world trip encountering all sorts of cultures and experiences, Hayley details all of these lessons that have shaped her since embarking.
Cities of the dead — Exploring a New Orleans Cemetery
by Letty of Bella Vida
Though some might say it is a morbid fascination, I absolutely love walking through old, historic, or unique cemeteries. Letty takes us through one such city of the dead in New Orleans and the above ground crypts.
Kutna Hora Bone Church
by Roam at Dawn
I guess the photo section will be undead themed! Cue the organ music for this one. Since I am in the Czech Republic at the moment, I was REALLY looking forward to seeing this Bone Church, or Sedlec Ossuary, has massive pieces of the church “decorated” or adorned with bones. But in very elaborate and somewhat chilling designs. Tis will have to do until I get to visit.
Palazzo Sacchetti, Rome
by Gillian’s List
Off of the dead topic and onto Rome where I just spent an awesome week wandering the city. Gillian shows us around Palazzo Sacchetti with stellar photos of the beautiful architecture and decor of a hidden gem in Rome.
Cartagena Street Art
by Bianca of Nomad Biba
Hi, my name is Ryan and I am a graffiti-haulic. I absolutely love street art and this photo essay is chock full of some o the most vibrant and gnarly street art I’ve seen from a destination I am not familiar with the least. Go have your retinas rocked by this art.
30 photos that will make you want to visit Italy
by Robert of Leave your Daily Hell
Since I just came from Rome, a city I fantasized about visiting since I was a youngin’, I just had to include Robert’s photo essay in this mix. It was images like this (though not seen from a blog 15+ years ago) that filled my imagination about Italy and made it my top country I wanted to visit.
Let’s get lost!
by Zara of Backpack Me
Here is a video which I will simply will call upbeat — one of those travel vids with the catchy music and the adventure footage that makes you just want to get up and go. Love it, and I like the overall message of inspiration to go travel.
The do-it-yourself tour of Pompeii
by Jennifer and Tim of Jdomb’s Travels
I just experience my first taste of the rich history of Italy with a last-minute trip to Rome. Though I am not a fan of tours, I did take part in quite a bit of tours while in the eternal city to take advantage of my short time there. But, as some of us know, tours can be bloated as well — especially to a place as famous as Pompeii. Here, Jennifer and Tim give you an extensive guide and history lesson of this fallen city so you can do it yourself!
6 Photography Tips from a National Geographic Seminar
by Phila Travel Girl
Videography had always been something of a passion of mine growing up, but moving from a mini-DV camera and a digital HD movie camera to learning a DSLR and picking up still photography — I am still learning new things each day. As a traveler a perfect photo can come along at random and you have to be ready. Here are some great tips learned from a National Geographic seminar.
How to make an Italian neighborhood your own
by Penny of Adventures of a carry-on
One thing about Rome when I visited was just how disoriented I was. Coming from Thailand, I was obviously in for a bit of culture shock, but walking around neighborhoods in Italy made me feel a bit self-conscious about my lack of knowledge. It seems like every place I went in, the locals were in and out and knew exactly what they wanted, whereas I was spinning in circles trying to figure out what was what. And most people I encountered did not know much English. So, Penny gives a great guide on how to get acquainted with an Italian neighborhood like you’ve been there forever.
And don’t forget to check out my recent articles!
Does that have ya pumped up?! Find other awesome reads this week or want to be featured next week? Comment below!
Easter has come and gone. Just another western holiday forgotten. Before that, Christmas came and went. Before Christmas, there was Thanksgiving that went by without notice. And at the beginning of this trip, my birthday was gone before I knew it.
Most individuals of the traveler breed began traveling for a few main reasons; some vague calling, some draw from a mysterious thing, some hope of adventure, some desire to discover culture, some to discover themselves, or some because they were just fed up with their old life. Reasons can expand infinitely into the horizon of why one travels, but these are the main examples I hear from most wayward wanderers.
An overarching theme seems to come down to one point — people who are travelers deep down just don’t want to have to wash their clothes as often.
Okay, that is not the true conclusion I came to, but that definitely is something I see (and smell) often. You know who you are smell testers. I’m one too.
No, it seems like a constant with most travelers is the feeling that they just don’t fit in.
Or I should say we, because I’m sitting here in another country as well pondering the same damn thing.
Whether it be a job, or a city, or a lifestyle, or society — all seemed like they were square blocks trying to be slammed by an angry baby into a round hole.
And yet, down the road I talk to many travelers who catch the dreaded “homesickness”. Everybody is on a high cloud nine where they jet set out for that first time, gung-ho about breaking away and never going back. Then, something begins creeping into your brain. There is usually a point that hits where you go, “fuck, I miss my family and friends”. Most likely this happens when a holiday from home rolls around, or when new travel compadres part ways. It’s okay to admit this. Even the most hardcore traveler can miss something from home.
