Lying there on the bathroom floor somewhere in the heart of Stockholm, the thought began to creep in: I didn’t want to go home.
The foam pad I paid $10 to sleep on for the night was keeping me awake and contemplating existence.
Without my glasses, the clock on the wall resembled something Dalí would plaster in a museum. I knew it was early. The hostel halls were quiet now; the only sound the sound of worn out bed springs aching under the backs of foreigners. Long gone was the German, the Arabic, the French that echoed throughout the corridors a few hours earlier.
A slight stench lingered in the air. We had been traveling for three days now and our odors were beginning to get the better of us. We couldn’t shower enough to make up for our lack of antiperspirant. I felt bad for the nameless Japanese girl one deteriorating foam pad away. “My apologies,” the note would have read, had my pen not volunteered to stay behind at the pub.
My stomach’s rumble reminded me the exchange rate could be cruel to hungry Americans stupid enough not to learn to purchasing power of the Swedish Krona. Gravely underestimating the exchange rate, we had been forced onto a diet of one cheap falafel stand after another; our last meal was now days away. The last bit of change in my pocket would be just enough for a light snack at the airport before our climb to cruising altitude.
My blistered feet throbbed and competed for attention. The miles, or in this case, the kilometers they chalked up had begun to take their toll on me.
I couldn’t have been further outside of my comfort zone.
In that moment, I was sure I had never been happier.
The fumes from my body, the hunger in my abdomen and the pain below in knees told me I was alive. I was exactly where I wanted to be.
It was at that moment, somewhere in between the stale night air and green glow of an exit sign I realized college wasn’t for me. At least, not yet.
I was no Odysseus that night in Sweden. By no means was my adventure worthy to be told by any blind poet. No, the story of that night would have to be spread by those who stand in the pulpit, for I had eaten the forbidden fruit.
I realized I was chasing the wrong dreams.
I wanted to leave everything behind. I wanted to set out on my own. I wanted to start anew.
I couldn’t stand the idea of going home. I couldn’t shake the notion of getting a degree. I couldn’t swallow getting a job that would confine me to some cubicle.
Why can’t I travel and work at the same time?
I honestly don’t care about mortgages. I don’t want to worry about the price of home equity loans. A diverse stock portfolio is never going to make me happy; screw the NASDAQ.
Nothing, besides nuclear holocaust, scares me more than working from 9 to 5 and then going home to watch reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
Why should I want to live in the suburbs? You can keep your home theaters, three-car garages and morning commutes. Is this what we want or is this what “Home & Garden” magazine wants? Why should I work 350 days out of the year to have a week and a few sick days off?
This isn’t the kind of human interaction that I want in life.
I want to build and produce goods within a group. I want to take those goods and exchange them for what I need, not what I want. I want to live and get by with bare minimum and have no excess at the end of the day, and I want to do this across the planet.
Sprawled out on that bathroom floor, I was warm with excitement, dizzy with the possibility of doing something somewhere no one would believe.
48 hours before that moment, my friend Rory and I walked through customs with no plans and nowhere to stay. We could have done anything we wanted. Besides a few visa limitations, there was nothing stopping us from taking the first step of our journey that day.
Two days later, I felt we had done a pretty good job of just that. We made some memories that I’ll never forget, but the thing I’ll remember most is deciding that I had to go back to home.
That I needed to go back and study in order to get some job that I really didn’t care about instead of doing what I wanted to do most.