State of the Union

I’m sure bad at this blogging thing. Since I first set out in — technically, July 2013, but let’s say August — I’ve only gotten one week into my journey before hanging up. I’d like to see if I can try again, perhaps this time with a little more success.

Right now, I’m writing this from Dublin, Ireland. In the interim, since my last entry from an actual city, I’ve visited Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Austin, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Paris, London, Cornwall, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Split, Bologna, Modena, Milan, Florence, Rome, and Turin — plus a number of smaller towns along the way. That’s more than a dozen different countries over the course of the past two years. To the person first setting out on this trip — the person who expected to arrive in London and cautiously venture to other countries only on rare occasion — this list would have been unimaginable. I was nervous. I’d never been alone in a place where the primary language wasn’t English. I wasn’t sure about the logistics. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to tinker with my projects in peace.

But it’s all worked out. I’ve cracked the code. With some trial and error, I’ve figured out how to live affordably and comfortably in different cities around the world. I’ve gotten a lot more bold about venturing to places where I have to resort to broken apologetic phrases in a new language. I’ve discovered many breathtaking sights, incredible architectural wonders, and fascinating local tastes. I’ve pared my belongings down to a bare minimum appropriate for most climates. I’ve worked in many lovely cafés, bars, and apartments. I feel like I understand so much more about the world than when I started.

On the other hand, I’ve also had to face certain facets of myself head-on, with uncertain results. I’ve learned that my impression of different cities around the world was heavily painted by my childhood imagination. The places I’d hoped would bring my soul some peace — a magical sort of quality that I faintly recall in cities like London, Barcelona, and Rome from when I was little — were found to be fairly ordinary in contrast. I’ve found it disheartening to overwrite so much impressionistic imagery in my head with reality — because I know those feelings will never be back. I’ve learned that no matter how lonely I might get at times, there is still no part of me that will seek out others for company. I’ve learned that I can swallow up entire months at a time and wake up on the other end a good chunk older, but with nothing to show for it. All the attributes I hated about myself as a young teen are still there, entrenched, and at this point as much a part of my personality as anything else. I’ve learned that there are parts of me that I constantly have to fight, lest I end up old, unfulfilled, and alone.

I’ve also learned that time moves quickly, and that it’s easy to get stuck in a simple routine. I’ve developed a great, burning fear that prods me almost every waking minute. The fear of aging. The fear of death. The fear of it “being too late”. Every day, I count the fractions of my age. 26 point 0. Point 25. Point 3, repeating. Every day that I’m not doing something productive — which is most days, to be honest — I feel like I’m actively destroying my potential. Other dates have been creeping into my head, too. How old is too old to live in a house with other people? How old is too old to get married? To have kids, if I decide to have them? To have a nice house, friendly neighbors, warm dinner parties? When I was in college, I half-jokingly feared that my study habits — put it off, put it off, then half-ass it on the last day — would translate in broader strokes to the rest of my life. But now I see that this was no joke. This is exactly what happens when you let a negative aspect of your personality fester for years and years.

But these dark thoughts are not a reflection on travel. My journey has neither been a negative experience nor an entirely positive one. I see it as just another page in the book of my life: many new and interesting inputs from the environment feeding into the black box of my mind, allowing me to discover new truths about the world and myself.

So that’s what’s going on in my head on this day, January the 31st, 2015, in the city of Dublin. And now, let’s step back into the past, to Vancouver, as it was during the last few weeks of August of 2013

(Technical note: from this point on, I will be posting all my blog entries on the beta-blog subdomain of my website. They will be linked from the main site, but I highly suggest reading on beta-blog instead. Eventually, the main site — hosted on Squarespace — will be removed, and the beta-blog page — hosted on Github Pages using a static site generator — will replace it. I will backport all the existing entries before I do that, and all the links should still hopefully work.)


January 31, 2015