When this happens, there is suddenly a small sense of loneliness where your mind wanders back to the familiar things — the places we grew up, old family gatherings you hated at the time but would kill for now, that bed that will forever be your bed and the best fucking bed that ever existed.
I never thought this would happen to me.
I’ve come to realize a few things after traveling for a year in New Zealand, and especially now while living in Thailand during key holidays back home. Big holidays usually spent with family and friends like Christmas and Easter kind of just…come and go almost without notice while traveling. At least for me. I forget what day it is, now that most days are spent on the move or writing. I completely forget upcoming holidays usually due to the fact that I don’t have a job reminding me of it everyday.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that during the times when I do remember — it makes me miss home and miss family even more.
And not just the house with the yellow asbestos shingles and brown shudders I grew up in. I grew up in many houses — friends and families who took me in throughout my childhood and into my adulthood because I needed it. The families which I would spend weeks on end with sometimes because I didn’t want to be at my actual home. Holidays, summers, birthdays, it didn’t matter.
Yet, even with all of this, I still didn’t feel like I fit in.
Then something strange occurs. When some of us return home from a trip, we are drastically different, and though you are excited to see family and friends, soon you get that feeling that you don’t belong there. You have changed. Everything else has not.
When I was a wee lad, my mom and pop would always take the family to one of our aunt or uncle’s houses to celebrate Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter. And during those holidays I really didn’t care to much to be involved in any of it. I wanted to run outside or play while they all watched football, drank, and chatted. I guess I was a tad bit introverted, but at the same time I felt a little out of place and I could never explain why.
In my head I was always immersed in my “pointless imagination” as my father called it. I was always escaping even when I was physically present.
Once I got old enough to work, my family was more of a functioning cog; each person had a job and duties and outside obligations or lives. My father, my brother, and I would rarely eat dinners together. On occasion I would be able to go and visit my mother, but she always had to work two jobs to survive which left me usually laying around at her apartment. Between my father, my brother, and I, just normal conversations with each other didn’t happen much. We each worked and we each came home and we each would go to our “spot”.
My father would occasionally share stories of mischief he had caused or something when I was younger. My mother would share little things on occasion as well, but usually things that weren’t very important. In reality, my parents were people I had known all my life, and yet I don’t know anything about them. The whole family thing was of course a strong bond, but in everyday life there wasn’t much of being a family.
After my father passed and it was just my brother and I, we would do a dinner at Hooters on Christmas, but the majority of the time I spent holidays with my other families; those families that had lived across the street from my house, or down the street from my house, or behind my house. They had all been an integral part of my life. They still are now.
I spent Christmas and other holidays with them, and they would treat me no less than a son. I would enjoy being around them, and I would smile and have a good time, but for some reason I always felt out-of-place there as well. And though I love them as my own family, I couldn’t ever shake that feeling for some reason.
The same happens with my aunt and uncle. I look forward to each time that I can see them. When I do see them, I really enjoy it, but sometimes I still get that underlying feeling. I know I belong there. They have also done so much for my brother and I after the death of our father that I could never thank them enough. And I love them immensely.
Was it envy?
I still have that feeling of not fitting in sometimes. It’s as if I am false. I want to jump in and be engaged and be a part of the conversations and the family stuff. I just don’t have a clue how to show or express it. I know what it means to be family and have those strong bonds, yet I don’t know how to be a part of a family and truly show it.
I used to think it was envy. I used to think about why I just couldn’t shake that outsider feeling. I used to think that I envied how close or happy or connected their family and other people’s families were. I knew that once we left their house on holidays, or once I left a friend’s house, I would go home with my brother and my father and it would be back into the grind. My brother and father weren’t to blame, it was just the normal thing for all of us to be separate in the same house.
Envy wasn’t it. Maybe a small piece, but not the deep down reason. It’s crossed my head often lately and after talking with friends about it, I may have discovered another clue.
I don’t know how to be a functional piece of a family.
Though me and my brother’s relationship has become dramatically better, when we were in our teens the family was very one way. We wouldn’t eat breakfast or dinner together. When we’d ask the obligatory question of “how was your day” each of us would respond, “good” or “sucked” and go into our personal spaces.
When around other friends families or other parts of my own family, I just don’t know what to do. I want it dearly to come natural but I sit or stand there separated and have no clue how just to be a part of it. Because we never did that. It makes me uncomfortable. I feel awkward and unsure. Not unsure that they are all family, just not sure what the hell to do. How to be a family member.
