Let me say from the outset, from a young age I never had much interest in travel. I was always afraid to go to camp, and really enjoyed being home in my bed after any family vacations. I like stability. I like the feeling of home. That is, when home felt like a safe and wonderful place to be.
The whole idea to move out of the US started for me with study abroad in Rome. I had never spent any time outside of the US, and this trip certainly changed the trajectory of my life. Not only did I meet people with whom I ended up having some of the closest relationships of my life on this trip, but I also saw the world anew. I saw that winter doesn't have to be hell, food doesn't have to be bland and highly processed, life isn't merely about working and consuming, but about enjoyment, experiencing a wild array of feelings and sensations. In other words, it opened me up to the idea that living in another place would make my life significantly different, and that it is actually possible to live somewhere besides Chicago, which had not really occurred to me up until that point.
When I returned -- well, pre-Rome me never did return. I was depressed being back in Chicago, and heard from others that was a common result in returning from study abroad. It became so clear to me that I was depressed because of Chicago in the winter, and because of the lifestyle I was missing out on in Rome, not because of some individual problem I was having. I realized that I can be happier in other places, and probably would not be happiest in Chicago. Not just happy, though. The goal was to find a place where I felt I belong, where I just fit.
The last two years of college was a barrage of bad news: environmental crises, political crises, global warming becomes well-known through An Inconvenient Truth, Hurricane Katrina wipes out New Orleans, crises in health care and education, debt rising astronomically. Then, a global financial meltdown and billions of dollars forked over to bankers in a back room deal. Imagine what it does to the psyche of a young person graduating into this disaster of a world. It makes you reconsider what you've been told to do. Get a job, a house, a mortgage, have kids, retire, die. All of that assumes stability. It assumes that maintenance of the status quo. I am not going to buy into that mess. I am not going to put my eggs there just to see it all taken away by some environmental or financial disaster. Doing what I've been told is, in other words, too risky! In these few formative years, I have seen too many people screwed by the system they so diligently and faithfully participated in. No, no, no. I need to find a life that's more stable, not able to be so easily overturned by environmental disaster or power outages or financial ruin.
Okay, so what else could there be? What alternatives exist to this accepted trajectory? I mean, this accepted trajectory is what got us into this mess, so what kind of life can I lead that takes me somewhere new?
Next time, travelling the world to find the answer.