The X on the map



Well there it is. The X on the map. I’d been waiting to point myself in any specific direction outside of Manila because Nikki still hadn’t found out where she’d be staying next. But there it is. The X.

Slightly anxious about the whole thing now that school is starting up again next week. Not bad anxious, just… aware. I’m aware of how much rides on this semester. I’m also aware of how little I’ve even thought about Second Language Acquisition or linguistics or teaching. At least last summer, when I was in Korea, I actually did something academically productive. Today I thought I’d start reading those old textbooks.

Then there’s the general heaviness of life.

One thing that takes you by surprise when you buy a one-way ticket five months in advance is how skewered your view of the present can be. Your relationships feel finite, your daily life seems redundant, your opinions about things around you feel so futile. The thought of going back to school between now and my flight seems silly to me. Mostly I want to know why I can’t just get on that plane right now. But that’s exactly the mentality that makes it feel strange to still be here in Sacramento, because I love this place but I’m getting impatient.

So, then, I breathe.

I open up an old textbook and take it easy. There’s plenty of time to love this place before I leave. There are plenty of people to spend that time with. Responsibilities to fulfill. Books to finish. Stories to write.

And hey, the important part is, I got my X on the map.



For a long, long time, life had this funny way of feeling like it was happening to me, instead of the other way around.

I’d go so far as to say that we all sort of feel that way, much of the time, or at least we used to.

It takes time to figure out that you are in control of your life. For some, we find this out a little too late (although it’s never really too late) and it takes a bit of work to dig ourselves out of debt, or bad relationships, or bad jobs, or bad habits. Once you’re fully aware of your potential value as a member of this planet, things start to feel a lot more clear.

For me, it’s been a few years since I first felt like a real independent human being. Even still, there was a lengthy transition, and I guess it was when I decided to study abroad in Istanbul that I knew how powerful my decisions could be, how much a choice could change my life, and it led me to a beautiful, unforgettable, inspiring experience abroad that felt so absolutely right that I knew it was what I was meant to do all along.

That is: Travel.

More specifically: Wander, and write about it.

The barrier between me and what I’ve been gearing to do for my entire life is one final semester of grad school.

With a ticket already purchased, my needs now include downsizing my life, saving money, and passing the TESOL comprehensive exam.

In Rolf Potts’ book, “Vagabonding,” he discusses the differences between travelers and tourists, between those who leave their home country to look at, rather than to see other cultures. There are people who stay in hotels and there are people who hitch-hike. I loved that book and plan to read it over and over and bring it with me to Southeast Asia, look to it as my travel bible. It discusses the art of traveling for the reason of self-fulfillment, not selfishly or for bragging rights, but because it feels like a natural progression of self. Not everyone has the travel bug. Not everyone gets the chance to itch it. I have known throughout my whole life that my path was taking me on a vagabonding experience of my own… It only took me 26 years to get the timing right.

I have no fear of it. I have no expectation of it. No plan of it. I have no goal of it, or request from it. I have no hopes or doubts or concerns. I have a vague list of negative experiences I’m bound to have (from being homeless to being mugged to being swindled to being lost), and the trick is not to become paranoid about those things, but to anticipate and possibly prevent them. In summary, I have no idea.

I want to be alone, I want to be surrounded, I want to be high and low and in between. I want to get frustrated. I want to sleep on a bus going anywhere. I want to get caught in storms and delayed and yelled at and given back the wrong change. I want some food poisoning. I want to feel hot water pressure again after a month or more of cold bucket showers. I want bad days and their better tomorrows. I want all of these things and none of these things, whatever will be will be.

Most all, I want people to know I’m not crazy. Maybe I don’t have a big itinerary planned out, or much money, or much experience, but I have a reason. I feel the world out there. I’m not anticipating some big changes within. I’m not going out there to find myself. I feel fine as is. But really I’m a cat with a million strings dangling just within reach, and I don’t know which one to swat at first.

Heck, I’m still here for another four months. There won’t be much to write about in the meantime. Honestly I only started writing here again because I need all the motivation I can get to graduate strong. There’s a massive comprehensive TESOL exam on my horizon and that’s the only thing between me and my flight to the Philippines, since passing this sets me loose from grad school for good.

And I can’t wait.