Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Looking Back Makes You Fall Down

There is a scene in the Au Revoir, LA clip on the website in which an emotional Amy S. gives some moving advice about our then-upcoming trip. It was poorly filmed, horribly cliche, and backed by an unexpected, yet appropriately sappy soundtrack. Despite all these faults, it was a near-perfect prognostication of things to come.

"... Don't forget that this is a life-changing experience..."

In the build up to the trip, things tended to move quickly. There was three years' worth of momentum behind us that kept us moving in the same direction, and there was a lot to do to get everything ready. Early in the design phase of the trip, I had some idea of what it was we were planning. I mean, I always knew what it was, but I only had an inkling of what it actually meant. Then, as the date got closer, the excitement grew, along with the list of things to do. I always kept myself focused on the goal, without really realizing why I was reaching for it. In essence, I had forgotten about the why, or, at least, I was ignoring it. I was so focused on the how, I just didn't have the time for anything else.

Even if I had truly sat down to think about what this trip was going to mean to me, I doubt the words life-changing would have crossed my mind. Somehow, Amy knew better...

"... you guys are so excited that you're doing it, yet you have no idea what's going to happen..."

We tried not to over-plan things. We made very few reservations in advance, and had almost no hard dates. The "plan" was just to be in certain areas of the world around general dates. Just get there, throw ourselves in, and let the fates determine our course. Even the few places we did have plans for remained a mystery. Just because we knew that we were going to be Antarctica for New Years' Eve doesn't mean that we knew what was going to happen, or even what we were supposed to do once we got there.

This was a bit tricky in the beginning. When we first landed in Estonia, I remember feeling so lost. We stepped off of the plane, and there we were, in our first truly foreign country. After three years of waiting, and saving, and organizing... we were finally at our destination. No dates, no responsibilities; just exploration. Life was wide open in front of me, and all I could think was, "What the fuck are we going to do for the next 12 months?".

"... it really changed your lives. It made you who you are..."

When people ask me to sum up my experience during the trip, my most common response is, "I've never learned so much in one year." Short, and entirely accurate.

Before the trip, the world really was a mystery to me. I mean, I knew a reasonable amount about my friends and family, and the few locations and cultures in which they chose to reside, but the vast majority of the world was just a grey fog to me. I knew all of the required pieces of trivia, but they didn't fit together to make a whole story. During the trip, that changed.

And it wasn't just that I learned a whole new set of trivia. Although I did read quite a few history books, and I've now walked tens of miles through museums of all sorts, that isn't really the kind of knowledge I'm talking about. I'm talking about the kind of knowledge that you glean from being in a country, sitting down in a cafe, or taking the bus, and just seeing how shit works. Sometimes it was familiar, sometimes it was strange; sometimes it was ugly... but, every step of the way, it really opened my eyes. It's hard to describe, but I just feel much more aware of breadth of human experience. And, more importantly, I learned exactly how little I knew before, and how much more there is to figure out.

"... and you'll remember how much people loved you before you went..."

I didn't realize how much I had missed my friends and family until I get back to the States. During the actual trip, there was always so much to do and see. With so many new destinations on the horizon, it was easy to keep home out of the mind. But, once I landed back on US soil, and I started seeing those familiar faces again, it all hit me. I couldn't wait to see everybody.

I spent a few months traveling around the US and reconnecting with many of the people I hadn't seen in over a year. The entire time I was doing this, I knew that I wanted to try living in Buenos Aires, but I kept putting it off, and putting it off. It was just so comfortable to be back in the States, seeing all of those people that I had lost for over a year. Eventually, I basically had to force myself to move to Argentina.

And it didn't stick.

I'm back in California now, a bit further south, in sunny San Diego. Another lesson that I learned on the trip was to appreciate the ones that I love.

"... It will be just the best thing ever you could do for yourselves..."

I used to think that going to Caltech was the best choice I had made in life. But, I think the OC has forced a tie, if not a complete coup. It was simple in concept, and slightly more complicated in execution, but it far exceeded any of the expectations I had. I went into it somewhat blindly, just hoping to have "a good time", as ephemeral as that goal can be. And I did have some good times, along with some embarrassing times, some frustrating times, some exhausting times, and even a few frightening ones. But, ultimately, what I'm taking from this trip isn't just the memory of a few good times. It's the fact that because of the OC, I'm a little bit closer to knowing exactly what it is I'm supposed to be doing here.

Also, take the fucking photograph, niggah.

ps... Just because it's my blog, and I can, I want to give a shout-out to Mike. I was initially a bit surprised that he wanted to do this trip with me, and, historically, we've never really been BFF, but I can't imagine anyone better to have experienced this thing with. Despite his penchant for belligerence, embarrassing behavior, and heart-wrenching hangovers (or, perhaps, because of these things), he was the perfect traveling companion. Endlessly courageous and persistent, he kept the OC moving at times when I would have been perfectly happy sitting on my hands, or just catching the bus with the other tourists.


Blogger DeeAnne said...

Welcome Home! And thanks for sharing this all with "us".

7/11/2007 9:14 PM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So NOW can I take you off RSS?

8/26/2007 2:32 AM gmt

Blogger baleyandell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/28/2022 10:25 AM gmt


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