“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” ~ Jim Rohn
About 4 years ago I was giving a presentation to a Rotary Club in Denver about my Peace Corps experience in Romania and world travels. At the end, an older gentleman asked me, “Is it true that once you’re an adventurer, you’re always an adventurer?” I found the question intriguing since I had been living in Colorado for 4 years and didn’t see myself leaving anytime soon. I wondered if it were true for me, that I would soon be on my way again to exploring another part of the world. And it was. Only a year later I was living in Washington, D.C., followed by another move the next year to NYC for graduate school. I suppose he had a great point, but recently I have been questioning myself of whether I finally want to settle down and begin expressing my adventurous spirit in other ways.
I came to Cochabamba, Bolivia to live for 7 weeks not only to learn Spanish and research the country’s educational policy, but because I wanted to know if living in a developing country was something I wanted to do again after graduating from school next year. I’m 35 years old now and have tasted the zest of exploring the world and living overseas on and off for the past 13 years. By the end of this summer I’ll have traveled to 30 U.S. states, 23 countries and 5 continents. My lifetime goal is to visit all 50 states, 35 countries and all 7 continents and I still see that goal being achieved. However, I find myself at a point in life where the things I have given up to explore the world are now enticing me. After spending a semester studying and working in Geneva, Switzerland during my senior year of undergrad, I knew the traditional lifestyle of getting a good job, working my way up the corporate ladder, maxing out my 401(k), getting married and living in suburbia was of little interest to me. The thought of spending my weekends mowing the lawn, washing the car, taking the kiddies to their little league game, and sitting at the same desk day-in and day-out made me nauseous. I sought adventure. I wanted to create a life that suited me and live it on my terms. I wanted to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and wherever I wanted with no one telling me how to do it. I’ve lived quite an extraordinary life, in my opinion, but I’ve also foregone many magical experiences.
I can now look back without worry or regret for my choices in life. Because I’ve learned what it means to be an adventurer. I’ve had my breath taken away in the Sistine Chapel. I’ve marveled at the shooting stars while in the Gobi Desert. I’ve sat in total awe of the moonstruck clouds cascading through the peaks of the Swiss Alps. I’ve hiked the rolling peaks of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, explored majestic caves and ziplined down a canyon in the Julian Alps of Slovenia, climbed to 14,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, and overlooked Bolivia while standing atop the Andes. I’ve sailed the Nile, climbed an Egyptian pyramid, and walked amongst the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. I’ve made friends with Russians while sharing vodka and singing a song about the collapse of the Soviet Union. I’ve almost been stranded in the Ural Mountains of Russia while fetching some Snickers while traveling on the Trans-Siberian Rail. I’ve hyperventilated while swimming in my underwear in the freezing waters of Lake Baikal, Siberia. I’ve meditated in complete wonder with Buddhist monks in a mountain-top temple. I’ve experienced what it means to live with a host family in a foreign country and share deep, cross-cultural communication. I’ve learned what it means to make new friends while riding a subway in Vienna, Austria and end up becoming pals for just one evening, in a transient moment that I’ll never forget. I’ve lain out in the nude under the Black Sea sun while playing Texas Hold ‘Em and putting back cold ones with other butt-naked friends. I’ve gnawed on grilled snake in Beijing and been grossed out by the taste of camel cheese in Mongolia. I’ve wandered and gotten lost amongst the cobblestone streets of Venice. I’ve almost accidently burnt down a bar in Prague because my Absinthe caught fire. I’ve been pick-pocketed by Gypsies in Pisa and seen my life flash before my eyes while nearly being run over by a car in Paris. I’ve saved a girl from being gang-raped in a sleazy club in Romania. I’ve listened to the traditional polka bands in Munich while drinking German beer by the liter and relaxed in the tile-woven, “men only” bathhouses of Budapest.
However, over the past year I’ve begun to notice that I’ve gotten tired of the cold showers, lack of heat when it’s 0 degrees outside, running to the bathroom in the middle of the night because the local food didn’t sit well with my stomach, holding my nose from the stench of an outhouse in 90-degree heat, living out of a suitcase, and moving every 6-12 months. Yet I wouldn’t give up any of my glorious travel and living abroad experiences. They have been incremental in becoming the cultural and distinguished man I am today. A regular job with 2-weeks of vacation per year never would’ve provided the opportunities I sought out.
Lately I’ve been feeling that my lifestyle’s been taking its toll after all these years. And the traditional things I’ve missed out on are now beckoning my attention. I’m finding that I want to channel my adventurous soul in new directions. Although the world is my house I often long to live in a single place that I can call “home”. I’ve found working in the yard on a Saturday afternoon isn’t so bad after all. Until recently, I’ve missed out on having a serious, long-term relationship. I want to have a child and look into their eyes and show them what true love is, and look into my woman’s eyes and have her knock me off my feet. I’ve always wanted to partake in amateur auto racing on summer weekends and learn how to play the guitar. I want to buy a fixer-upper house that I can design to my liking. I have no idea how install lighting, lay tile, or put up drywall, but I think that’ll make for a new challenge. I’m looking forward to establishing myself in a career and becoming an expert in my field. And I intend to find a position that will allow for international travel to quench my occasional travel bug. Maybe it will be with the State Dept. or a development consulting firm or an international investment firm. Only time will tell. All I can say is that I’m excited for my future adventures and live without regret.
I salute my fellow travelers, wanderers, and adventurers, who will never relinquish their own path and their own truth. Those who walk to their own beat and powerfully choose to create a life they love. We may be in this world, but we are not of this world. We are whole and complete. WE ARE.
What about you? What lights you up in life? And how do you express your adventurous spirit?