A Movie Script Ending: What I Tell People About My Life
“So, you just graduated. What are your plans now?”
My answer varies dependent on my level of affection for the person asking and my level of sobriety. In levels of increasing affection and decreased sobriety (often a correlated effect):
- “Oh, you know. Working and stuff.” / “Umm… just chilling, looking for work, living my life.”
- “I’m going to travel the world for a year.” / “I’m backpacking across Europe, Asia, and Africa.”
- “ima do everything!!!” / “FUCKING SPACE TRAVEL.”
So here’s the semi-scripted response I’ve now been giving to almost everyone who asks me that terrifying question:
“I’m going to be traveling for a while.”
In late August / early September, I will print my one-way ticket from SFO (or OAK or SJC) to LHR. I will meet up with my friend Chris, who will be starting as a full-time investment banker at Morgan Stanley, then will continue up to Ireland to visit another friend, John, who will be finishing up his final year at film school. I’ll then move further up to Norway and explore the rest of Scandinavia with my Norwegian sociologists and one of my best friends, Sophie, who will be studying abroad in Copenhagen. I’ll make a pitstop in the Baltic states, visiting or at least getting recommendations from the Estonian Joonas and the Lithuanian Rokas. Unable to shake the Soviet grip, I’ll move to Eastern Europe, then travel through Germany, where my friend Cody is studying neuroscience, to Switzerland and the rest of Central Europe. Somehow in this trip, I will drop down to Cinque Terre in Italy and Bordeaux in France, then hit up the rest of Southern Europe, including Malta, Greece, Turkey, and Spain, where my friend Jens is working at a youth hostel. Hopefully Jens can come with me to Portugal, which will be my final European destination before moving to Morocco and then flying over to Egypt. (Obviously, the Egyptian part of the trip, like much of what follows, is up in the air – who knows whether a police state will have been enforced by then.) I’m considering moving Turkey to after Egypt, but I want to keep Greece and Turkey together and should probably look at a map a bit closer when planning exact flight plans.
I should be done with Europe in three to four months by following this snake-like pattern. That means I’ll be out by December or January; though I want to see a European Christmas and party with Spaniards on New Year’s Eve, I have to check if anyone will adopt me for these special celebrations. This trip is more of a taste tester than an actual attempt to learn about any of the cultures – I have my whole life to go back! Unfortunately, this means that I’ll be in Europe during the fall and the winter, which means no lounging on the beach or reading on the sun-drenched patio, and very possibly losing my toes to frostbite. Fortunately, I love snow, and the possibility of skiing the Swiss Alps is too enticing for me to complain. Hopefully I can meet with my dad at some point after Europe so he can swoop all of my cold weather clothes, allowing me to make more space for the shopping I’ll do in India, but my dad’s complete lack of comprehension of my travel plans and self-awareness make me think he’s not keen to support me in providing nonjudgemental advice. I’m only spending a week or two in both of the Northern African countries, though I’m very curious about Senegal… all in all, I will be in this area for a month, meaning I’ll be heading over to India by the beginning of February, arguably the most beautiful time to visit the country.
From Egypt, I’ll fly through Dubai to Southern India, visit family and friends, then make my way to the North, spending a few weeks exploring Himachal Pradesh, Nepal, and the wondrous Bhutan. If I spend three weeks visiting family and three weeks traveling, that puts me at the middle of March, which is when I would spend a month volunteering in India. By the middle of April, it would be too hot to remain in the country, so I would bounce to Thailand for a month-long English tutor position, then maybe head down to volunteer in and explore Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, which seem to be the recommendations of everyone who’ve ever been. This would roughly land me in the middle of June, which gives me options.
My dad suggested that I come home at this point, reevaluate my stress levels, check up on the news and travel advisories, update my visas and immunizations, and then go back to Africa. Though this isn’t ideal – it forces me to spend more money on two long-distance plane tickets – there is some merit to this approach.
On the other hand, I might just return to India during the hottest time of the year and volunteer for a month in the North. This would boomerang me back towards Africa, and I could from India fly to Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa, which would allow me to avoid the unbearable heat and instead experience an African winter/ spring. With these four additional months, I would be returning to the States by the middle of October, though I could of course extend my trip if needed or desired. I would have to get out of South Africa though, as January would be the hottest time of the year.
Out of the year, I would spend about six to seven months volunteering, with the rest dedicated to leisure time and visiting family. It’s a quirky trip that incorporates three of my most critical reasons for travel, introduces me to extreme heat and extreme frigidity, and tests my patience as I continually experience never-ending waves of culture shock. It’s crazy and requires a lot of planning, packing, and triple-checking, but ultimately I feel it’s reasonable and possible within the bounds of reality. I also don’t think it’s an unusual amount of time away from school or work, and provides my brain a much-needed break from routine and the bubble that is Berkeley / the Bay / California / the United States.
After my year of traveling, I’ll probably have burnt through my savings and will beg my parents for a loan. But if I can wing it, I would love to continue the gypsy life. I’ll head home for a few months, then hopefully get a job in South America next! If not, I will return at age 23, grit my teeth, and get a full-time job preferably working for a consulting firm. If I do well, I’ll try to get the company to sponsor me through graduate school – so I won’t have debt! – then work full-time for them (and when I say “them,” I hope “McKinsey”). The thing I’m really most excited for, though, is the possibility of adopting a puppy!
I hope that this answers the questions many of you might have. Let me know by leaving a comment if you’re interested in knowing more about any of these countries or meeting me to travel together!