An Adam Abroad

From Boston to Budapest and everything in between…

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… on Arriving

Location:  Bangkok, Thailand

Music : Fun – Carry On

The first picture I took on my travels

The first picture I took on my travels

When I left for what would turn out to be four months in Europe almost a year ago, I was emotionally exhausted.   I had incurred so many recent changes and turmoil that any emotions I should have been feeling dissolved into cold indifference.  I don’t remember thinking about much on the ride to the airport; and it wasn’t until my parents had pulled away, I had checked my bag, and I had my boarding pass to Copenhagen that a smile crept across my face.  I was excited; I was finally really doing it.

But then I moved back home.  I met a girl and we soon started dating.  I shared many fun nights with old friends and easily acclimated back to a level state of comfort, a comfort that I knew travel didn’t afford.   So, when it was time to leave again to fulfill the second part of my journey, I procrastinated.  I made excuses why I couldn’t go yet or questioned if it was what I really wanted.  I had intimate knowledge of the difficulties of long-term travel on the mind and body.  You go so through many emotional highs and lows that any rational person would ask themselves if it’s truly worth it to do it all again.

The answer is always a resounding Yes.  After almost 24 hours of buses, planes, and airports, landing in Bangkok to start another few months of solo travel was an incredible feeling.  Surrounded by an unfamiliar language and  foreign customs, I was once again greeted by that bewildering freedom of being totally alone in a strange place with nothing but uncertainty ahead.  It’s a high unlike any other to navigate through the yelling tuk tuk and taxi drivers, find a metered taxi stand, just to exchange poor Thai greetings and pleasantries before the first attempts at being scammed occur.  “500 baht,” the taxi driver says as I close my door — around $17. a reasonable price for the 45-minute ride into the heart of the city — but I am prepared for this.  “Meter na klap,” I respond in my best Thai.  My driver offers no resistance, and the meter is switched on.

Leaving the airport, I get my first experience of being only 12 degrees from the equator.  A stifling heat chokes the air and makes the air conditioner work extra hard.  We pass rows of thatched-roof houses and monks in all orange walking to ornate temples before we jump onto the highway and I get my first glimpses of my destination.  My head is spinning from a combination of the heat, motion sickness medication, and jet lag; but I am finally here.  I have arrived, and I am ready for all the unknown has to offer.

“My name is Richard. So what else do you need to know? Stuff about my family, or where I’m from? None of that matters. Not once you cross the ocean and cut yourself loose, looking for something more beautiful, something more exciting and, yes, I admit, something more dangerous. So after eighteen hours in the back of an airplane, three dumb movies, two plastic meals, six beers and absolutely no sleep, I finally touch down; in Bangkok.” — The Beach

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… on Leaving

Location:  Seekonk, Massachusetts

Music:  Dave Matthews Band – Warehouse 

People are funny, fickle creatures.   After ten years of working in retail and two years of navigating the judicial underbelly as a court stenographer, I can safely say I’ve encountered an eclectic sampling of what the human race has to offer.  Sometimes I’m unexpectedly pleasantly surprised, but more often than not I experience a walking depiction of the Seven Deadly Sins that would leave Dante blushing.  In an effort to combat what seems like a growing trend, I’ve always tried to make a conscious effort to be a beacon of positivity in an increasingly cruel world; but it gets harder every year as I fall on hard times, lose another friendship, or get informed of the premature death of a loved one.  When I finally pulled the trigger and booked this trip, I had had enough.  I was burnt out from the rat race, the constant struggle to find peace of mind, and I wanted out.  Traveling solo seemed like a great way to collect my thoughts and redirect my energy.  In the beginning, I decided I would only tell my closest friends about my plans, and I would spring it on everyone else after I changed my name, burned my money, and got lost in the Alaskan wilderness…

Randy Pausch, in his amazing Last Lecture, said it best:  “Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress. When you’re pissed off at someone and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time, and they almost always will impress you.”  As my departure date drew closer, and my time in this country shorter, everyone I wanted to spend some time away from suddenly became everyone I didn’t have enough time to spend with.  My anxieties about whether I made the right decision were quelled with an outpouring of love and support from my friends and family.  Their excitement for me helped push me when my own excitement waned and doubt crept in, and I can’t thank them enough.

As I write this on the day of my departure, I still can’t wait to get away from it all for a while; but now I also can’t wait to come home again.

“Leaving home is a kind of forgiveness, and when you get among strangers, you’re amazed at how decent they seem.  Nobody smirks at you or gossips about you, nobody resents your successes or relishes your defeats.  You get to start over, a sort of redemption.”  – Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home

… on Fear

Location:  Boston, Massachusetts

Music:  AWOLNATION – Kill Your Heroes

Just over a month ago, I stood outside my office on Devonshire desperately trying to slow my heart rate to a manageable level.   A feeling of impending doom washed over me even though I was about to take the first steps to realizing a dream that has been gnawing at me since high school.  My rational mind knew my firm’s owner would react positively to the news, but it could do nothing to break the bonds of Fear that had conquered my subconscious.   Hands shaking and voice cracking, I walked into his office and informed him that I had decided to take some time off to travel.

As predicted, he was nothing but supportive about my decision.  I immediately relaxed, but that wasn’t even the hard part.  I was never worried about his reaction, but there was and still is a deep lingering anxiety regarding almost everything else: leaving my secure job in my dream city, traveling thousands of miles away from home, having enough money, backpacking solo, loneliness, my future, my health…  I just do what it took me almost 27 years to learn; ignore it.

I’ve learned my body is a terrible predictor of the future.  In fact, if I listened to it at all, I would never leave my comfort zone, and I would have missed out on incredible, life-changing experiences.  I wouldn’t be publishing my thoughts on the internet right now.  But in the moments where I’ve experienced the most intense anxiety, something incredible happens when I decide to face it.  Along with the usual spike in heart rate and sweat production, my hearing gets sharper.  Colors become more vivid, and my thoughts become more primal, more rational.  Fear has even tampered with time, as minutes turn to hours, and the future ceases to matter.  I realize that there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place, and I was being totally irrational.  For however long it lasts, I’m free from Fear in all its forms; worry, stress, anxiety.  The uncertain future has dissolved, and I’m fully experiencing the Present.  It’s in these poignant moments when I feel the most alive, when the shadows are exposed to the light, the genesis of confidence.  When Fear is vanished, there’s nothing to fill the vacancy except personal growth.  I’ve learned that Fear means I’m doing something right; I’m heading in the right direction.  At least, that’s what I’ll be telling myself when I board this plane…

“Buy the ticket, take the ride.”  – Hunter S. Thompson

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