It just wasn’t how I grew up, that aspect wasn’t there because my father had to support us and my brother worked since he was fourteen. It was just life as we knew it. And the fact that I don’t know how to be an active family member has taken a toll on a lot of close family relationships or families that were like my own. I just don’t know how to be. And it’s so frustrating.
But traveling and being on the road now makes me yearn for it. For all of those times I missed out on the connection of family and love because I was too nervous or silly or whatever this feeling is. Too nervous and unsure to open up.
Can travelers fit in? Can I?
Some travelers don’t have this issue at all. If not, then I am so very happy for you. Now leave. Just kidding, but it is a great thing when your life and your family and friends just click right. That doesn’t happen to all of us.
I do know one thing though, I miss all of my family and friends on these days now more than ever, and I would truly love to give being a functional family member a shot, however rocky it may be for my emotional state to jump right in.
Not for anything except for the fact that it is important to me. I missed out on that connection for too long, and pushed it away after that. They are all family whether blood or not.
I know us travelers have reasons why we travel and many of us feel as if we just don’t fit in back home. You want to escape so badly that you up and leave everything behind.
Except there is always one thing that we will always be a part of, something you should never run away from — family and friends. Even if we may not fit in perfectly.
However misunderstood the travel lifestyle may be to them or however much they are against it, they will always be family. Your friends that you can’t keep up with on a daily basis because you are globe-frolicking, they’ll be there too. There might be Grannie Marge that likes to knit unicorns and says cuss words more than a sailor, or Uncle Danny that enjoys a few too many beers and likes to scream about politics, or maybe your older brother or sister that thinks it is utterly irresponsible for you not to have a stable job and bitches about it constantly. But then they spend thousands of dollars on a television.
Then there is you.
You. Yeah you. Amongst that crowd of strangelings, the people you think you are so different and will never understand you, you’re the one who sold everything to live in 12 bed hostels and wear the same shirt three days in a row. Who’s strange now?
You don’t have to worry about trying to fit in, you may never come to an agreement or an understanding. Family and friends may never get why you want to do what you’re doing. The same reason why you don’t get why they are doing what they do.
The bottom line: All you have to do is to be family. Accept it.
I don’t think I’ll ever fit into a normal career job since my mind will always be pulled aloft to far away places, but I do know that I want to make more of an effort to be a part of people’s lives that mean something to me.
And I’m trying to learn how to do this. Well, actually how to allow myself to.
Even though families can be arduous or dysfunctional or annoying or chaotic or bat-shit crazy, don’t forget while on the road after leaving everything behind that there is still something back home that is a part of you forever.
I’ve made myself a loner for too long, and though I’ve always felt like I didn’t fit in, fuck it. Because this is what matters…
Have you ever missed home, and then returned to find yourself feeling out of place?
Travel blogging is a great way to share experiences, but it can also be a tool for personal change. Travel blogging saved my life, and it can change yours.Read More
It is now exactly 24hrs until I depart on the first leg of my upcoming adventure. A lot is on my mind. That nervousness is beginning to tickle my stomach. I guess this happens to all of us on the cusp of a great and risky endeavor.
My goal when I first began saving money for this trip was $10,000 over the course of 6 months. It seemed feasible enough. I cut out all expenses I didn’t need like pumpkin spice lattes (though I occasionally snuck one in), going out drinking with friends, and eating out at restaurants.
I began cooking at home. At the same time I also began a Paleo diet; no wheats, grains, or dairy. That helped keep some change in my piggy bank and helped me get back in shape for this backpacking adventure.
And, it was easy to average about $3,000-$4,000 a month at the restaurant I worked at. Except, something unexpected happened to make that attainable goal unreachable.
Pardon my potty mouth, but the United States Government has given me quite the headache.
August and September are notoriously slow months in the restaurant industry in DC, but it was all supposed to even out in October. Well, the each side of the United States government decided to huff and puff and defend their egos. The government was shut down. Nobody was getting paid. Nobody came out to eat at the restaurant.
To top it all off, because of this made it impossible to pick up extra shifts to work the really busy nights. So I was left begging people to work for them to no avail.
Which equaled me failing my savings goal.
Out of around $10,000, I did manage to save up around $8,500. I’ve never in my life saved up that much money, so I’m pretty damn proud of myself for making it that far.
So what does it mean that I failed my savings goal? Do I turn back? Do I take more time to save?
Hell no! I’ll keep on chuckin’ it to Thailand. This just means I will want to look for a teaching job in Thailand much sooner than later. And it will help drive me to come up with creative freelance methods of sustaining travel.
