filed in USA on Jul.07, 2008
September 2007, just past dawn. New York State Route 17. I’m squeezed in my Los Angeles-bound Ford Taurus, packed with all of my earthly belongings, on my 8th cross-country drive in two years…feeling like a sell-out.
When I graduated from Ithaca College the previous May, I vowed to myself (and anyone who would listen) that I wasn’t going to do the norm of recent Television and Film graduates…that is, move to LA, get a crappy entry level job as a Production Assistant, and work my way up for the next ten to thirty years. “I’m going to go on an adventure instead! Work is for suckers! There’s so much more to life than ‘success’ and ‘livelihood’!”, I told myself over and over.
Yet, there I was, four months later, heading 80 down the freeway toward Hollywood, already playing catch-up with all my friends who bit the bullet and actually started their careers. Sitting around doing nothing for the four months after graduation was probably a mistake. But I felt like starting up my career without quenching my thirst for adventure was a bigger one.
In the months leading up to my graduation, I had taken quite an interest in hitchhiking, freighthopping, through-hiking, stowing away on cargo ships, cross-continental roadtrips, summiting mountains, crewing on yachts, base jumping, hot air ballooning, all things hobo-related, and any type of travel that was difficult, strenuous, and off the beaten path. I stayed up late reading how-to books and blog posts about vagrants thumbing their way to Katmandu, or riding motorcycles across South America. I studied the Union Pacific freight schedules, trying to figure out the best time to “catch out” Californey-way. I tried to sign up for The Mongol Rally. I read Into The Wild. My free time was filled with one continuous dream for adventure – and I resolved that after I was done with school, I was going to go hitchhiking, and not stop until I got tired of it.
But when the time came, I just never started. I fully intended to just stick out my thumb one day and begin my journey, but the thought of actually extending that thumb and throwing my fate to the wind, frankly, overwhelmed me.
So I just waited. Wallowed. For months. Four months. And then finally I thought to myself, “what am I doing with my life?”, swallowed my pride, and followed that well-beaten path to LA.
My cross-country route to Los Angeles happened to take me through Philadelphia, so I decided to stop in and visit my friend Pete Herman, who had just moved there with his girlfriend. Pete and I went to high school together, and we graduated first and second in our class…but despite our teenage ambition, and four years of university education, Pete was in the same post-graduation glut that I was. He was working retail at a sporting goods store in Philly, and basically just hanging out. The “real world” was kinda lame, it turned out. Neither of us really wanted a part of it.
Pete and I spent a few hours catching up…then we got to talking about the present…and then the future – which we both agreed looked pretty lame and boring for both of us. And so, as I had many times before, I brought up traveling around the world. I wasn’t expecting much of a reaction other than “Yeah, that would be awesome” – but Pete’s eyes, dark from his hours stringing tennis racquets under the oppressive fluorescent lights of City Sports Philadelphia, lit up. I’d found a captive audience. Pete shared the same boredom and yearning for adventure as I. And within a few minutes, it was settled. We were going to travel around the world. For real. No pussying out this time.
Despite its romanticism, we decided that rather than actually trying to hitchhike and bum our way around the world, it might be a bit more fun and productive to do it with a bit of money. Not a lot – just enough to get by – but enough that we wouldn’t have to worry too much about eating or getting stranded somewhere for too long. Money would make a lot of things a whole lot more fun. Unfortunately, we were both broke. Leaving next Tuesday, as I had originally suggested, really wasn’t an option.
We decided we’d each have to spend a few months slaving away for “the man” in our respective metropolises, and once we had saved up enough money to spend a few months on the road, we were outta there. Pete and I shook hands and went our separate ways…and got to work.
In the coming months, we decided on our starting country (Japan), our direction of travel (West)…and with our hard-earned money, we bought plane tickets to Tokyo. One way.
Tomorrow, we depart.
And there ain’t no turning back.