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When the music stops - a traveler's reflection

Updated: Sep 17

There are two quotes that have been drumming through my head for the past month. "If a man knows not which port he sails, no wind is favorable" and "idle hands do the devil's work". Each follows the same fundamental message, if a man lacks purpose his life and mentality will reflect that. This message has been top of mind because I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move abroad and travel for a year. However, upon further retrospect, while it was an incredible journey and feat, I was running from something rather than toward something. This is a haunting revelation that I believe I always knew lived deep down within me, taunting me with its presence, and I tried to suppress it. I did not want to face the hard truth until I had no other choice, upon my return.

Growing up traveling and moving internationally often, I realized I knew more than most would ever be able to. That the vast world has more to offer than any single person, place, or thing ever could. Whatever problems exist in your current realm, the world keeps moving. I quickly learned if I could throw myself into that chaos, it was as if my problems ceased to exist for a moment, which I could string into another moment creating an infinite loop of procrastination. Because after the wanderlust, excitement, and novelty of a new place wares off, you realize that even though you ran across the world to a different location entirely, mentally you remained in the same place.

Now I am not saying I do not encourage changing your environment. Your ecosystem largely determines your growth and/or deterioration; I still believe it was the best thing for me because I was able to identify and work on my oversight fairly early on. However, I am admitting my denial to not do the mental confrontation initially. I felt that if I moved everything would be "fixed". This is simply not the case. There is no shortcut or magic solution that will aid in overcoming your obstacles other than putting in the work.

While I was nearing the end of my travels, in Slovakia, I met a girl whom I connected with in a lighthearted but somewhat deep exchange. I casually made the comment that you cannot run away from your problems. She quickly and nonchalantly chimed back, "yea you just end up crying in a cafe halfway across the world with no one". I couldn't help but laugh and resonate with this because about 7 months prior / 2 months into my move to Italy, I was sitting at a cafe and had that exact experience. Granted, I would rather be crying in a cafe in beautiful Italy than anywhere, but it was an interesting shared experience that echoed the same message. You can run but you cannot hide from the problems you left with.

While on the one hand, I think it sounds appealing to never be stuck to one place or person, I have witnessed many people who did this and always knew that deep down they probably felt a specific lack. A lack of purpose or fulfillment. Only experiencing constant movement is unsustainable for many reasons. We are all human and as such, we are hardwired to crave security and this equals consistency. Something that many satiate by simply existing, rather than living every day. A situation I found myself in recently, which made me realize I needed to make drastic changes. However, swinging the pendulum to the other side where you are constantly seeking chaos, adventure, and sometimes even danger is no better than being stuck in the monotony of comfort forever.

In the end, the best thing for me was to leave everything and everyone I knew behind to embark on my European adventure. I am not the first and I will certainly not be the last. It was the most incredible year of my life, but it also came with an immense amount of difficulty, and from that valuable growth. I met and learned from so many different walks of life. Getting to make new, serendipitous, and fated connections; and creating memories felt so blissful, I constantly felt nostalgia for moments before they even ended. Knowing that they were fleeting made it even more special and surreal. It made me really appreciate and savor the present moment.

I also developed tremendous confidence in myself - almost as if I were invincible (I am aware I am mortal). Because when you are alone, lost, across the world, and know that no one is coming to save you, you have no choice other than to trust yourself. If you are reading this, I hope you take away the message that placing yourself outside of your comfort zone literally and figuratively will always be worth it. As long as you make sure you are willing to do the mental work and have a purpose whilst doing so, because until you do so you will not be able to truly capitalize on even the most beautiful places. I am happy to say that through my journey I was able to work on my shortcomings and relish the incredible opportunity. Now I am focusing on keeping my hands and heart busy for the next chapter that life has for me. Take care.

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