Eleven Years in the Making

Day 60-ish
Current Location: Brisbane, Australia
Current Song: That one being played during the “Where is Matt” Video

It was a decision I considered to be a bit stupid at the time.

Every three years, my high school’s symphony band took a trip to Germany for a weeklong music tour.  As the trip drew nearer, our fervency for fundraising through magazine and candy bar sales increased, and the anticipation of spending seven days in the magical netherworld of Europe became all the more exciting.  The year prior to the trip, we had our passport photos taken, and by November of the previous year, my zit-adorned teenage face was on the cover of my very own Reisepass to distant lands.

You see, in South Dakota, life revolves around what’s right in front of your face.  We were sheltered — or some would argue deprived — of the daily madness that we all have the ability to take in due to the prevalence of 24-hour news channels and TMZ.  Life was…insular.  But we loved it…And I couldn’t wait to get out.  Germany was like a new frontier for me, just as college in Michigan would be several months later.

But then, another opportunity arose, which would take me south to the dry heat of Phoenix instead of Germany, and given the circumstances, I chose Phoenix.  The day I made the decision, my parents and I both agreed: I’d get to Germany someday, and probably for more favorable reasons.

Four years later, as a senior in college, I’d ventured no further than Windsor, Canada — my passport remained empty except for a photo of a blank-faced seventeen year-old kid staring in the middle distance.  But in 2003, I finally had the opportunity to take my first journey abroad: Mexico.

Wait, Mexico?? Yes, the destination of thousands of college kids every March…but I was going for a very, very different reason.  After eight weeks in the interior of the country, you could say that my travel bug nestled its way into my conscience, and I’ve been infected ever since.


Seven years after that first trip overseas, I’ve landed on each continent, the last being Australia.  Coincidentally, the theme song from this video appeared on my iPod as we descended toward Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney last week, ushering me to the spot where I’d achieve Officially Established Life Goal #1: hit all continents by age 30.  Granted, I’ve had other aspirations at different points, most of which were sort of fleeting or based in some kind of quick-hit fantasy: get married to Cindy Crawford.  Become an astronaut.  Own an F-14. But to accomplish a goal that takes years to accomplish, and one you don’t waver from…it’s a nice feeling, and it’s possible that we don’t set goals often enough.

So, I’ve learned a few things during this journey — hitting up a handful of continents in a few months, by yourself, does that to ya — and I’m sure the stories from each country that I’ve attempted to remember will fade away in some small sense.  But I also put enough faith in whatever guides each one of us — whether it’s religion, personal ambition, etc. — that the experiences we have will shape and form us even if they’re not remembered consciously.  I’m not sure how a bungee jump off a bridge in Nepal or devouring Vegimite will change my life for the better, but I imagine someone else will reveal that to me in the same bizarre, unique way the experiences occurred in the first place.


One Response to Eleven Years in the Making

  1. Agatha says:

    I’ve found that the South Dakota mentality you’ve described is almost identical in Oklahoma. They are perfectly content with staying in within their state borders, maybe occasionally venturing into Texas, and they’re fine with not knowing what goes on in the rest of the country (let alone the world).

    I think your travels are tremendous; to have visited all the places you’ve been is something I would only hope to do.

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