I will admit, I did splurge a tad bit towards the end of my time at work. But I label them as “dream expenses”. I picked up the latest GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition to help kickstart my travel video series. I bought every sort of accessory for said GoPro. I bought a polaroid camera so I can send rad people who signed up for my weekly newsletter a postcard each month.
But these are all things I feel like I will use all of the time, and that would definitely feed my creative hunger and create a new outlet for showing you these adventures.
What’s left to do?
Tonight, I pack!
Packing is definitely an exciting part of traveling.
Trying to fit your whole life in a bag, and realizing which items are most important to you. I sold my bed, though it is a sad day because it is my most prized possession.
I organized 20,000+ photos and videos on my computer and hard drive so I can attempt to be organized on this trip.
I got my dying iPhone 5 replaced and unlocked and all of the chargers as well that were frayed.
I knocked out notifying the banks and my phone company about my departure.
Pretty much all of those little things.
Want to know the most important thing I did before this trip recently?
I finally reconciled with my brother and we have seen each other 3 times in the past week. That, my friends, is unheard of if you have followed along with that drama. We had a deep and raw brother to brother talk, and for once I feel like we both truly understand each other.
I also got to see family that may not be blood related, but they sure as hell helped raise little Ryan.
Previously, I never sought out people to say my goodbyes, I was consumed with myself and my escape and didn’t realize until recent just how amazing it is to have people in your life that love you. It felt great to see them.
I’m not always good, or even rarely good, at expressing gratitude and love for family and friends, but this time it was really important for me to see them before I go.
So, off to another adventure! One that will be transformational this time and not supplemental. One that will take me through thousands of miles of rugged USA. One that will take me thousands of miles by air to Southeast Asia, where I do not know what will happen.
Will I have enough money? Depends.
Will I find work? Hopefully.
Will I have a good time? Probably.
It’s all up in the air at this point, and that’s what makes travel so exciting. I am emotionally prepared this time and I feel more mentally driven than ever!
I don’t consider not reaching my goal a failure. Just another way to drive my ambitions.
Will you come along this gnarly adventure with me my friends? Sign up for my weekly newsletter and get my real personal travel stories, and I’ll be picking one person each month to send a polaroid photo and postcard to!
It would be an immense understatement if I said the relationship between my brother and I has been a tad bit rocky the past 5 years.
Growing up, we were polar opposites beside just our looks. I would be more prone to frolicking in the woods, building forts, pretending, using my imagination, and that sort. My brother on the other hand was always working. He began working at the age of 13 at a nearby produce stand, and his hobbies included winning trophies in BMX racing or becoming a championship winning lacrosse player.
Throughout our childhood, we fought like all brothers do, and he tormented me like all big brothers are supposed to. But the one thing that bugged me the most was that all of my lofty aspirations; whether by childlike ambition, or by growing up wanting to be a filmmaker, all seemed like nonsense to my father.
“Get your damn head out of the clouds!” was a phrase I heard often.
Even though it was never stated, it always seemed as though my father wanted me to be more like my brother. My brother was a spitting image of our Pops, with the same hardworking mindset. He didn’t believe there was any other job worth doing besides a labor job. After a period of not speaking with each other before his death, I succumbed to his pressuring and was inducted into the grind of being a window repair man like him.
And at that time I was content with staying there.
After my father passed away, all I wanted to do was leave. I wanted to run away from it all. It was almost like my grown-up way of pretending it didn’t happen like I did as a little boy to forget about my father abusing my mother. So I packed up and moved out west. Ever since I left, my brother and I have barely had a conversation besides the one or two times a year that we would meet for dinner with my aunt and uncle.
And we never spoke about the day our father died. Ever.
I never really tried to speak to him about it. Hell, I couldn’t bear to visit our father’s grave, and typically lied about doing so. As I chronicled in a recent memoir I wrote, I never wanted to talk to anyone about it that day. I just wanted to forget. In doing so, by bottling it up inside for 5 years, it nearly led to my demise and also forced a bigger rift between the two of us.
Something I wouldn’t realize until recent.
Right before the dinner Friday night I posted an article recapping bits and pieces of the night my brother disowned me for moving to New Zealand. Because I wanted to move abroad for a year he told me I wasn’t his brother, and I was so furious I decided I wasn’t going to try to talk to him anymore. I was going to prove him wrong. Like our father would have, he stepped on my dream with the heel of his boot and attempted to grind it into the ground.
Or so I thought he wanted to crush my dream.
That was one of the biggest and most invisible issues. I was always trying to prove my brother and father wrong. Trying to prove to the world I could be great. I perpetually felt unworthy.
