“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
I’ll never forget hearing this quote for the first time. My uncle said this during the eulogy of my grandfathers funeral service. Before he said it he stated he wanted to pass on something that he thought my grandpa would have wanted us grand kids to learn. This was about 6 months before my first big road trip and before I found running again.
My last semester of college I was planning a hiking trip with a good friend of mine. Hiking and camping were my hobbies in high school and college. I didn’t do it as often as I wanted, but it was my get away for a few times out of the year. Also around this time I started to develop this living nightmare, so to say. As I was nearing graduation, I had this fear that my time to do anything I wanted was running out. Because before I knew it, I was gonna all of the sudden wake up with annoying kids screaming around me, a nagging wife and a job that I dreaded going to. I felt like if I didn’t hike the AT then, then I was never gonna get the chance.
We were planning on hiking for a month on the Appalachian Trail. The plan was to have someone drop us off in Damascus, Virginia and hike south into Georgia. I read up on everything I could devour. I checked out all the books about hiking the AT I could find at my library. I read blogs people posted about their life changing hikes. I read all the reviews on equipment I would need to buy.
It seemed like everything was in place and planned for our month hike. A few months before graduation and just right after the hiking trip was planned, my grandpa gave me a call. “How would you like to go to Spain this summer and learn Spanish?” Without hesitation and telling him about my plans already, I quickly accepted his offer.
To be honest, I was scared to death. Even though I was going with a cousin, I was somewhat reluctant to leaving. I think both of us thought we were going for a few weeks, but grandpa wanted us to go for the entire summer. We spent 2 months in Spain and it was the most amazing trip I have taken, hands down. Did I feel bad for ditching my friend on our hiking trip? Definitely! But the trip to Spain changed me.
When we returned, I spent the next two months looking for jobs with my new bachelors degree. I really thought snagging a job was going to be easy and the salary would be decent. I mean, I went to a university after all, right? This was about a year after the economy tanked. This was when you would constantly read about unemployment rates skyrocketing and how people with master degrees were now your barista at your local Starbucks. So it was a major wake up call for me when I finally entered the real world.
After months of applying, I gave in and accepting the only job I could get…working in a warehouse. Not my ideal job with a college degree. I was just packing boxes and that’s it. The job was a 6 months temporary job. So while I had it I spent my time off looking for a different job and figured by the end of 6 months I would have found one. Day by day I was getting rejection emails. Not even an interview! I was getting so fed up with the job. I hated going in to work. I was beginning to live my fear.
So as the job was coming to an end and with no prospects for a new one, the urge to move somewhere new was burning inside me. I felt like somewhere else there was a better place for me, for finding a job I would love and a better place to be happy in. This was when I was watching Into The Wild religiously and reading Kerouac like he was a god. I felt like I had to really leave. If I didn’t then I might never get the chance to move and experience a new place. A change of scenery would cure me, I thought.
I didn’t want to regret not doing something in my life. I felt like I had to discover my passions, my destiny and the world before me. It is unfortunate I first heard the beginning quote at grandpa’s funeral, but it has been ingrained in my mind. I will always be grateful for him sending me to Spain, giving me the travel bug and for giving me the drive to look beyond to find what my true character is. I couldn’t stop thinking about the quote… that’s when I decided I was going to pack up and take off out West.