How it Began

Reprinted from my former column in The Observer on 10/31/08, because I don’t like repeating myself:

It sounds shady as hell, but I first got the idea in a dream. You see, around this time last year I was going through a “what the hell am I doing?” phase that is undoubtedly familiar to everyone reading these words. My specific crisis focused on how I was set to graduate in January 2009 but knew I couldn’t enroll in graduate school for astrophysics until the fall. Getting a job is the normal thing to do under such circumstances, but it also seemed…boring. I have the rest of my life to get a job and act responsibly, so I couldn’t understand the huge rush to start doing it now.

But anyway, the dream. In my dream I spent six months between undergrad and graduate school on a trip around the world exploring countless treasures in exotic countries, having a great time of it, and then starting grad school with a new appreciation for life. (My dreams can get rather specific.) And I woke up feeling incredibly jealous of my dream self until I thought…why not? There was no real reason why I shouldn’t go on this trip; to say I wanted to do it was an understatement, and it would allow me to start grad school broke, as nature surely intended. So I began planning and saving for my trip, and never let off since that initial idea. As one friend observed, this trip is a bigger black hole of my time than a boyfriend would be.

One year later, here is the state of things: I am officially going. Starting in late January, I have an itinerary that goes to Southeast Asia, Europe, and Southern Africa, and my whole trip will cost less than a semester of Case tuition. Honestly, the most difficult thing about the whole process has been trying to convince my parents I’m not actively trying to kill myself.

Now when you get down to it, there are a million good reasons not to do this trip: the economy is tanking, Americans are not exactly winning the global popularity contest, you can’t guarantee nothing bad will happen, and so on. But for me one reason has held on and trumped all others: nothing in life is guaranteed except this moment. You never really know what will happen in the future, and nothing guarantees you will have the same opportunities you have today, so why not go for it? I figure my 80-year-old self will have more fun sitting on the porch telling stories of all the things she did instead of lamenting the ones she didn’t, and I owe the old biddy at least that much.

Also, one thing I have really enjoyed from this trip already is how much you get to learn about the dreams of others once word gets out. Most of the time people get wonderfully excited and tell me about their own dreams, sometimes about travel, but just as often about something completely different. I’ve even had one or two complete strangers confide in me saying, “I’ve always wanted to do X but am worried because of Y; what do you think I should do?”

I don’t know why people bother asking me, because my answer is always the same – do it. Sure, there’s always the chance it might not work, or that you will look like a fool, but none of us can be both young and wise, so we might as well take our chances.

And don’t forget, at the very least it gives your 80-year-old self a good story to tell.

2 responses to “How it Began

  1. Wow! Just stumbled across your blog. That’s quite a trip you have planned. I can relate to thinking about your dream and actually doing it. I always thought about it, and even was jealous of the ‘dream self’. Then somebody finally said, “Don’t say, do” and well, I did. You have a right to your dream and do not be denied. Good luck


  2. Sue Nickel-Schindewolf


    So good to hear from you and of your exciting adventure! I would have expected nothing less from you. Go forth and enjoy and definately keep me posted!

    With warm regards,


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