“I have three continents, at least 15 countries and 112 days until I’m home,” I wrote in my first blog post, sitting terrified in the airport before embarking on my first flight.
Four months, 15 countries and three continents. That was my plan…at least, that was my plan eight months ago.
As a perpetually indecisive human, I knew, of course, that some dates and destinations would shift or change completely. And I was right. I followed new friends to unfamiliar cities, missed more trains and buses than I‘d like to admit, extended hostel stays and pushed back five flights.
I even canceled one flight altogether—my return trip home.
I daydreamed for months about returning home. Running, oversized backpack in tow, straight into the arms of my family and friends at the Boston Logan Airport. I had job and career options waiting for me. My amazing girlfriends were conspiring with each other to celebrate my 21st birthday. Like any good New Englander, I salivated over the thought of a massive Thanksgiving Turkey and my Grammy’s lemon meringue pie.
Of course, I missed the familiarity and comforts of my little house, my little town. It’s hard not to clutch onto memories of lazy days drinking ginger tea on my tan, L-shaped couch with my dad, or late night drives for ice cream sundaes with my friends. As the time difference between my old life and my new life grew, my inviting and warm vision of returning home slowly lost its allure.
Instead of spending my days reminiscing, new experiences filled my time. I traveled from Split, Croatia to Budapest, up to Prague and then to Berlin—all within four days. I spent a 10-hour layover in the Middle East on my journey to play with some elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There were too many new people to meet and cities left untraveled to spend even a few precious minutes missing home.
I liked it that way. Actually, I loved it. For the first time in my adult life, I regained my sense of self and a real, inextinguishable inner happiness. I cried listening to songs of lost love and genuinely laughed at forgotten, beloved stand-up comedy specials. That’s normal for most people—but not for me. For years, during the hardest parts at least, getting out of bed could be difficult enough. I feigned the best imitations of the required emotions in most situations. I wasn’t sad, necessarily. The best way I can describe it is that every day I wasn’t exactly living my life. I became an unwitting audience member watching the somewhat boring and predictable Rom-Com entitled “Life of Bridge.” I observed the scenes without actually feeling like I was part of the film—noticing the joy, the despair, the triumphs without living them out. I was just wandering through my life at home without claiming it as my own. It was a passionless life, and I was stuck.
But in these past few months, with every new journey I rediscovered my freedom and sovereignty over my story. Despite missing the amazing people I’ve spent my life with, the thought of returning to my small Boston suburb to do exactly the same things I did over the past two decades transformed from a happy daydream to a confining, ever-tightening chain constricting my thoughts and my opportunities. The closer my return flight date, the more trapped I felt.
Now, in February, I am living and working in Byron Bay, NSW, Australia. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful beach town dotted with backpackers in hippie vans, random drum circles on the beach and busking musicians nearly every night by the main beach. The sun is usually beating down on the cream-colored sand and azure ocean, which is clear and full of dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays and sharks.
The best part? I took charge of my future. I chose this for myself.
Unfortunately, when I started really experiencing life, I stopped blogging. I moved around constantly, and feared that spending a night inside with my tablet would mean missing out on an irreplaceable experience. Thankfully, this led to more than a few stories for future posting on Bridge & A Backpack. In the meantime, I’ll post as much travel and visa advice as I can manage, and whatever adventures I can get myself into here in Byron Bay.
Even though I’m not home, it’s good to be back.