Setting the Course

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”- Mark Twain

In less than 10 days, I’ll be embarking on a European adventure that I’ve been planning for over a year. It’s hard to believe it’s actually here, and to say I’m excited would be a ridiculous understatement. It’s taken plenty of sacrifices and a lot of saving, but every dinner out, new dress and big event I’ve said no to has been worth it. And honestly, I think it couldn’t come at a better time.

While out to lunch with a friend of mine yesterday I realized how long it’s been since I’ve really stopped to reflect on my life. Everything moves so fast that there hasn’t really been a minute to stop and smell the roses, and travel can be a wonderful cure for that sort of thing. Nothing gets you reacquainted with yourself quite like wandering through the streets of a foreign city, with nowhere in particular you need to be. It’s just you, removed from all of the usual daily distractions that lead you to defining yourself by what you are to others, instead of what you are and want to be for yourself.

The first time I was in Europe, I was 18 years old. Just about to start college, my whole life ahead of me (as they say), completely oblivious to anything but the present moment. The second time I was 19, studying abroad and getting just about as crazy as you would expect while trying to figure out one of the most intense burdens life had ever placed on me. But no one expected me to have my entire life figured out. I was still free of the responsibility that I carry now at 25. The expectation that the way my life is now is the way that it should be for the next 50 years – as though I’m already locked in to a certain path, from which deviation is impossible. I think that’s all too common of a fate. A trick of society that makes you think your life now must be your life forever, and every decision you make from now on must be based on your current set of circumstances You will never leave. You will never change careers. You will never find new passions. You have already made the choices that will set the course for the rest of your life.

What a terrible lie to believe.

I don’t know that I’ll come upon any particular epiphanies while I make my way through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or have a liter of beer in Munich, but the point is simply that I’ll have the time to think. To remind myself not to believe the lie. Because really, our lives can change at any moment. You can reset your course at any time. It’s up to you, in the end, not the unseen forces of the status quo. So if you’re happy, keep your course. And if you’re not, well … vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime when one would rather be someplace else isn’t exactly a recipe for satisfaction, is it?

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One thought on “Setting the Course

  1. Despite the fact that I generally prefer to spend as much time as humanly possible inside my house and on the internet, I have always loved traveling. Although the most recent traveling I have done has been the touch and go kind where you spend an afternoon in a city before moving onto the next, I’ve always found something reminiscent of the Romantic era in being lost in unfamiliar streets and using broken bits of the native language of a country. The spectacle not being in the people or the places, but in the sense of unsettlement that comes with a lack of familiarity. While college keeps me bound to one place these days, I have a psuedo-secret wish to become multilingual and expatriate for a few years before settling back into the US. (I’m not sure I can ever really leave Seattle.) Have a lovely trip.

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