Whenever I get in deep conversations with people, I eventually ask them if they ever felt they had a purpose. It may sound like a ridiculous question to ask. When asked at the right time, it can bridge a connection between two people. It also can bridge the person answering to a realization they didn’t know existed deep in their psyche.
Over the years, I have heard a lot of answers, from having a family to teaching, from science to sport, from nurturing to defending. Everyone can come up with a response after a few moments of pause as if they always knew. For me, the answer was always a traveler. I have never felt comfortable staying in one place for too long, which seems to contradict some of my life choices. When you don’t feel you have the option to follow your purpose, you often make concessions to the contrary.
Growing up, I liked reading about far off places and culture, listening to music from all corners of the world and asking questions about everything. I wanted to learn more than what I could find in books. This passion, coupled with a healthy love for Indiana Jones and the children’s TV show “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego,” help reinforce my purpose in life.
In college, I decided I wanted to major in anthropology because it meant I could pair my love of travel with my curious nature. I could get paid to learn and share with others everything I knew. It was a dream job, and it felt like a career I could build a happy life around. Unfortunately, the college I went to didn’t have an anthropology program, so that dream would have to wait a few years.
I ended up with computer science degrees because they had more of an immediate purpose at that time in the world as the internet was going more mainstream. I indexed on having a career path that I could earn enough and travel on my own, during my time off. For those who know me, even writing “time-off” is a joke. I never stopped working, and the more I focused on work, the flame inside slowly dimmed, but it never went out. I lost a bit of my sense of wonder, for a time, and I never felt so unfulfilled.
Around 2012 I wanted to change my life; I changed jobs and went to work for a major tech company. On the surface, going into tech may sound like a step in the wrong direction, but it afforded me more time off and work-life balance I never gave myself the opportunity for in previous years. My new team was comprised of individuals from different countries. It was like the UN with more than 20 people from different countries and felt like a family. We would visit each other’s offices and share new words we learned from one another. We joked about how we all pronounced different phrases, explained the idioms, and they tried to help me roll my R’s and other linguistic sorcery I still am unable to accomplish. Every day we laughed and learned about each other, all while working really hard. Meeting this fantastic group of people inspired me to kickstart my travels and meet more new people.
I started training to go to Iceland and do a glacier walk. At this point in my life, I had already torn my quads some years prior while playing softball, and they never healed properly. A glacier trek was a bit of a high-bar goal, but it was the one I set for whatever reason. Also, at that time, Iceland wasn’t a major destination like it is today, but I got it in me that it was where I needed to go.
I spent five months preparing for the trip by going to the gym six days a week, often doing two-a-day sessions. I was really out of shape and knew I needed to work on my legs to make sure I could get up onto and down from the glacier. There is nothing like leveraging the motivation to not fall into an icy crevice to make you work out more. By October, I was finally ready to take the trip and see if I had what it takes.
To my genuine surprise, it wasn’t that hard. I put on those cramps, dug my toes into the ice, and made it to the top. I felt like Rocky at the top of the steps. I achieved what I set out to do, and I was very proud of myself, something I wasn’t always able to be. We walked around for a while, taking pictures, the typical tourist stuff. Then we all began the descent, and that is when I realized I needed to work out going both directions on the step machine to have a well-rounded set of leg muscles.
As I dug in my heels to work my way down the glacier side, my quads started to buckle, and the fear and anxiety almost consumed me. I had to get help from the guide, and it took me extra time, but I made it down. The scene in my head was that of me thinking about all the things I had left to achieve, and that I couldn’t die here, like this! After this trip, I focused on working to travel more, and have more near-death experiences like the last (yes, I’m laughing as I write it). It wasn’t that treacherous, but in the moment, it always feels worse than it is. That trip to Iceland changed me.
Since then, I have traveled back to Iceland several times, got lost in the forest in Luxembourg, did a road trip by myself along the coast of Australia, experienced music festivals and traditional ceremonies, and eaten a few questionable dishes along the way. I love to travel. I am happiest when I am traveling and experiencing the world. I’ll share more stories about my travels as my journey project continues.