There was this sort of abyss that defined my life; an aimless warmth of comfort I simply accepted as a part of my day-to-day schedule. It welcomed me to believe that the world was to be taken for granted, remain still, and stay at where your designated duty seemed to be. But eventually silence gets loud. Do you know what I mean? The deafening stillness of blood flow that deters from all motivation in life? It’s a cycle and in the same way that amplified sound amplifies sound that is amplified, it seemed to cycle in a frenzy and take over normal thought. It seemed to chip away at my mental state to the point where I nearly was forced to go up to my friends and ask, “Wanna travel with me?”
One blink later I was sitting in a crammed train, first class to Nice, France. Me and the three others, who must have felt something of the same abyss, joined me on an epic counter clockwise trek around Europe. I started in the castles “across the pond” in the UK to eventually rendezvous with my three friends soon after. Starting from Lisbon, Portugal we flew to Madrid and moved our way down the Mediterranean via Eurail. These train tracks marked the inevitability of unseen paths as we moved North from a culture-enthused Venice to the quaint heart of Austria and eventually to brilliant mentality that is Germany. Here the lives and places we witnessed became relevant with the rise and fall of 20th century empires. Berlin was soon met with the calming vibes of the Netherlands as we hung our feet off the canals of Amsterdam. From there we ran into the pinnacle glamor of France where priceless treasures and erect monuments stood prolific amongst all else. We would stop in London once more and then dip our feet in the beaches of Tel Aviv to put a period on this journey. For me, I traveled eleven countries in the span of two months taking with me memories that will change me forever.
And yes, we were in awe just about everywhere we went. But of the most visceral moments was the very second we began to leave the city. There was this sudden jerk and then a pull from the power of the vehicle we were stowed in. The engines began to drive forward and from there we knew a different beginning would await us. This pull gave me goosebumps every time but being the sentimental man I am, I never told any of my friends on this trip about that feeling until just now (as they read this with everyone else). From this pull, challenges constantly presented themselves from language barriers, to unfamiliar locations, to internal workings, to housing situations. Despite all this and more, we did more than survive. And with everything so grand, it was important for us to embrace the simple things too: A cup of coffee, a good laugh, an inside joke, a debate on free will, etc. All became features that defined our group. From this bond, our mere friendship turned into a team.
Now that I’m back it seems like a blur. Two months have somehow been condensed into a quick singular event that goes in and out in that oh so familiar abyss. Life is normalizing to the standstill it was before and at the same time somehow becoming more and more complicated. This paradox leaves me busy as I’m forced to adapt every second to a new condition in the same place. It’s pleasing, essential, and tedious all at the same time. I suppose that’s the nature of adulthood, isn’t it?
In the same way one might internally feel the crashing of waves on the shoreline after a day on the beach, I still feel that pull of the engines starting up. I have flashbacks, like a shell shocked soldier might, to specific moments of the prior months at travel. A specific song or a similar looking structure may trigger the time I people-watched at San Polo Square in Venice. A certain whiff of a smell caught simmering out of a kitchen may remind me of the best omelette I ever had at a diner in Cannes. Sometimes I force myself to pretend that the staircase I’m currently climbing is the lateral challenge of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, or the Berliner Dom, or even the Eiffel Tower. It feels so silly as I type it but at the same time keeps me motivated in strange ways to move forward. As of now, forward means going back. But here lies another paradox: I want to go back, yes? The world is moving forward, though. It’s progressing in ways that will leave particular lands unrecognizable when I come back. For example: In Spain, our parents advised us not to spend too much time in Valencia for too long. Their reference was 20-30 years old. We’d learn in the one day we had scheduled for the city, there was an entire science district along with a winding park all throughout that practically marked this newfound significance of the city. It’s daunting to think of all the advances that I must make before reverting back to travel, for the world is changing and so must you.
We’re all continuously moving forward, though…Well most of us anyway. And those who don’t typically fall into barbaric states of chaos leading to violence and other times suicide and sometimes both but ultimately cause death and a water-rippling effect of negativity. And it’s sad. We can all dwindle on such notions but the real takeaway is that while there is all this ugliness, we still have the pull to move forward in ways that other species cannot. We move forward in plans. We move forward in connection. We move forward in projects that we take on. All this combined leads to passion and culture which are the pinnacle reasons why humanity has prevailed to this point. Our world seems to get uglier and uglier but so did the world 70 years ago when our grandparents worried too. Kaleidoscoping down the timeline, their grandparents also worried about the seemingly awful world and so on and so forth. But they prevailed, kept close those what mattered, and shot for a thriving existence. Ultimately, this initial fear of the general masses make us human. It’s a repetition that’s a macro-trait of our history and while the repetition of fear generally is bad, this one is beautiful. If we didn’t have fear, there’d be nothing worth embracing. We’re so afraid that we force ourselves to cherish the sites of beat down ruins merely for the sake that Julius Caesar might have stood there. The insignificant suddenly becomes significant and all nihilistic notions gain color and insight. Yes, the looming abyss of stillness exists but so does the pull which makes that abyss an advantage to the human experience. For the short time that we have on this Earth, we must continue and that is what I learned on this trip.