Hello from Atlanta, and welcome to Backpackin'! If you want to join 800 others reading about this weird trip around the world, add your email below:
What is up internet. In about five hours, I’m flying one-way to Barcelona, Spain. One backpack, no itinerary, no plans. Just me, myself, and a trip around the world. Does this sound reckless? Maybe. Spontaneous? Definitely. Believe it or not, it’s also entirely calculated. So what gives?
Being 24 is weird. Until I graduated from college, life was pretty damn simple. Go to class. Play football. Hang out with my friends. Do whatever I want. Rinse, repeat. Life was good. Then I graduated from college, and the paradigm shifted. Life accelerated. People are getting married. Buying houses. Having kids. Becoming “adults”. Maybe I’m an outlier, or maybe I represent a silent majority of other 20-somethings, but I don’t feel like an adult. Yeah I make money, have a 401k, etc. But I like taking spontaneous trips. Going out with my friends. Day drinking on the lake. Playing poker every Thursday night. I certainly don’t want to settle down with a wife, kids, and a house with a white picket fence any time soon.
A few months ago, I had a bit of an identity crisis. For the first time in my life, I became acutely aware of time flying by. I don’t really know what triggered it, but man it really tore me up. How the clock seems to be ticking faster and faster. I was only going to be young for so long. Only have so many opportunities to do so many things. Am I on the right path? Making the right choices? “Adulthood” was right around the corner. Starting a family. Getting older. My own mortality. It was a real life “red pill, blue pill” Matrix moment.
There is some cliché phrase that everyone has two lives, but the second begins once you realize that you only have one. I hate clichés, but dammit if that one isn’t spot on. This realization was almost suffocating, and I struggled with the question, “What do I do now?” For 23 years, life was simple and good. I never contemplated these bigger questions. Once I had this revelation, there was no going back. From the outside, you never would have thought anything was wrong. I put up a strong facade. I wasn’t going to talk to anyone about this stuff; it would have sounded crazy. No one else would care about my existential musings. Working from home gave me too much free time, and now my mind was just wandering too far. Right? So what did I do?
First I tried to ignore it. Have you ever tried to ignore something that was eating away at you? It never works. It’s like applying a band-aid to an amputated limb. You can tell yourself that the problem is gone, but you are going to keep bleeding out. Then I solemnly accepted it. “Woe is me” was my outlook for a little while. Everything is temporary, none of this matters, and all sorts of nihilistic bullshit. (Nihilism is a pretty ignorant mindset imo). Thank God I snapped out of that. After a few weeks, I decided I needed to find some answers. What do I really believe? What do I want? Who the hell is Jack Raines? I questioned my faith, my career, my relationships, my actions, pretty much everything about my life. I realized that I don’t know exactly who I am and what I want to do, but I’m getting there. Over the last few months, I have developed some general realizations on life:
- Time is the most important asset that we have. Period.
- The present moment is all that really matters. We can prepare for the future, and look back fondly on the past. That being said, living in the future causes anxiety, and living in the past can overwhelm you with nostalgia and regret. Live in the now.
- We spend too much time repeatedly doing, doing, doing. Not enough time thinking, thinking, thinking.
- Getting exercise and laughing with friends can cure 99% of problems.
- “Our personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.” - Morgan Housel
- It’s hard to figure out what exactly you want, but it’s easy to figure out what you don’t want. Avoid the latter, and you’ll probably end up with the former.
- We didn’t choose to be in this game (life). We didn’t make the rules of this game. But we have to play the game. Don’t play your game on autopilot. Be the protagonist.
So how do I want to play the game?
In his autobiography Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey said, “When we truly latch on to the fact that we are going to die at some point in time, we have more presence in this one.” That’s the damn truth. We are lucky to live in a time and place where we don’t really have to worry about survival. All of our basic needs, from food to shelter, are practically guaranteed. We face a different, deeper risk today. It is dangerously easy to absentmindedly coast through life.