In the past few months while sharing parts of my dark past with you all, and getting some tremendous feedback, I’ve gained a completely new perspective and awareness of myself. I’ve finally faced much of what haunted me nearly leading me to suicide, and however this dinner was going to end up, I had a whole lot to divulge to him.
Would he disown me again like last time? It didn’t matter as much this time.
Obviously I hoped he wouldn’t, but I had no control over his decision. I just had to tell him the truth, and how confident I was this was right for me this time.
So how did I reveal it to him this time?
Well, a whole helluva lot different from New Zealand.
Up until this night, most of our conversations revolved around money. I felt like him and his wife always pestered me about my finances, how irresponsible with money I was, how I should live my life, and how I should get a secure job. I couldn’t stand dinners with them most of the time because I always felt as if they ganged up on me just to make me feel like crap.
So I didn’t mention a damn thing about money this time. It wasn’t something I felt important to talk about.
Instead, I told him everything.
“We’ve never talked about when dad died, ever. And I’ve never told you or anyone this. Or even realized it myself until recently. But it fucked me up really bad”
I began at the death of our father when everything came crashing down.
“The money we received from the house? You know I moved out west, but I never told you that I blew it all on partying.”
“I know you did, trust me.” He said.
“Well, over the past 5 years I’ve always told you I was fine, and that everything was amazing. All I wanted to do is prove you wrong, and to not end up like Dad in a job that killed him.”
“Yeah, you were always trying to prove something to me and I was always wondering why the hell you felt like you had to.”
I began by brutally dissecting the past 5 years.
I told him how I viewed his decision to sell the house, how I felt at that time, and how I see it all now after re-thinking his motives. I told him about every instance in which I screwed up over the past 5 years, how I blamed someone else, or how I made excuses for my missteps and downfalls. I told him about the times I despised him for selling our house, and how I resented him for being able to just deal with our fathers death.
“I was able to run with it, to just take it all and continue living and doing my best.”
“You ran with it, and I ran away.”
It really gets easy to live a life that is a lie when all you are doing is living for someone else’s expectations and opinions. I never knew my brother didn’t care about things like that, but I felt the urge to make him think I was doing amazing.
“You always made everything about money when you talked to us. I didn’t give a damn about how much you were making and what job you were in, but you always started each conversation with how well off you were so we could only talk to you about your finances.” he said.
In hindsight, I never realized that I did always fire off my current standings of false wealth and false happiness to prove him wrong, leaving that to be the only thing we could talk about.
“When you told me you were heading to New Zealand, it was the last straw. Uncle Ken and I knew for the past few years you were going through some shit, and I knew you hadn’t dealt with it and were running away again. So I got fed up and just had to cut you loose. There was nobody that could save you except you.” he said.
During this conversation and in the past few months, I realized how hiding my past and pretending to be somebody I’m not was extremely detrimental to fostering relationships of any kind. I was so caught up in proving everybody wrong that I would let relationships with friends, family, and others fall to the wayside.
“I was definitely in a dark place. Very dark. I hit rock bottom and kept falling until I reached an abyss with no light. And it feels good to be aware of that now. I came here tonight to tell you I am tired of trying to prove you wrong, because I have to live for myself and it is the root of my well-being to do so.”
“I’m proud of you bro.” he said. Words I never thought I’d hear from him.
Words I didn’t care to hear now because I wasn’t trying to make him proud. Funny how that happens right? But I could see his eyes cloudy (though he would never admit to produces wimpy water from his eyes) and I could hear in his voice he was genuine.
Just like writing about my darkest days here on the blog, telling him how I felt all of those years while analyzing my own thoughts has lifted a mountain off of me. Sometimes when you are in a bottomless pit filled with quicksand and pit vipers, you have to pull a MacGyver to get out.
Or sometimes the key is to be honest with yourself and others.
When I told him and his wife about my upcoming trip to Southeast Asia to teach English, their eyes lit up and they smiled.
“That sounds like an incredible trip Ryan, I think it’ll be amazing for you and your growth.”
Okay, where the hell did my brother go and who replaced him with this Care Bear?
Actually, it finally felt like we were brothers, instead of competitors, for the first time in a long time. And even though some ways my brother dealt with things or treated me aren’t the best ways, I now realize we were both a part of the equation that held back our relationship instead of just blaming him.
I had laid all of my deepest thoughts and feelings on the table that night for the first time ever. I am no longer running away from my past, blaming others for my downfalls, making excuses for pretend greatness, and living for others expectations.
It seems like this is the start to repairing family ties, and opening up the possibilities for me to foster other relationships. I am truly excited to hit the road now and meet new people.
I know I have the potential to be great. I know my own worth. I know my dream. I am living now for me.