As soon as I got back from Indonesia – before I even left, really – I began plotting my next steps. This time, I want to go big. I have to do it, and I have to soon. Pressure has been mounting for me to pursue a career, more education, or something like it that follows a traditional understanding of life. My parents, poor souls, seem like they’re in a panic that instead I’m wandering, somewhat aimlessly, along an undefined, somewhat erratic path (my living at home probably exacerbates this).
Admittedly, I’m pretty terrified, too. I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life. In the back of my mind, there’s a nebulous sense of wanting to make the world better. But what the hell does that mean? Nothing, if you have no cause to rally around, no issue to support, no fight to call your own. Lately I’ve just been scared into making sure I don’t make things worse.
All I have is a general set of skills and well-rounded knowledge thanks to a liberal arts education. I can do everything, and yet I can do nothing. I’m stuck at a vertiginous crossroads, but something in my soul tells me it’s not time to “settle down” for a “normal” life. Not yet at least.
So, I’m choosing a direction that will surely take me somewhere:
I will attempt to bike around the world.
That’s the only definite, and that’s all that ever should be. The rest will be up to improvisation, luck, spontaneity and circumstance. What’s beautiful and exciting about the concept is that I can go anywhere at my own time, taking the path that feels right. I won’t have to abide by the rules of an itinerary.
It’s not an (entirely) impulsive move. I’ve had it in the back of my mind for years, and have seriously pondered it for the past few months. The negative consequences of me going are slim to none. The benefits: astronomical. I’m pursuing this, simply put, because I want to. There is too much to see and learn from the world to stay in one spot.
Most importantly, this is not a revolutionary idea. Lots of people have been as lost as I am, and have completed this odyssey. I can do it, and I am not alone.
Last year, right before leaving for Chile, I found this article by Gregory Banecker in the Philadelphia Inquirer travel section that discusses the joy of journeying into the unknown. Many people fear darkness, an easy metaphor for the unfamiliar or unorthodox. Instead, we should embrace it, because that is where we make the greatest discoveries. In his conclusion, Banecker drives home his point that “what’s important is that we don’t really know what we’ll see, whom we’ll meet, or what will happen.” That’s the beauty of travel, exploration, and pushing our limits.
I immediately cut out the article and pinned it to the giant map in my room. It reminds me every time I come home to keep this existential crisis of mine in check, and that instead of panicking, to use it to my advantage. Now the article hangs next to the full group picture from Indonesia, an embodiment of the profound, unexpected beauty that we can only discover outside our comfort zone.
A round-the-world bike trip feels like the natural next step. There is no better time for me to do it than at this stage of life. I can do it; I want to do it; now I just have work up the nerve to follow through. Maybe I won’t get around the world. Maybe I won’t even get through one country. The point is that I will go, and will challenge everything about myself.