[Read Part One]
That’s the word that came to mind after I witnessed the Grand Canyon from a helicopter…
And maybe that’s why I got a bit emotional, because that word summed up these past six weeks for me.
I wish I had the ability to explain what it was like, traveling for The Big Yellow Border, but I simply don’t.
Twelve years ago, I decided to sell everything I owned and head to Europe on a one-way ticket – it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I remember almost being in tears trying to figure out how a British payphone worked so I could call my parents back in Oklahoma and let them know I had made it.
But I had made it – and that realization outweighed all the other voices in my head telling me to go back home and take the normal route. Because we do live in a society that tends to make people who aren’t “normal” feel bad about it.
But I kept at it – for no other reason than being fascinated by what’s out there. There were a few times when I did come back home, and tried to acclimate, to fit in, but it never stuck. I was miserable.
And so, I’d take whatever money I could and get on another plane… I had no idea what awaited me once I landed, but that was the weirdly comforting part – I knew that this is what I was supposed to be doing, even though I was scared to death.
This would go on for the better part of a decade.
And then one afternoon in Buenos Aires, with $42 left in my bank account, I got a call.
A call from them.
During the course of this trip, I never made a big deal about who I was writing for, but there would be this dance. Someone would ask what I did and I’d say “travel writer,” then they’d ask “who for?” and I’d just smile and whisper “The Big One.” Their eyes would get big and they’d whisper back “National Geographic?!” and I’d nod and smile some more.
It’s something everyone should feel – to be doing the greatest thing in the world [traveling], for the magazine that inspired us to do it in the first place.
And it is something you can feel.
Because one of you will be the next person to sit here, writing this.
But that means you have to go now – no more waiting around for permission.
Sell everything, stop worrying about the consequences, take out a new credit card, start writing. Unfriend anyone who asks when you’re going to “get serious.”
Accept that cars aren’t necessary and that some meals take hours, that we can now fly to space, that there’s nothing wrong with crashing on couches if you’re on an adventure, that three outfits are enough, that sunrises are free, that the first time you see Machu Picchu it will break your heart, that being alone in a country with no money and no return ticket will teach you more about yourself than any therapist ever could…
That life happens when you start living outside of that box – not just thinking outside of it.
And when that’s done, your chances of getting The Call will have improved by an incalculable margin.
So, thank you, for coming along with me on this journey, for helping me along the way – with a suggestion, or just a kind word that kept me going.
I can’t wait to see which one of you go next.