My dental assistant told me last week, as she poked a pointy object into my back tooth, that I am so lucky. After letting her release my jaw from its unnatural position, I responded, "I'm sorry - why am I lucky?" She exclaimed, as if it was obvious, that I am so lucky to be traveling around the world for a year. I half-heartedly mumbled something positive, but felt confused. Despite my continued belief that I am someday going to win something by regularly playing scratch-off lottery tickets, luck has had little to do with this trip.
As most long-term travelers will tell you, our world trip is the result of the painstaking planning of our financial, career, and personal goals. For the last year and a half, every time we went to Target, we would ask ourselves, "Do we really need this item or will it just gather dust in our storage facility?" We started building our pre-trip checklist about three months ago and have whittled it down from 165 items to just 34 things left to do. And, now, we are less than a month away from the big trip!
Given that we have spent years considering the trip from every possible angle, you wouldn't think that I would be unable to sleep at nights, worried about what we are doing and how we are going to do it. I remember vividly the last time I was this nervous: it was the night before I took the bar exam when my brain refused to turn off, sorting every concept I learned in my three years of law school. By no means is world-travel as arduous as the bar exam but it feels just as scary, unknown, and consequential.
A large part of who we are is related to what we do --- our jobs, our studies, our plans --- and ambition has etched itself into our personalities. I have always defined myself as a student or a lawyer; Patrick has been continuously employed since he was 16. We aren't spring chickens, either. At age 30, married couples are "supposed to" have a secure career and a beautiful home with frolicking children in the backyard.
Instead, we are leaving our puppies who we love dearly, all the people we care about, all the comforts we are used to, for a life containing nothing more than what we can carry on our backs. Don't get me wrong; my brain and heart know that we will love every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But, my stomach disagrees. As we keep reminding each other, we are just crazy enough to be quitting our stable, satisfying jobs in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression---when 1 in 10 people are unemployed, mind you---to ramble about the world.
It helps knowing that developing a dense pit of nerves before embarking on a trip is common amongst long-term travelers . I feel a bit like I did as a child when I walked to the edge of the high diving board and stared into the yawning space between me and the blue water, while silently praying that I didn't land badly.
On Friday evening, when I walk out of my office, I will be unemployed. On Saturday afternoon, we give our keys back to our landlord and will be homeless. In three weeks, we will take a deep breath and jump. No belly flops, please.