last night i was having a drink with someone and we were having this wonderful wandering conversation, drifting from one topic to the next without any specific direction or goal. it was a refreshing interaction for me, and one that surprised me. over the last 5 years i’ve allowed myself to fall into a sort of manic style of conversation that you get when you’re trying to arrive directly to the point of the interaction. you cull the talking points, distill them down to actionable directives, and then you try to do the same for whatever your takeaways from the meeting should be so you know what productive actions should come from the interaction, all in the interest of saving time and boosting efficiency. this is extremely important in the corporate world, but the effect this habit produces on the rest of your interactions is similar to removing the color from a painting; it’s all still there, but you’ve likely lost the very thing that made it beautiful.
as we were talking, we aimlessly drifted to the topic of my upcoming travels. the type of trip i’m taking tends to draw a general routine of questions to which i have my normal “canned” responses. but this time around i was asked a different question that no one had asked me yet: “why europe?”
the funny thing is, when someone says they’re going to europe, there’s never a question of “why?” among most modern, intelligent, forward-thinking americans. i think it’s just generally understood that most people would like to go to europe some day, so when someone says they are going, we just sort of look at them and think “man, that lucky bastard is taking my vacation.” and then we carry on with the conversation and communicate how jealous we are and how excited we are for them. but the person i was speaking with likes to play devil’s advocate and challenge opinions to test the strength (something i usually do) of statements, so when i said europe, she challenged me. not in any rude way, but the implication was that europe might be an easy destination for someone to go on a soulsearch, and if i was indeed looking for experiences and answers to specific questions mentioned earlier in the conversation (something i won’t go into detail in this post) then my mission might be better served on a different continent. and it is a good point.
but the fact is that there is a lot more than history and art that i hope to explore in europe. and europe is actually something that i’ve passed up multiple times for other destinations, other relationships, other opportunities that in retrospect never really amounted to much but they seemed like the responsible thing to do. the fact is the older you get the more reasons you can find for not doing something outrageous (in my case, going on an extended backpacking trip), and so you handcuff yourself to duty and responsibility, and you find other distractions or other things to spend your money or time on that are easier and safer. And it’s not until much later in your life that you start counting your regrets, and often by that time, it’s too late.
so part of this journey is reclaiming something that i’ve wanted to do for 10+ years. i want to see where the civilized world started, and what people are doing with it now. i want to see how people live their lives, how they appreciate the things around them, or even learn what they appreciate. i want to learn, i want to be overwhelmed, i want to be the stupidest guy in the room. i want to watch a play in Shakespeare’s Globe. i want to stare at a real Michelangelo ceiling and be crushed by a true labor of love. i want to wander a Prague street after drinking a few too many pilseners. i want to trek all day to see an active icelandic volcano and be awestruck by the naked power that doesn’t even care if i exist. i want to dance like a fool (and look like one too) in barcelona. i want to see the things that were in my history books and on my tv, and i don’t want to see them from a facebook post. i want to experience it all in the 1st person.
and somewhere along the way, i hope it changes me. i leave for Iceland in 6 days. i do not have a return flight.