50 Days in, Now What?

Some thoughts as I hit day 50 of this journey.

Hello from Florence, Italy! If you want to subscribe to keep up with the rest of my trip, add your email below 🤝

If you want to catch up on my previous write ups, click below.

World’s Coolest Game, Starring You

This trip has been life’s most exciting adventure. Like the protagonist in an open-world video game (We’re talking Skyrim circa 2012 fellas), I’ve had opportunities to explore new places, try new experiences, and meet new people. Visiting new cities is like discovering new areas of an ever-expanding map. Conversations at hostel bars turn to fascinating travel tales, and chance encounters become new companions.

If you had told me a year ago that I would be chilling in a 5 bed Budapest Airbnb with some guys from Seattle, Vegas, Hong Kong, and Toronto, I would have thought you were crazy.

I guess I’m crazy.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve been mapping out a journey and pursuing it in real time. That place I want to see? I go see it. That thing I want to do? I go do it. I’ve been actively pursuing the most exciting experiences available, and it’s been awesome. A journal full of missions completed that I’ll have forever. This stuff is fun, man.

But I’ve also realized that you can’t pursue new experiences for experience’s sake forever.

Routine vs. Novelty

For the last year and a half, I was a creature of habit. Wake up at 7:30, make coffee, log in to my work PC, check the market (repeat this part like 27x each day lmao), get lunch, call some friends, log off work, hit the gym. Rinse, repeat. I grew sick of routine as a result.

Maybe some of you feel that way right now.

Without novelty in life, the days turn to weeks turn to months in one monotonous blur. It’s mid-October 2021. It probably feels like 2021 just started. You see what I mean? The routine didn’t change, but the calendar certainly did.

Meanwhile, I’ve been in Europe for 50 days, but it has felt like 50 months. So many people, and experiences, and stories.

Jumping off cliffs in Croatia. Marveling at Prague Castle. Kayaking around the coast of Portugal. Playing volleyball in Barcelona. Sipping on coffee in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

It has certainly been a season of new experiences. Ironically, my time abroad has shown me just how important routine is. 2 months ago, I despised routine. Now I respect it.

Until you run out of money, you can do anything you want when you’re traveling alone in a new country. That sounds fun, and believe me: it is fun. You want to go out every single night? Have at it. You want to go off the grid and venture to the outskirts of some foreign land? Knock yourself out.

I can do anything I want with no social repercussions right now. Sounds cool, right?

One “fun experience” can snowball into a pattern of self-indulging thrill seeking. That’s the danger of pursuing novel experiences at all costs, where do you draw the line?

Routine keeps you grounded in who you are. The “insignificant” rituals in our lives grow significant when they are our only ties to normalcy. I have some routines that are nonnegotiable while I’m traveling.

  • Write an hour every day

  • Work out 4x a week

  • Call someone from home each day

Sometimes I write 2 paragraphs, other times I write 5,000 words. But I write everyday. Sometimes I load up the squat rack, and other times I jog a mile and hit some push ups. But I work out 4x a week. Sometimes I talk to a friend for 5 minutes, and other times I talk to family for hours. But I call someone everyday.

Why?

Writing

From the outside, my trip probably looks like a nonstop thrill-seeking adventure. But there’s a method to the madness.

I am documenting my entire journey in real time to capture every moment, thought, conversation, and experience before they can be tainted by time. Our memories aren’t all that reliable, and I want to look back in a decade to see this through my 24 year old eyes.

I also hope that at least one person following my story is inspired to take a similar leap of faith in their own life. Going against the curve is hard and scary, but dammit it’s worth it. From some recent conversations I’ve had with folks back home, I think I’m well on the way to accomplish this goal.

Writing also gives me a chance to digest my thoughts. When there’s a lot of stuff bouncing around in my bed, I organize it via writing.

I want to be the best writer possible. You know how you get good at anything? Do it more than everyone, for longer than everyone. So I write, and write, and write.

