Chapter 44: Moving to New York

A domestic travel post.

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Hola, amigos.

Not your typical travel post, as this one doesn't involve a passport. However, the last year has been quite eventful. Let's flashback to 2021.

Sometime last summer, I realized a few things:

  • I was planning to start business school in New York in August 2022

  • I was incredibly bored with work/my entire existence

  • I had enough money saved up to cover my expenses for a year

  • I had the perfect opportunity to throw caution to the wind, and for lack of a better term, "send it"

I just needed one little *push* to take that leap. Then in July, that catalyst hit.

Exactly one year and 5 days ago, I received the dreaded "return to office" email. While I wasn't particularly fulfilled in my job at the time, remote work still offered a degree of freedom. The idea of renouncing my last bit of freedom to return to a cubicle sounded like hell on earth, so I took matters into my own hands.

One hour after receiving said email, I purchased a one-way flight to Barcelona.

And about 15 minutes after buying this ticket, I called my boss and submitted my two weeks notice. Though, to be fair, I had told her I was probably going to do something like this a month earlier at a Braves game. Fun times, right Anna?

And on August 24th, the morning before that flight, I sent the first travel blog post to about 50 of y'all.

And so it began: a year-long adventure.

The coolest thing about writing is that you have a timestamp of your brain from the past. Our memories are notoriously inaccurate, and the way that we *remember* things rarely matches reality.

Your memory shifts with time, but your writing is etched in stone. What you were thinking and doing. How you felt. Your emotions and struggles. Things that excited you and made you anxious.

I recently went back and reread that first blog post. Then I spent a few hours rereading all 40+ travel pieces from the last year.

One year later, everything in that first piece is still relevant. In fact, it may be even more relevant. Especially this part...

There’s a lot of stuff out there to see, and I want to see it. I realized that there would never be a convenient time to do something like this. I could either do it, or spend the rest of my life wishing I had. I have spent my whole life in the state of Georgia. I would be doing myself a disservice by not seeing how people are living everywhere else.

I figure I can either travel the world right now in my 20s or after I retire in my 50s/60s. No offense to my parents, but I think I’m going to have a hell of a lot more fun backpacking at 24 than 54.

I want to see things I’ve never seen. Do things I’ve never done. Meet people I’ve never met. See the Northern Lights in Scandinavia. Discuss religion in a mosque in Granada. Visit the birthplace of Jesus in Israel. Get drunk in a pub in Dublin (Ireland, not Georgia). Marvel at the Alps in Switzerland. Watch Messi score a hat trick in Paris. Gaze in awe at the ruins in Greece.

I want to live, dammit. I have two choices for the next year: go back to a corporate office to make a corporate salary doing corporate work that I really don’t care all that much about (I know a lot of you are in this boat right now), or go experience everything this world has to offer. When I put it that way, this was a no-brainer. Like McConaughey said, “I didn’t want to miss my twenties preparing for the rest of my life.”

Jack Raines: Backpackin' Volume 1

...and, more succinctly, this part:

At the end of the day, we’re all just fighting entropy. You can ignore it, or you can use it to fuel your ambitions.

Jack Raines: Backpackin' Volume 1

Yep, still checks out. While I didn't quite make it to Israel (though I nearly booked a flight to Tel Aviv from Athens, Greece), I did actually hit the other spots, plus countless more.

I didn't have much of a plan on this trip. I knew I was moving to New York for graduate school at Columbia University in August 2022, and I had enough money saved up to cover my expenses for a year, even if I quit my job. I've always had a desire to travel, but after reading Rolf Potts's Vagabonding, my wanderlust was kicked into overdrive.

The plan was simple. I would fly one-way to Barcelona, book five nights in a hostel, and figure everything else out along the way. Maybe I would come home for Christmas, who knows.

I had a loose idea of the path I would take across Europe, but a couple of Seattle natives I met in Barcelona invited me to join them in Prague on day four of my trip. Naturally, I ditched my "plans" and headed east with them.

This set the tone for the rest of my trip: 20+ last-minute flights, trains, and buses to go to the next place that sounded cool. Never knowing where I would be more than a week in advance.

Then I returned to the States, got bored, and hit up my friend Mike (who was also a random dude I met in a hostel). We both wanted to travel again, so we had a super detailed conversation where we weighed the pros and cons of dozens of locations around the globe.

lol. Just kidding.

Why Buenos Aires, you might ask? Idk, it sounded cool. That was literally it. Lucky for us, it was, in fact, cool. Very cool. So cool that I recommend Argentina as the best place for any American to travel.

I returned to the States in mid-March before heading to Italy with my fam for a couple of weeks, before I resumed hopping around to random places, meeting random people. You know the drill.

Over the last year, literally nothing has gone according to plan. My travel itineraries were broken in the first week, this writing side hobby became my primary source of income, and I did a lot of random, sometimes dumb stuff with folks that I never imagined meeting.

And now in a couple of weeks, I'm moving to New York. Ironically, this move to NYC has been the only constant in my life over the last year. It was always the North Star of this weird journey.

This endpoint wasn't without road bumps, of course. Columbia called me last December saying they wanted me to defer my matriculation by at least another year, because they felt what I was currently doing wasn't necessarily relevant experience.

I felt that what I was doing was actually quite relevant, certainly more relevant than another 10 months of the groundhog day that I had been living in for the past 18 months. Thankfully, I was able to convince Columbia that "Useful experience doesn't have to be traditional, and traditional experience certainly doesn't have to be useful," and I was allowed to enroll in 2022.

Then five months later, I thought about dropping business school altogether. I was finally making some money, and I was having too much fun jumping from place to place to imagine anything different. I knew in the back of my head that Columbia, and more broadly New York, made sense. But I liked the idea of rebelling against what I was supposed to do.

So I decided to trick myself. "If I visit NYC again and have a blast, I'll be excited to move up here in the fall."

So I went to NYC in May, had a blast, and, you guessed it, got excited to move up there in the fall. And I am very excited to move up there in a few weeks. This was definitely the right move.

New York is phenomenal, and I can't think of a better place to live at 25.

But this move is also bittersweet, because it signals the end of a few chapters in my life.

First, this is the first time that I won't call Georgia home. I grew up in South Georgia, went to college in the middle of Georgia, and moved to Atlanta for work. While I've spent 8 of the last 11 months out of the country, Georgia was always home. Signing that (incredibly expensive) New York City lease changes that.

But that's how this whole growing-up thing works.

25 is an interesting age. Once you are a few years removed from college, people begin taking their own paths. I have friends getting engaged and married. Moving to new cities for work. Advancing their careers, or pivoting to new fields entirely. Nothing stays the same forever.

And that's a good thing, it's how it should be. I'm certainly a much different person than I was three years ago, and I hope you are as well.

But still, moving on to that next stage is bittersweet. And it's bittersweet because I have had it so good.

I have been incredibly fortunate to live within 10 minutes of my best friends for the last seven years. How cool is that? Forming a great group of friends as a freshman in college, and the gang sticking together through 25? Most people don't get that lucky.

I couldn't ask for a better experience. Wouldn't trade it for the world.

Of course, my best friends will still be my best friends. But the convenience of walking down the hall and knocking on their door or driving five minutes down the road to surprise them at home won't be there anymore.

So yeah, I'll miss that.

But it's a good thing that I'll miss that. If you miss something, it means that you enjoyed and cherished that experience. Struggling to move on to the next stage of anything doesn't mean that you're making a mistake, it just means that you did the last stage right.

So I hope that every stage has a bittersweet ending, because bittersweet means you were doing something right.

This move will also put a (brief) pause in my semi-continuous travel. This was actually my biggest reservation about starting graduate school: a regimented schedule would make it much harder to buy a one-way ticket to Argentina/Barcelona/Rome on a whim.

But that's not a bad thing. Vagabonding for years on-end would be exhausting. Meeting new people is my favorite part of traveling, but having to start over in every new city is a draining experience. It's much better to have a home base to periodically depart from than to simply be a ship lost at sea, at the mercy of the winds.

If anything, grad school will provide me with new friends to entice with the allure of journeys abroad. So yeah, I might have to schedule around a few exams here or there. But I'm not done traveling. I'm just getting started. The only difference is this time, I'll have a new home base.

Travel and adventure aren't restricted to foreign lands. A new city, especially a city like New York, is an adventure of its own. New people, new places, new activities. A million things that I can't even imagine right now will soon become normal parts of my life, and I can't wait.

To my best friends in Atlanta, thank you for making the past few years so much fun. You guys rock.

To the new friends I made abroad, from The Rising Cock hostel in Lagos, to St. Christopher's in Barcelona, to La Banda in Sevilla, to some hazy karaoke bar in Budapest, thank you for making the past year one hell of an adventure.

And to those of you who have followed this travel blog for a while, thank you for your support! But don't worry, this isn't the end, we're just getting started.

Catch you guys later.

- Jack

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