Working the same job that we have always worked because we never asked ourselves, “Is this what I want?” Marrying the person we were dating in college not because they were the right fit for our soul, but because just staying together (inertia, baby) is easier than examining our compatibility. Pushing off that trip we want to take, that business we want to build, that skill we want to learn because “the time isn’t right” or “I need to save more money” or any other blasé excuse that we tell ourselves to rationalize not taking a risk for once. Everything is a choice, including indecision. What is the result of following the path of least resistance over the course of your life? Career ambitions unfulfilled. Marriages broken. Dreams that failed to become realities.
F*ckkkkk that. The blessing from my internal struggles is they provided clarity. I needed to figure out who I am. What risks I wanted to take. What careers I wanted to pursue. You have to be willing to break yourself down to rebuild the version that you desire. You can’t live intentionally until you realize that everything has an opportunity cost. Everything is finite. Only once I came to this conclusion did I have the ability to determine where to invest my time and energy.
Entropy is a bitch, an antagonist that we will never beat. That being said, there is beauty in acknowledging the ultimate outcome and fighting, scratching, and clawing our way through life anyway.
We all have two choices:
- Live in ignorant bliss, avoiding the struggles and questions of life. Preferring obliviousness over discomfort.
- Lean into the struggle and discomfort. Figure out what we want, and go chase that shit.
At the end of the day, we’re all fighting entropy. You can ignore it, or you can use it to fuel your ambitions.
We rarely discuss what’s really going on in our lives. We always ask “How’s work?” but we don’t dare ask how people are really doing. It is hard putting our most intricate thoughts into words, but I have found that writing is a great venue for accomplishing this goal. I suspect that a lot of people around my age have had similar thoughts on their lives. Feelings of anxiety about the future. Work. Relationships. Purpose. Anything. Maybe you try to avoid them, maybe you feel consumed by them. I encourage you to lean into those questions. It sucks, straight up. But it does get better, and you’ll have clarity moving forward. I had to deal with my personal struggles to figure out what I really wanted out of life. Talk to friends, talk to family. Feel free to reach out to me. We’re all in the same boat here, ya know.
So Why Am I Traveling the World?
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.”
What Is the Hardest Thing about Leaving?
The unknown doesn’t scare me. It excites me. The hardest thing is the people left behind. I have an incredibly supportive family that has backed this idea from the start. I also have a group of friends that I consider family, and I’ve practically lived with these people for years. For the first time ever, my trajectory is about to deviate sharply from the paths of everyone I care about. I’ll miss birthdays, weddings, and all sorts of celebrations. I won’t be there for Thursday poker nights, weekends at the lake, Saturdays in Piedmont Park, and a million other little things that had become staples in my life.
On the flip side, we are all going to have countless new stories to share when we all meet up again. Life is full of paradoxes. We need darkness to experience light. Bad to understand good. We also need absence to fully appreciate presence. Knowing that I would soon be leaving, I had an absolute blast with my friends over the past month. After spending the next period apart, I imagine the reunion will be that much sweeter.
What Can You Expect from These Updates?
First, I’m glad you’ve stuck with me so far. I’ve never shared stuff this personal online, but I figured it was important to give context for my decision. This isn’t some spur of the moment, running away from responsibility shindig. It’s seizing the present moment.
I will periodically provide updates of my travels. What I’m doing. Who I’m with. Where I am. Pictures, stories, and plans. I will also be sharing my thoughts. I imagine my worldview will change a lot during my time overseas. A South Georgia-born, Southern Baptist-raised, white former American football player going to the other side of the world. I would be selling myself short if I didn’t do anything and everything that challenges my worldview.
Why am I doing this blog? Writing is public holds me accountable. If even 1 person subscribes, I have an obligation to keep publishing content. These writings, stories, pictures, will last forever. They will provide memoirs that I can share with friends and family when I’m older. I’m forcing myself to document the most important moments of my life, to hopefully have some cool shit to show my kids one day.
Welcome to my quarter life crisis. I hope you enjoy.
(PS: If you’re looking for a sign to go do that thing you’ve always wanted to do, this is it. That shit isn’t going to do itself.)
See below for the next chapter: