Old Friends, Old Notes and New Experiences
Tonight, I talked to an Indonesian friend I met in Bangkok back in January 2009. Since I last saw her in Thailand, she had left her job and boyfriend in Jakarta, studied in Europe, gotten married to a German guy and would be going to Germany mid next year.
We were talking and, out of the blue, she thanked me.
Almost exactly three years ago, I returned to the states from my three month study abroad trip in England. A couple weeks before leaving, I sat down and wrote about my experience in a note I posted on Facebook.
She said this note had inspired her to see the world which ultimately resulted in where she is now. I was floored.
I re-read it for the first time in years tonight. It amazed me how nearly all of the things I said then I still believe in now. It was also great to see that I had followed-through with the promise I made myself so many years ago.
Below is the note in full.
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November 24, 2007
As I sit here in my room and look at my calendar, I can’t help but realize that I have less than 3 weeks before I board a plane and head back to the United States. However, before I leave I’d like to share some of the things I have learned, experienced, and otherwise felt in the past two and a half months in Europe.
Surprisingly, and perhaps not, people around the world are essentially the same. Yes we have the stereotypes and the different connotations but when you boil away the faces and colors, you realize that deep down inside, everyone is the same. Everyone is willing to help others, everyone likes an interesting conversation, and everyone is willing to drink and be merry. I’ve ran into so many friendly people who are willing to go out of their way to help me, whether it be simple directions, buying a drink, paying for a cab, or even providing a bed and a roof, and all of them have come from different backgrounds and countries. In the words of Anne Frank, people are inherently good and running across those people have really validated that phrase.
Another thing I’ve learned is that sometimes there is nothing better in the world than having the world on your back. As I was taking a train to the top of the Swiss alps, I could not help but think that here I was, by myself, in a foreign country, with no work, no school, and no worries. Nothing. And I truly felt happy. Drinking a beer with two complete strangers, off to the top of the world. Or when I was in Aix, walking in the small alley ways on a busy Saturday, with the sun shining, people laughing and dancing, and beautiful girls everywhere the eye can see. No tests, no homework, not a worry in the world. True freedom really is happiness and sometimes its such a shame to think that some people never get to experience it.
Friendships can be fleeting but memories last forever. Being on the road, you meet people at your hostel, become the best of friends for a few days, and then split. You may never see them again, you may never talk to them again, but in your mind, the good times will always be there. That’s all life really is and the one thing no one can take from you. You can have all the money in the world but if you don’t have a story to tell then it’s a wasted life.
Memories like feeding birds in a park in Bern, the happy hours at Balmer’s, wandering through the ruins of Rome, strolling across the Charles bridge at night, watching street performers in Marseilles, eating pasta in Bruges, or dancing on the tables at Oktoberfest are all mine and always will be mine. No matter how I end up, poor, rich, alone, happy, nothing and no one can ever take those from me. I may never visit those places or do those things again but those memories are in my mind, forever.
Money and traveling come hand in hand but if I’ve learned anything it’s that the money can always be made. Don’t be so stressed about your careers and how you are gonna be making a living, it’ll all come one day. But the one thing that won’t just come along are the adventures and the good times. You gotta go out there and grab it yourself.
Traveling through Europe has really lit a fire in me and I want to see the world before I’m off to the doldrums of a 9-5 workday. I’ve realized that in my 20’s, this may be the only chance in my life to go out and not have to worry about anything. Ease up a bit and realize that you have a whole life ahead of you to get a career and make money. Whether you become too old, get a family, work a demanding career, or any of the million other reasons, you may never again have the time to see the world. So, I’m ready to go out and make my memories, are you?