Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Coming Down

The OC officially ended one year ago today when Jason and I parted company on a German train platform. He was on his way to Buenos Aires by way of Budapest, Virginia, and San Diego and I was making a dash for London by way of Munich, Vienna, Melbourne, Nice, and Milan. I've still got my celebratory miniature bottle of sparkling wine. Maybe I'll build a little ship inside of it. When I made it back to London, there were two questions at the top of everyone's list: 1) Which country did you like the most (that is, which country had the hottest ladies), and 2) How are you ever going to get back to normal? I always had an enthusiastic answer for the first, but really only a shrug for the second. It's a lot easier to answer now that I've found a steady job, a place to live, and started investing heavily again in human relationships. Our one year anniversary seems like as good a time as any to record my thoughts on the matter.

Was it difficult to make the transition from free-spirited wanderer to desk-bound code jockey? Nope. A year off comes with a high opportunity cost. While we were out seeing the world, exciting offers of work passed me by, old friendships faded, and new friendships with any prospect of longevity were few in coming. Taking a break from normal life is also taking a break from all the things that make life richer as you get older - accomplishments to be proud of and friendships based on memorable shared experiences. By the time we got back to Europe, the accumulated cost of everything missed was beginning to overwhelm the value of new adventures. I was feeling useless, lonely, and self-indulgent.

Do I miss the free-spirited wandering? Yep. Normalcy is not all roses and Lifetime Movie moments. The thing that bothers me most is not a lack of freedom or excitement. Daily life doesn't seem dull. It's the stresses that come from commitment and responsibility that get me down. Now I've got no excuse to let friendships wither. If I don't contact somebody, it's not because I'm out of touch in the Himalayas, it's because I prioritized them behind something else. This is particularly difficult when it comes to family. At work, I am part of a very dedicated team, and worry about letting them down is a big stress, especially when you're surrounded by the kind of pipe-swinging uber-nerds we've got in the Lokku shop. Keeping up with these kids keeps a man busy.

Surprisingly, nobody ever asked me if the OC was "worth it", I guess because the downsides are much less apparent than the up. I will forgive you if you don't have much sympathy for a man who finds negatives of a year-long, globe-spanning vacation. Nonetheless, the question is important to me. A year used badly is a lot of life to waste. Thankfully, I can say now with confidence that the journey was excellent value for time (and probably money). I have secured major bragging rights among the traveling crowd, learned a number of important things about myself, made some (occasionally saucy) new friends, and exposed myself (ahem) to a wide variety of cultures. All of this came at the cost of a few friendships lost, a slight decay in immediacy of career-related skills, and all the money I had in the world. Good deal, I reckon.

Perhaps the best endorsement of the experience is that I would happily do it again. I've already started daydream-level planning of OC II. The general plan is to hit all the places "in the middle" that got missed the first time around. Tenative agenda is: Africa north of South Africa and South of the Sahara, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Central America. I would like to start in Namibia, zigzag through the Dark Continent, cross Jordan, Israel, and Syria on my way to the area between the Black and Caspian Seas. From there it's eastward through The Stans to Tibet and maybe eastern India, then over to Caracas for a smooth glide up through Latin America and back to SC for some home cooking. Anybody interested?


Blogger Javier Hern├índez said...

Ei mike,

I didn't know anyhting about the operation cromulent. amazing. i'd like to do the same...
i did something like that but much more light during the last semester but asia is a must see.
mmmm, it's weird this step student-worker. i think i am gonna wait for the lokku mega world expansion... i am gonna cry!!

cheers man,

see u on monday

8/04/2007 11:22 PM gmt

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