The choice to wander.
I believe in free will – the ability to choose my own path and the power to create my own future. However, I am not free-spirited. I only take very carefully calculated risks. I am a planner. I am a control freak. I thrive in a predictable routine. In exercising my right to free will, I have thus far made choices that lead toward stability and comfort.
While backpacking through Sicily in the fall of 2003, I met a fellow traveller who had been on the road for years. He worked at hostels in exchange for a free place to stay and found some oddball jobs to earn a modest amount of money. He stayed in one city or country until he had the desire and the means to get to his next destination. And he had been everywhere. I was inspired.
However, the downside of booking a roundtrip flight is that your traveling adventures come to an end. At 20, I didn’t yet have the strength or confidence to roam the world without a “plan.” I returned to the States to go back to school. While my 90-day backpacking adventure opened my eyes to the world, it was a superficial “taste” of 8 different countries. I desperately craved an experience that would connect me with a culture and a people. I chose Italy and prepared to spend a semester in Rome.
In the fall of 2006, I learned the beauty of Dolce Far Niente – the sweetness of doing nothing. This Type-A, oldest child, To-Do List queen found that life is more about living in the moment, sipping a cappuccino on a piazza, than it is about working hard to be able to afford the bigger house, the faster car, or the designer clothes. This incredible discovery did have a downside – in an effort to cherish the moment, I found myself eating gelato three times a day and consequently gained 20 lbs.
On December 16, 2006, after a semester of bliss (and a love affair with Pasta), I reluctantly boarded a plane to return home and finish my degree. Curse the roundtrip flight. At 23, I was starting to feel the pressure to grow up (whatever that means). I was now 2 years behind my peers, and it was time to get serious about getting a degree and a job. But deep down I was paralyzed by a fear that I would lose myself in the transition back to American life. I nearly did.
In the past four years, I have grown up. I have worked hard, lived fully, and loved deeply. I used the majority of my PTO to get back abroad, even if only for one week at a time. I attempted to cook a Thanksgiving dinner in Rome, I spent 10 days tromping through the rain forests of Costa Rica, and I was in Madrid the night Spain won the World Cup. I thought I could be happy traveling the way most people travel, with travel being a short detour in my “big picture.” But I was left wanting more.
On December 11, 2010, I made a decision that enabled me to finally do what I’ve been longing to do since 2003: wander. My journey would pick up where I left off four years ago – in Rome – but this time I would book a one-way flight. No plan, no itinerary, no return date. The decision was not an easy one; it meant that I had to sacrifice the home and the life that I had started to build. Luckily, those who know me best and love me most have fully supported this decision, and for that I am forever in your debt. Thank you for letting me go.