Somewhere I read once the most precarious balancing act humans perform is between the need for companionship and community and the nearly overwhelming desire to pack a bag full of your shit, cancel your cable, and blow town with no plan for return.
That may not have been the exact language I conceed, but the basic idea stayed with me. It helped make sense of the pull I've always felt to abandon the "normal" life. The 40-hours-a-week-at-the-office life. The mortgage and dog and nice silverware and sarcastic-but-cute-doormat life. I believed these things were important and everyone else seemed to agree, or else why would they be working so damned hard for them?
In my spare time I would read about other people taking on great adventures hiking across whole continents, sailing around the world alone, and bushwhacking their way through the South American rainforest to discover lost civilizations.
I wanted to be there. I wanted to work the ropes of a swift sailboat as it wrapped around the Cape of Good Hope with saltwater spraying my face. I wanted to beat my way through the vines and bushes, machete in hand while wearing a hat you might find laying around the wardrobe trailer of an Indiana Jones set. I wanted not to die though. This was crucial. I also hate mosquitos in the way a chubby children tend to hate pool parties and would like to avoid any undue contact with those miniature disease-carrying vampires, so maybe the rainforest was out.
Probably the sailing, too. I discovered my propensity for seasickness during a poorly thought out deep sea fishing trip in Florida when I was 12. My significantly younger sister caught two grouper and a flounder while I shared our hotel's continental breakfast with the rest of the ocean.
My urge to skip town was undaunted, however. The desire never subsided and at some point it should have, right? That's what I began to ask myself as I turned 30. What I once considered youthful restlessness had grown into an unfulfilled ambition.
It was a new idea that finally moved me to action. I happened upon it one morning while rolling my trash bin down to the street while simultaneously attempting to shove an empty pizza box deep enough inside so that I might close the lid and keep my neighbors from obtaining visual evidence of my poor eating habits.
The thought which finally spurred me to pack a bag and head off to points yet to be determined was simply the realization that I would always feel like this. If I didn't do something to quench this need for adventure, this longing for a journey, then one day it would morph into an old man's regret.
I could either spend my life burning the roof of my mouth with ambitiously microwaved pizza bites while reading of other people's adventures, or I could go on one of my own.
So I did.
It is of course not that simple. There was a trifle more to do as I would find out soon enough, but that remains the hardest decision I had to make - the decision to do something.
I had been saving money for years like any God-fearing Methodist worth his seersucker Easter pants should. I wasn't quite sure what it was for though. I think that was the point actually. It's why everyone I knew saved their money - just in case. For emergencies I'd assumed. I began to view these funds as potential bail money as that had been their frequent purpose in my college years. Not just for me mind you, but also for friends who had overestimated their ability to violate the law undetected.
I was working at a 50-hour-a-week job, making less money than I thought I deserved, and putting a noticeable portion of that money into a savings account for no pressing reason. Now I had my reason and more importantly no one of significance required my help in meeting their financial responsibilities to the court.
The only important question left was where to go, but this answer came easy enough. I knew I wouldn't cut it in the wilderness for longer than a bottle of bug spray might last and the type of adventure I was looking for wasn't a plunge into the middle of nowhere anyway. I wanted to experience intriguing cultures, meet strange people, and, perhaps most paramount, drink new beers. A person could find no more variety in these ventures than in Europe, I reasoned.
A quick search for flights to some of the continent's major airports during my lunch break that day revealed the cost for such adventure, or at least part of it. It was a Wednesday afternoon. I know this because Wednesdays where I worked were referred to as "Well-dressed Wednesdays" and we were encouraged to dress in the kind of clothes that get your cheek pinched by your grandmother when you arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. I always felt a bit of guilt for not participating and it was just as I was overcoming this weekly failing that I began my hunt for a plane ticket.
The search results showed a flight from my hometown of Memphis to Dublin, Ireland by way of Chicago to be most affordable. A few minutes and several attempts at correctly entering my credit card information later and I had booked a ticket for just under $1,000.
I took a sip of a stale highly-caffenated beverage, leaned back in my chair, and in impeccable harmony, gave way to panic attack.