The Last Day

I haven’t been keeping this blog up to date, especially since Europe. To be honest, I’ve seen it as more of a chore than an exercise of expression and freedom, which is what it should be and what I wanted it to be. But I also need to push myself to write it, because writing is one of the few things I’m fairly decent at, despite being told otherwise throughout school.

I also want this to be a record for myself in the future and to anyone else who may be interested in travel. I want to make a log of the many experiences and memories I made and will carry with me the rest of my life.

Also, I’m sitting here writing this post in a café/restaurant that is about 200 meters away from Lima’s airport. I missed my flight out by apparently checking in too late. After trying to find a Starbucks and sweating from the hot, nearly-equatorial Peruvian sun, I settled on a baguette restaurant. This because after unsuccessfully meandering around with my 2,000 lbs of luggage and winding up fruitless, I decided clearly this Starbucks multiple people promised was nearby clearly does not exist.

And today, we’re taking about the end.

The end of Kublai. The end of Remote Year. The end of an endless summer (?). And the end of the greatest year of my life. I didn’t spend the whole year with the group, but I spent the some of the greatest 7+ months of my life with them. But alas, all good things come to an end.

It came up too quickly… oh, how fast time passes. It feels like just yesterday I landed in Belgrade, now one of my favorite cities in the world. And now, the Kublai program is history. I am rustling through the emotions of trying to comprehend the totality of this experience. About how much it has taught me, about how much I have changed. Nothing seems ordinary anymore. When I went back home in October, it was rough for a solid two weeks. Every day, I was stuck in a grayscale reality. I wished I was back in an exotic place. I wished I were embarking on a new adventure. I wished I were on that jeep up the mountains in Portugal. I wished I were zip lining. I wished I were overlooking a sunset on the Danube River. I wished I were with the group of crazy, awesome, hilarious people I had come to know intimately over the last few months.

olhd0OhdRMaF4bIimG7jdQ.jpgSo I went back. I couldn’t be kept away. Even if I hadn’t calculated how much different South America would be in comparison to Europe, and after struggling my way through Argentina, I took my learning a step further. Yo aprendí un poco español para sobrevivirte sud America por que no hay mucho inglés. I struggled massively with the tallest language barrier I’d encountered, in every country, and with the unfamiliarity of the concept of vegan-friendly food. I struggled with a burnt chickpea mess, sweating in the hot sun of endless summer, going to the hospital multiple times for various injuries and maladies (PS, making sure you have access to good health care while abroad is no joke), and navigating countries with a largely different lifestyle than I was used to.

But, it was awesome, and far and away the most epic journey I’ve taken.

90 more days have elapsed, and our Remote Year has come to an end. Which means…

  • No more asking your building mates for salt or laundry detergent
  • No more epic side trips
  • No more stumbling over restaurant menus, language, and cultural barriers and laughing at our inability to communicate
  • No more Kublog, tracks, junction, town hall, positive impact, farewell parties, and random outings where we take over entire restaurants
  • No more #overheard, #level3fun, or #roséAllDay

…But rather than have this be a list of nos, I would like to point out that while this was the end of our specific travel program, this is only the beginning of our friendship together. And there will always be time for one more Pisco sour, one more hike up the mountains, one more cocktail workshop, one more adventure to embark on. There will be time again for us to gather and savor the magic that was this fully-lived year.

I am confident I will meet these lovely people in the future. We spent so much time together, seeing the best and also sometimes the worst in each other, experiencing the highest and lowest moments. I’ve been to blow out parties on rooftops, sipped coffee in bohemian coffee shops, hiked mountains, paddle boarded, made public speeches, and shared meals with some of the most loving, interesting, and vibrant people.

Blood is thicker than water.

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Lima farewell, January 2018. Photo credit: Jay Harrison
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Thanksgiving 2017. Photo credit: Jay Harrison??
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Lisbon farewell July 2017. Photo credit: Jay Harrison?? (I just assume Jay takes them all, if you took this let me know & sorry!)

We’ve all shared a couple common threads. For me, I knew wanted to travel, but I was also starting to lose my sense of purpose in life. Jaded by work at a young age, I didn’t want to slip into the cycle of the endless, defeating rat-race that is so prevalent in the United States. I needed a change, I needed inspiration. And after a battle with anxiety that put me through CBT, I was beginning to think life was too much for me. Yet, I crave more from it than a paycheck and transient stuff. And I think we all looked at this as some form of escapism from whatever we were dealing with in our previous lives.

I’m increasingly driven by experiences. Some of the best things I’ve had in life…aren’t things. They’re times we’ve spent together — the times we’ve laughed, cried, drank too much, took drugs, shared a moment in what felt like eternity. At the end of the day, I think that’s all you can really ask for.

Yeah, I could’ve solo traveled. And I “could have done it for cheaper”. I could have backpacked around Europe, like I originally said I wanted to do. I could’ve carved out my own itinerary of places I want to see (even though sometimes realities are different from expectations). However, with that I’d be slaving over TripAdvisor, Monondo, and Kayak, and there also would be something important missing.

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Experiences are made with others. When you decide to do something batshit crazy like travel the world for a year(ish), you are also signing up to see a whole range of emotions and angles with every one and yourself. You instantly bond over shared experiences that you realize you’re so lucky to have the privilege to do this, because so few people get to experience something like this.

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And the people? People who you’ve never met before in your life become family, your lifeline, your rock and support. When you realize you’re in this together, everything changes. Strangers become brothers and sisters. Petty differences subside when you’re just trying to survive. You learn to care for each other, experience every joy and
sadness as they do. These bonds are solidified with the the physical signs of smile lines, bug-bite and bike scars, hangover recoveries, and so much more. I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing group to see this world with, and I don’t regret any minute of it.

So…what is different?

You come out of it completely changed from the previous you. You develop a consciousness for the world outside of your bubble, and you learn to see beyond yourself towards what’s greater in this life. You draw more connected to everything and everyone in a more intimate way, and the world becomes smaller. The ordinary is no longer desirable. You crave the next adventure, the next experience, the next city, the next country. Lists of cities and travel trends, scouring travel blogs and magazines for the next hot destination become like a drug, an addiction to the world. There’s so much to see and so little time. We’re only here on this earth once — we ought to see the most of it that we can, while we can.

This has been the best year of my life… so far. This has officially set a new baseline for all the journeys I want to take in the future. I’m no longer content with settling. I want to do epic shit. And now, I have proven that a nerdy kid from the small Catholic school in the suburbs of Detroit, suffering with semi-crippling anxiety and a fear of what’s next, can see the world. I can make lifelong friends, I can make new memories, I can savor all this life has to offer me, because I am a bad-ass motherf*cker and no one can stop me.

I have to catch up on what happened in Chile and Lima, and I will do that in due time. Because the last month especially, there was far too much shit going on to even keep up with. And while it was grueling, I cherished every second of it.

Thanks for following my experiences.

Until we meet again, Kublai. Stay stoked, stay awesome. We will see each other in the future, and if you find yourself in Ann Arbor or Detroit, you have a place to stay. I can’t wait for reunions, follow-up trips, and the next chapters of our journeys. You all mean the world to me, and I wouldn’t have made it without your friendship and kindness. We truly did #ConquerWithLove. 💜


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