For those who travel or would enjoy its thrill. Wonderful words.
So I’ve spent 4 of the past 5 years out of the US. At first, I was bitter because I did what everyone told me I should do: go to college, get good grades, save your money, meet a girl, get a job. I, like many of you, was unfulfilled and I didn’t understand why, because again, I did what everyone thought was the smart thing to do. My job options sucked, so I got out.
I got out for two years, and it was the time of my life. The best friends I have I met then. It was, at the time, a truly miserable experienced. I “got out” to one of those countries that is so fucked up, it probably won’t continue to be a country much longer. I was poor, I was sick, I was scared. I was alive.
I spent a year in the US, recovering from that. I got a nice office job on salary, my girlfriend moved in, I bought a dog (Duckie). Then it started to drag, and it started to suck. The dog died (parvo, which I didn’t even know was a thing, until it was too late) and so did I. I got out again.
I went to paradise and learned it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I found myself in one of the most naturally beautiful places this planet has conjured, and I watched millions of poor, uneducated hedonists mess it up beyond repair. I tell my friends they should go now, because in 10 years, all its charm and beauty will have washed away. I was poor, I was scared, and I hated the job that sponsored me. When I think about it now, I’m sad because I will never have it that good again, at least with enough youth to enjoy it.
At home, things were either grey, old and decaying or that new, shiny white they paint on school and hospital walls that allows no humanity to spill or stain them. Everything was either old and decrepit or new and hostile. I saw a lot of pain and weariness in the eyes of my friends and family, especially those who lead the same life as when I got out for the first time.
Still, I gave it a shot. It was home, it was safe, and I could make it work. Or at least, I tell myself that I could make it work. That’s a gamble that means all of your chips are on the hand that says your future happiness exists in Smalltown, USA. That boasts, your future happiness is attainable, affordable easy, and all you have to do is sign right here. I read the news, I saw the town and I read the eyes. After two interviews with people who hated their own jobs, I realized that they probably resented their families. If they hated their job and their families, they were miserable. I realized that if they hate their jobs, at a minimum, they’ll make me hate mine. I got out again.
I find myself in a new, strange place. I’m in the “honeymoon phase”, so it’s all exciting, vibrant and new. I’m a child here, so it’s filled with wonder. I’m alive, wide-eyed and joyful.
I got out to know myself. It’s the most profound and important advice anyone has ever given me and I consider myself cosmically fortunate it was given to me enough times to stick. I saw that for me, getting out was a way to further my knowledge, my independence and my contribution to this world. Each time I’ve gotten out, I’ve returned smarter, healthier, with a deeper sense of spirit and purpose. I avoided becoming a statistic by getting out.
However, my first mistake was bitterness. You can’t rage-quit your country. I didn’t know then, but I know now: there is no holy grail. No country on Earth is without flaws, annoyances, inefficiencies or pointless bureaucracy. There will be things you love and things you hate about any place you go, if you don’t think that’s true, you haven’t been there long enough.
For me, about 3 months is the honeymoon phase, and after that the small annoyances start to pile up and calcify. I think that’s why vagabonding (if you want out and you haven’t read that book, you’re wasting everyone’s time, including yours. It’s by Rolf Potts.) is such a popular way to get out: you experience the hot, passionate romance of exploring a new place without the frustrating, dirty, or brutal sacrifices of a long-term relationship. It’s getting out as a summer fling, not as a serious relationship.
The long-term is what I have left to discover. I’ve yet to “seduce” a country into letting me stay there forever, and I may never. This may be my last trip “out” and that will be fine with me. Before I make another leap of faith, lugging my life around in two heavy bags, I will appreciate my own home. I will give the US another go, and from the sounds of a lot of these informational requests, many of you should do the same. I still believe that you can lead any kind of life you want there, but it requires a great deal of sacrifice, effort and dedication. Sounds a lot like the price of freedom, to me.
If I do become a full-time expat, it’s not out of bitterness, philosophical protest, or spite. It’s because I’ll dedicate my life and career to the search, to the road and to the wind. It’s because that’s how I feel alive, when I am watching the world zip by through a window. That window, on a bus, a plane, a train, a car, or just out of the corner of my eye is how I want to live and die. That’s where my soul thrives, watching the world whip past. I hope my current “outing” will answer if that’s the path that awaits me.
In closing, don’t get out due to desperation, anger or disgust. Your unhappiness will follow you, plague you and consume you. Get out because you are passionate, curious, or excited to share yourself. Get out because your comfort zone ends when you hand over a boarding pass. Get out because that’s when life puts you at your best. Get out because getting out is the story you will tell your grandchildren. Get out because the road beckons you in a way that you feel deeply, in a way that moons beckon wolves and the tides, or in a way that you know, while it will not always be easy, exciting or fun, it was impossible to resist. Get out because it gives your senses purpose, your mind an edge and your soul a challenge. Get out because you want out, down to the cells in your bones, for all kinds of reasons, good and bad. Get out, and hopefully, I’ll see you there.
“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others.”—Timothy Leary (via the-iridescence)