I’m about to turn 31 and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. In my late 20’s, that freaked me out. I was told again and again that I needed to find direction. You won’t always be so lucky to land on your feet was another constant refrain after one failed project after another. But here I am at 31, as uncertain in many ways as I was at 21, and rather than scare me, it gives me incredible strength. Curiosity still rules the roost in my life.
In my late 20’s, a friend and I made a pact: 30 by 30. The idea was to hit 30 countries by the time we were 30. And while I am glad I did it, my views on travel have evolved. There will be no 40 by 40, at least not as a goal that I set for myself. While I’m excited to visit new places like South Africa, Hungary, and Doha, I’m more excited to return to places that led to so much self discovery: Ecuador, Japan, and El Salvador.
For years, I made travel my own modern art. I honed my skills in budget travel. I sought out stories while on the road that would provide refuge to my creativity on the most boring of days. But all along, I refused to write. “Who am I to write and publish my thoughts?”, I thought. I was afraid to really face the imperfection that was my writing voice.
But a man with a piano on the waterfront of Queenstown New Zealand changed all that. His music spoke to my heart. Every touch of the piano keys, every tear that fell from the face of bystanders at the sound of his beautiful music simultaneously held me frozen in place, while also giving me the courage to move beyond my own fears and hesitations. And so I spoke about my fears, and as I spoke about them out loud, they seemed less and less insurmountable. When I timidly shared with people that we were starting a blog, I would joke: “I hope someone other than my wife reads my posts”. Then one day it hit me: If I don’t believe what I have to say matters, why the hell should anyone else? I stopped making jokes. I pour my heart and soul into my blog, even when heart and soul sometimes feel like the last thing that shows up in some of my posts. I feel I have something to offer, and while it’s far from perfect, at least the journal is off the shelf. That alone gives me courage to pick up a pen, learn about HTML and SEO, and everything else that goes into making a successful travel blog.
Looking back, I admire the idealism that informed my teens and twenties. Looking forward on the eve of my 31st birthday, I have a deep appreciation that as I grow older and as it becomes harder and harder to be an idealist, idealistic I have remained. Living abroad years ago, I was reminded again and again that I couldn’t travel forever. I disagree. Travel, I have come to discover, is more a state of mind than a process. If we approach each day with the curiosity of a traveler lost amidst a maze of new streets, greet each person with the wonder and awe we have when meeting someone from a new place, we create an environment where the light chases out the darkness. Isn’t that why we travel? Our curiosity fed, our hearts engaged, the mind can’t help but remain steadfastly idealistic, even if it has no idea just what the hell we’re doing with our lives!