Since starting this blog, I’ve covered the thought process that led to me quitting my “real life” and taking off for the other side of the world without a plan. I’ve discussed the benefits and drawbacks of a life in transit. But I’ve never really talked about how this whole crazy idea of long-term travel entered my head in the first place. There were quite a few factors, actually; multiple voices of reason and whimsy and fate that all converged over time to get me here. But there was also one specific moment of inception that I remember quite well.
I was working for the French tourism board in New York, and one day my boss asked me to compile a list of blogs written by Anglophone expats living in France. It turned out to be the greatest assignment ever: reading accounts of exciting lives abroad from my desk, 29 floors above NYC — it was like professionally endorsed 9-5 escapism.
Of course, Google searches aren’t always all that precise, and plenty of non-French expat blogs were popping up on my screen before long. The only one that stuck with me, though, was written by a guy called Nomadic Matt. He’d quit his own office job years ago and had been traveling ever since. The idea of doing something similar had literally never crossed my mind, but suddenly I was wondering if I’d ever have the courage to do the same, daydreaming of where I’d go if I were ever to follow suit.
A couple of years have passed since then, and this blog is the proof that I eventually took a hint from the Nomadic Matt handbook and set off a-wanderin’.
Matt’s also still on the road, and has more or less made global galavanting into a career, with loyal readers and even partner companies. That means, among other things, that he’s often able to run amazing contests — like the one that will send one lucky blogger, maybe even yours truly, on a free 12-day trip to Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. And all he needs is a little convincing in a public forum. Like this one.
So, at the risk of sounding like a kid trying to get the attention of a dodgeball team captain, here goes: “Hey, Matt, over here! Pick me! Pick me!”
OK. I’ll probably have to do a little better than that. So here, in no particular order, are a few reasons why I think Matt should help me out once again with a little more inspiration. A little more support for living the life less practical, if you will. And hopefully a plane ticket.
- I’ve spent the last eight months traveling New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia. And I’ve loved every minute of it — but it’s time to move on. The thing is, I’m not sure where to — and I like it that way. The idea that I don’t have to over-plan everything, that a surprise-factor can often mean the difference between the trip of a lifetime and a life-changing trip, is something I’ve dedicated the last year to learning to embrace. And even though I’ve already got my return ticket to the U.S. from New Zealand booked, I just can’t let my travels end then and there. So maybe I’m just waiting for a sign, maybe I’m opening the door for serendipity — but winning this trip would be like life throwing me just the kind of curveball I need right now.
- The contest rules stipulate that the winner can start traveling any time after October 15, 2012. October 2012 marks the one-year anniversary of when I finally left my old life in New York — my career, my friends, my apartment — behind to see what else the world had in store for me. What better way to celebrate my whim’s first birthday than to keep it going in three European countries I’ve never visited?
- Speaking of birthdays: did I mention that October’s also when I turn 30? That number would be a whole lot less daunting if my birthday cake were a Sachertorte. I’d represent all those who got off to a bit later start living the life they want to live — and I’d keep proving wrong those who think they’re already too entrenched in the “real world” to get moving.
- Anyone can write about hunting down the best wiener schnitzel in Vienna or sampling meaty dumplings in Prague. But my travel specialty is weeding through sausage carts and piles of deep-fried insects to find authentic, delicious, unfamiliar vegetarian food that would make even carnivores salivate. I’d literally bring something different to the table (did I mention the bad puns yet? Oh, good).
- I want to get back outside my comfort zone. My first-ever solo trip was to France, a country I adore and a place where I’ve always felt at home. Next up was New Zealand, a country I’d never visited but where everyone looked and sounded — essentially — a lot like me. But my best solo travel experiences were unquestionably in Southeast Asia, where I knew next to nothing about the language, culture, or anything else before arriving. It’s great to feel comfortable and at home on the road, but it’s often far better to speak in pantomime, wonder what the hell it actually is you’ve just ordered, and relish the fact that you’re going to get lost because you can’t read the road signs.
- Not that I’m totally clueless, language-wise: I already know how to say “cheers” in Czech and German. And that knowledge is just going to waste right now.
- I almost went to Prague and Budapest, once. My roommate and I started planning the trip in earnest, buying the guidebooks, getting excited. And then we decided to use the money to move to a better apartment instead. It was the practical decision at the time — but this is the year I make up for all those practical decisions I made in the past.
- I can be pretty shameless when absolutely necessary. To the point where I’ll rope in my friends, family, and anyone who happens to have stopped by my blog to help my cause: why do you guys think I should win? (Update: My friends, family, and other readers are apparently also a pretty shameless and dedicated bunch. I expected them to post comments about my taste for Pilsner Urquell or my Bohemian roots; instead they wrote essays. Even more than I deserve to win this trip, they all deserve to be taken along for the ride).