When Dreams and Reality Don’t Intersect

I had just finished two years of travel. I needed stability more than anything, until I found it.

Flights are a great place to think. They’re uncomfortable and make it difficult to focus, but when you can’t sleep because the man in the next seat is drooling on your shoulder, there’s not much else to do. So you think.

Not long ago I was on a flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles. It was the end of a two-year adventure which had broken me physically, mentally, and financially. It was a trip I wouldn’t change a thing about.

Since I was ending my journey, I thought about how it began. My undergraduate experience featured working fifty hours a week while taking classes at night, online, and during holiday breaks while my classmates were partying. I then joined and finished an expedited graduate program. In four years, I had saved more money than I could spend, plus finished bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I also lost touch with friends who lived blocks away. But I was done. All work and no play had made Jack a dull boy. A dull boy with a healthy savings account and no student loans. I was finally free. Two weeks later I was in Brasil.

Many people travel to relax, but I was traveling to escape. I was leaving the stress and structure of standard life behind, setting out on a sink-or-swim voyage to parts unknown. Lest I get cold feet, I canceled my return flight from Brasil. This was happening. I was free.

That freedom gave me the best two years of my life. Nearly every month, I was in a new place, meeting new friends and immersing myself in a new culture. I used to think it wouldn’t get better than college, but now I’m convinced that nothing will ever beat translating to an Afghan refugee that her unborn child wasn’t harmed or couchsurfing through Patagonia. Would I ever experience something as vivid as watching tens of thousands of protesters rise against ISIS? Would I meet better people than those who helped me along the way?

Life was more than gumdrops and cotton candy though. My bank ignored my travel notices and deactivated my main and backup cards multiple times. I broke a foot without access to money to see a doctor. The stress and lack of medical care caused my epilepsy to flare up, which I realized upon waking up on the floor after a seizure. But it was all part of the adventure. It was all perfect.

Still, even with the adventure, exploration, discovery, and amazing people I found, I longed to be back in stability. Maybe stability was in Brisbane, or maybe Brasil or Alabama, but it wasn’t in a new place every month. I wanted to have a steady job and build lasting relationships. Health insurance wouldn’t be the worst thing either.

Eventually, the drooling man next to me got up to use the bathroom and I was able to sleep. My dreams were of lands full of palm trees and malaria, lands far from where the airplane was heading.

This story originally found on JasonPowersBooks.com

Explorer, aid worker, teacher, and the luckiest man alive. Everything: www.JasonPowersBooks.com

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