I’ve had the travel bug for as long as I can remember. My dad was a Rotarian, and we hosted an exchange student from Paris when I was about six. I was completely amazed by her. I took up piano lessons because she played the piano. I spent hours playing with the little Eiffel Tower snow globe she gave me. And I decided I wanted to live in another country, too.
It was never a question, whether or not I would do Rotary Youth Exchange. My desire to travel and discover only grew. When someone suggested I would grow out of my wanderlust or questioned whether I’d thought it through, I was confused. It wasn’t a matter of choice, to me. It was just the way things were, and I couldn’t imagine wanting it any other way.
When I first started announcing that I was going to do exchange and people asked ‘why,’ I didn’t know how to answer them. I was doing it because it was a fact of my life and always had been. I was doing it because I wasn’t ‘me’ without it. I was doing it because the idea of not doing it was abhorent to me.
It’s a similar situation now.
When I explain my plan with the van, people are surprised. They ask me ‘why?’ They ask me if I understand the risks.
But it’s also a very different situation. When I announced I would be doing Rotary Youth Exchange, most people knew I loved to travel and that I’d taken two languages in high school. It was a well-known program through an organization that consisted of well-known and well-off community members. There was a reassurance that I would be returning and going to college afterwards. It wasn’t completely out-of-the-blue and there were some securities in place.
This time around, people ask me ‘why?’ with very poorly concealed unease. There are those who see no downside to my plan, certainly. But most are concerned. If it isn’t the guarded, pressing ‘why?’ then it is the abrupt, hesitant ‘Oh…Okay.’
Van life probably feels completely out of the blue for most of the people in my life. Yes, I love to travel. But just taking off and living on the road for the foreseeable future? That’s not the kind of thing that anyone expects. Plus, there’s greater danger since I will be on my own. And there’s no predetermined end to this adventure. So it’s a bit different than announcing my year abroad.
I’m having the same difficulty explaining ‘why.’
The compulsion to just go has been running through my veins for nearly as long as the decision to go on Rotary Youth Exchange has been lodged in my thoughts. Anytime I went anywhere growing up, I felt the urge to just keep going and not stop until I’d seen every horizon on the planet.
I once again find myself without a clear explanation for my decision to leave home. There is only the endless fernweh, the longing for places I’ve never been, that has always dogged my heels, and the relief of a debilitating tension that has hounded my mind since I returned from exchange.
I feel, for the first time since my exchange year, that I am on the right path.
I think that each person has an obligation to themselves to do the terrifying things, to follow their heart, to be unwavering in the pursuit of their own happiness. And if I truly believe that, it would be wrong of me not to take on this adventure.
I recognize the challenges and risks that I’ll be facing. But I once heard that you shouldn’t choose something because you love the good parts of it, but because you’re happy to endure the bad parts of it.
Basically: don’t become a doctor if you’re not willing to lose a patient once in a while and endure everything that comes with that.
There are so many possibilities here that I can’t possibly predict exactly what challenges I might encounter, but there are some I can probably expect. Getting lost, car trouble, being unable to find a bathroom in the middle of the night, running out of money and having to find a job (any job) at the drop of a hat. I’m willing to take those things on. I’m willing to mess up, to learn, and to do better the next time. I’m happy to face unforseen problems out of the blue and have to bullsh*t my way through them.
To anyone outside of my head, this decision might seem sudden. But I have thought about it long and hard. Arguements against my hair-brained plan do nothing to sway me.
They inspire my dedication.
I hope to learn the intricacies of the different communities and cultures I come across, and to aid outsiders in empathizing with them. I plan to do this through stories, a blend of reality and fiction, that will simultaneously entertain and explain.
So I invite you to join me on this grand adventure.
The stories in this publication will follow every step. From choosing the van to mapping a route to putting in the plumbing to pulling out of the driveway.
The plan is to leave in May, maybe June. Then the real fun begins, because every corner of the country, and then the world, awaits. You won’t want to miss it, so make sure to follow this publication as well as my social media accounts.