One week ago was my last day in the only city I've called home for the last seven years. Three days ago was my last day in the USA for the next several months. My life since that Monday has been a tornado of activity that swept me up and spit me out in Tokyo with nothing but a backpack and a bunch of plane tickets.
Granted, it's a tornado of my own design, but a tornado nonetheless. And now, as I put Tokyo in the rear view mirror and approach Manila, I thought I'd share a few observations from the outset of this journey.
Hit the link below for Parts 1 and 2:
The hardest thing about leaving for a trip like this are the goodbyes, and nothing else is even a close second.
Getting rid of my apartment and almost all of my things, leaving work behind, the uneasy feeling that crept into my stomach every once in a while when I let my mind wander too far into the future... none of it compared with the goodbyes to good friends and family. As excited as I was for the road ahead, it was always bittersweet saying goodbye.
Acknowledging the reality that I wouldn't see any of them in person for the next several months was the only time I've really doubted my decision. I'm just glad that I got rid of my apartment before leaving my job. Getting cold feet would've been easy if I'd allowed myself to remain comfortable. I suspect it's stopped plenty of people before.
Life without a routine is strange and a big adjustment. This adventure is not going to be easy. It's going to challenge my resourcefulness, my ability to roll with the punches (like finding a broken backpack frame on the baggage carousel on day 1 of the trip – thanks AA!), my tolerance for uncomfortable situations, my practical decision-making skills, and plenty of other ways that I haven't been challenged in a long time.
My life on Wall Street was all about routine, and I found I often had a set time to do pretty mundane things, and all these pieces of routine gave me a sense of comfort, and it was easy to find a sense of security in that structure. But is that the best way to go through life ? To me, comfortable and secure sounds like a great way to retire, but spending my whole life that way ? No thanks.
The chief concern of the few who worried that I was making a big mistake was that I underestimated the satisfaction I got from working, from that structure. They warned that the grass is always greener, and that feeling like you belong where you are and that you're accomplishing something are not things to be thrown away so casually. Two weeks later and a continent away, I'm not looking back.
Now I don't know where I'll be sleeping next week, but I don't miss the routine at all. There is no substitute for newness. Your understanding of everything around you is diminished, but your perception of it is heightened. Everything is more vivid, and at the same time, more challenging. That is a trade I am happy to have made.
And to say that I've just thrown everything away isn't quite right. When I think about what's waiting for me when I return, I think of this experiment as an exercise in creative destruction. At some point, I'll return to the real world, and I'll likely re-introduce some parts of my old life into my new one.
But I'll also throw plenty of bad, pointless, or lazy habits out. I'll be armed with a fresh perspective on what living is really all about, and I'll be of the mind to incorporate those views into my new day-to-day life. The result will be a reorganized, re-imagined life and hopefully, one hell of a story.
Do I know that recruiters will look at me upon my return and see a young man who grabbed a once in a lifetime opportunity and took off on an adventure ? No, I don't. Will they see an unstable Wall Street risk-taker who can't be trusted to stay the course ? I hope not, but I don't know that for sure. But from the feedback I've gotten so far, I'm encouraged. The support, well-wishes, and general positivity has been incredible.
I hope you enjoy following my adventure even 1/10th as much as I'm going to enjoy living it. And if you do, maybe it's time you thought about a trip of your own...
Follow along at Here Is The City and lifewaitsfornoone.com and see how it all unfolds.
image: © Hideyuki Kamon