This morning I had a realization as I was going up the escalator out of the metro here in Athens. I was filled with such joy, and such anticipation while languidly reaching the top. The fact that I had no idea what was waiting for me at the top of the escalator was the perfect allegory in regards to my wanderlust. The unknown apparently has some “turn on” value that is deep-seated within my being.
It really made me think today as I strolled around Athens having a “tourist day”. I became hyper-focused on a quote from Anthony Bourdain.
“Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown”
Well. Fucking. Said.
I have a general fear about this path that I am on, I am concerned about overstimulation. I am aware it isn’t necessarily normal for a 40-year-old to retire early, sell his house, all his possessions, and travel around the world like some sort of backpacking gypsy. The truth was that I had reached the end of my rope. I liked my work, my home, my city, living close to my son, my friends, my car. My life was pretty fucking comfortable. What broke me though was what I discovered on the escalator. There was no more unknown. What I was doing when I was 40 would have been what I was doing when I was 50, 60,70?, Dead. The only thing I knew for sure that brought me the consistent surprise was travel.
I was left with a dilemma. Continue living my life, or ditch it and take off. I considered that my current career had ultimate freedom. I was already traveling at least a week a month and even when I was “working” I was barely ever there and I got paid more than I ever thought I could make as a Funeral Director. I was basically killing it. Except I was miserable, completely stressed. I lived with chronic back pain. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was, or why travel seemed to be my refuge. So I chose to take the second option, “ditch it and take off” because I was a few bad days from understanding the sadness of Mr. Bourdain.
Jim Morrison wrote these lyrics in the song Changeling.
I live uptown
I live downtown
I live all around
I had money, and I had none
I had money, and I had none
But I never been so broke
That I couldn’t leave town
I’m a Changeling
See me change
So to circle back to the feeling of a 10-year-old on Christmas morning waking up to open presents, that is me on the escalator. I am completely addicted to that feeling. I like being in a room where I cannot read a menu, I cannot understand what someone is saying to me, I don’t know what’s around the corner. All these things force me to learn, explore, and face the fear all humans have of the unknown. As Mr. Bourdain put it “that glorious feeling of teetering on the unknown”.
I am not asking anyone to understand. I am just surviving. Although, so far since making this decision I am actually thriving. I am not ready to go ahead and say this has cured all my ailments, I am a man of logic. My back feels much better on days I don’t have to carry my backpack, I sleep well, I smile often, and I only worry about things that will soon go away. That fear of overstimulation is still there, I wonder, is there a chance I can get bored of waking up in a new city or country every week, month, or whenever I get bored? I think it’s possible that can happen. That scares me. This “glorious feeling” is my life force. What would happen then?
Stay tuned for a more detailed report on Sofia, Bulgaria in a future post. This place was the biggest surprise I have had since I left home. It is incredible what life will throw your way when you have no expectations and are just content where you are.