It’s been a really wild week. As of today, I’ve officially notified everyone who works in my office that I’m leaving for my adventure. As of June 1, 2013 I will be trading in a house, a job and a salary for a motorcycle, a map and a half-cocked idea that I can write a book that’s worth reading.
After all of the conversations I’ve had with my mom over the last month that have made me feel like I’m from another planet, I was really hesitant to tell everyone the real plan. After all, these people are professionals. They have degrees and work for a college. They’re professors, deans and directors. Of course they would have the same reaction as mom. I expected to be looked at like I had nine heads. So what I did is I told them a partial truth: I said I had applied to a PhD program in Washington state and that I was going to move to Seattle. I left out the part about taking a year or more to get there. I left out the part about selling everything and getting there on a motorcycle. I failed to mention the part where I’m going to try to be a coffee farmer in Jamaica with a man named Thunder, attempt to build houses in El Salvador, and try to work at a Sky Diving school in Utah. I also left out the part where I probably won’t even go to school if I get in.
There were a couple of people, though, that I took a chance on. I told them the truth. The whole truth. I let them know that even though I love my job, this school, and this town, there’s a piece of me that will never be fully happy or able to settle until I accomplish those things. I told them I’m setting out on my motorcycle to see how much wild stuff I can do. I told them I want to write a book. And I braced myself for their reactions. I was sort of shocked when I saw the look of joy on their faces. I was confused at their encouragement. And so I just started telling everyone the truth. And I was shocked to continue seeing that look of pure happiness.
I learned something pretty interesting after I started telling people the plan: People are legitimately awesome. I told my dentist expecting that he would give me a concerned look and offer some advice about safety. Instead he told me he was jealous and invited me to ride motorcycles with him before I leave. Everyone in their office told me how excited they were and started sharing dreams that they had and plans they wanted to make. They said they wanted to follow my blog. I had coworkers come into my office with tears in their eyes at different times after they found out, telling me their plans and dreams for travel. A professor friend of mine invited me into her class where I was making an off the cuff speech about following dreams and not letting booze and drugs interfere with that. All of a sudden I blurted out that I was leaving to go on a motorcycle adventure and write a book. Within an hour she had emailed me and shared so many awesome things that she was doing and things she wanted to accomplish. All of it felt… I don’t know… It just felt incredible.
As it turns out my stupid idea isn’t weird or wrong. My mom is just looking at me sideways because she’s my mom. She’s allowed to do whatever she wants. She’s had to watch me make stupid decisions for almost 30 years and hope to God I don’t accidentally kill myself. I bet if I were someone else’s kid she might be able to talk about her dreams right along side mine. But mama bear instinct is a strong instinct.
Sharing this stuff has really blown my mind though. A lot of us have stupid wild dreams. A lot of people who I might look at and take as pretty conservative and safe on the surface have some amazing stories to tell. And as I shared, they shared. And I’ve started feeling this amazing connection to people. Friends have started messaging and calling me out of the blue now that I’ve made this thing public. They want to climb or surf or drink coffee or camp or hang out. And every time it happens, my heart beats a little faster. Because I want to do all of it. I have no idea what will happen on this trip but I’m learning that things like this make people happy and bring us all a little closer together as we all start thinking about our dreams and talking about them. I like that.
I’m learning that there are a lot of other people who are trying to do the same thing. This idea is poorly formed and barely off the ground but just by starting on the path, my eyes are opened and my mind more tuned into other people who think it’s important to follow your passions and live your dreams. I’m finding them everywhere. As I talk more about what I’m doing, people start thinking about their own wild plans and they get this dreamy adventurous look on their faces. Seeing that look gets me excited. Having friends talk to me about documentaries like 180 Degrees South, The Endless Summer, Craigslist Joe and a whole host of others puts gas in my tank and makes me excited. Hearing about the amazing things people have done or will do makes me happy. That look of daring on others’ faces is validating everything for me right now.
Maybe I’m getting a little overexcited but this strange feeling is coming over me that despite how much I’ve picked on our generation for being so uninteresting, we could very well change the world. If you go read the Holstee story you’ll learn about a group of guys who wanted to start a business and instead of coming up with a product slogan or a mission statement, they came up with a philosophy. They affirmed that despite the fact that they want to make money and a living and have the American Dream, happiness and wholeness come first. And I don’t think they’re alone. I think there are more people out there like them.
Our education systems are failing. People aren’t excited to leave college with a degree anymore. They’re scared. College graduates are having hard times finding jobs that pay anything beyond minimum wage. They’re overqualified. There’s nothing for them. There is so much anxiety about the future and our traditional methods aren’t fixing it. And more and more, people like me are burying ourselves in student debt only to feel trapped by what we’ve invested so much time and energy into. I think there are a lot of us in our late 20s who did the math and realized we’d be more financially well off if we opted out of college and worked at McDonald’s after high school. I have brilliant friends with college degrees who don’t feel any better off for it because they’re working a job that isn’t fulfilling. The only difference is that they HAVE to work that unfulfilling job now because they’re chained to debt; debt that was incurred so they could be happy in their work from day to day. It’s not delivering and people are restless.
And I could be wrong. But there’s a thing inside of me that looks at all of the anxious, depressed people around me and it hits me that in a lot of ways our generation is completely lost and bottoming out. And bottoming out is a magical thing. When a person bottoms out they start from zero. They get to recreate the rules. They don’t feel pressured to get a job that uses their degree so they don’t feel like they’ve wasted time. They get to dream up new rules. When an entire generation bottoms out, they change the world and dream up a new way to look at it.
So to everyone who is just now inheriting the world and still figuring out what to do with it I say, get amped up. We’re going to do something amazing. We’re going to create something. We’re not hippies. We’re something new that has yet to be determined. For now we’re travelers, mechanics, artists, musicians, cyclists, entrepreneurs, climbers, film makers, backpackers, writers and innovators. But at some point we’re going to figure out how to put that stuff together and make something incredible out of it. And I think we’re going to do something beautiful. The idea isn’t new but we might just be desperate enough to make it work on the big stage.
My trip is a drop in the bucket. There’s so much more happening than I ever knew.