Exercising

I’ve worked out consistently since my freshman year of high school, so it makes sense that I would want to keep this habit going while traveling. It’s 100x easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape, and I like beer and ice cream too much to slack off at the gym. If I have to keep finding random pull up bars near rivers, so be it.

I want to feel good, look good, and retain as much strength as possible while I’m overseas. If I can maintain a consistent workout schedule while going to a new country every five days, I can keep it going anywhere.

Phoning Home

I’m missing weddings, birthdays, and all sorts of life events for my friends and family back home. That’s the opportunity cost of setting off alone. The least I can do is stay up to date with everyone.

Seeing what the fam is up to, hearing the stupid stuff my friends did last weekend, and talking smack about fantasy football (your boy is on a 3 game win streak and tied for first btw. COVID-3rd & 19 is coming for it all) help me stay plugged in with everything back home, even if I’m not physically present.

A Balancing Act

Imagine that you’re taking a road trip from New York City to Los Angeles. You wouldn’t set off for California without a map. Sure, you would see some cool stuff. But driving blind would guarantee that you get lost along the way.

Yet that’s exactly what we do if we become so consumed with pursuing novelty and reckless “fun” that we disregard our routines.

Similarly we wouldn’t drive straight from point A to point B without stopping to see parts of the country. The journey is the destination, and that would be a waste of an epic trip. Yet that’s what we do when we get so absorbed in the routines of life that we never change anything up.

My journey thus far has been a microcosm of this novelty/routine dynamic. Is my trip full of novelty? Abso-freaking-lutely. I went cliff jumping in Croatia. I hiked through the Swiss Alps. I played Texas Hold ‘Em with a dozen foreigners (though I guess I was actually the “foreigner”) in Prague, and I drove a stick shift T-Roc all over Europe.

The highlights of my trip look like I threw caution to the wind and went all in on the European bender.

The reality is that I’ve been methodical about my actions, and my routines have kept me in check.

I write every morning, and I’ve been aggressively marketing my content online. I work out at least 4x a week. I regularly call my friends and family back home. These “normal” actions provide stability to my life, and I spice it up with the fun stuff.

We humans crave productivity. It’s why after a long vacation, you’re often ready to get back to the “real world”. Why after finishing a massive project, we set our sights on the next target. We need something to work towards.

Writing is my outlet for productivity, and my other routines provide normalcy to the crazy life that I’m living right now. Novelty and routine are a balancing act, but we need both to enjoy life without veering off course.

“I’m a New Person After My Europe Trip”

I’ve always despised that line ^. It’s the number one cliche for college students coming back from their eight week study abroad.

I think that’s BS.

Traveling doesn’t make you a new person. You’re not going to discover some foundational truth at a winery in France. Traveling just might show you who you truly are though. You are going to spend a lot of time with yourself. This is amplified when you travel alone.

Our lives and actions are influenced by our environments: family, friends, work, school, social perception. When you move across the world by yourself, everything is stripped away. All you’re left with is you.

Who are you when you aren’t being influenced by your normal environment?

When you’re alone in a foreign land, peer pressure and social norms won’t influence your actions. You can go anywhere, and do anything. You want to drink every night? Adopt healthy habits? Do drugs? Exercise regularly? Be a saint? Be an asshole? Drop off the grid entirely? Meet as many people as possible?

How would you act if you were free to do anything in the world with no repercussions?

We are what we repeatedly do.

Getting away from everything I’ve known has given me a lot of time to think as well. Being alone with your brain sucks sometimes, especially if you’re an over-thinker like me. This alone time has given me ample opportunity to examine my life, my goals, and my priorities.

It’s given me a chance to refine my code. Everyone needs a code, and when you’re all by yourself on the other side of the world, your code is all you have.

Most people aren’t going to hop around the world for a year. But unplugging from your normal environment, even for a short time, is the best way to really learn who you are.

Going abroad won’t make you a new person. But it might reveal who you already were.