12 years ago, as I embarked on my final year at Colgate University, I made the choice to spend my senior Spring abroad. It was a simple choice, really: I’d decided to apply for (and was subsequently accepted to) a Fulbright Scholarship to research Philosophy in Freiburg, Germany (where Martin Heidegger authored his existential magnum opus BEING AND TIME), and would complete my B.A. in Freiburg before starting the Fulbright Program.
The choice to prioritize travel has felt natural for me, but it wasn’t always easy to accept the aftermath.
Every choice is a normative claim around who we want to be. Who did I want (and ultimately choose) to be? Autonomous, unorthodox, non-committal, nomadic; I wanted to be a millenial a decade before the term was coined. Obnoxious, right?
This is not to say that a life revolving around travel is mutually exclusive from a rewarding career, fulfilling relationships, and a sense of heimat. But for me, choosing travel above all else meant forgoing a traditional path; I’d spent the majority of my 20s country-hopping (as an expatriate early on, and then as a backpacker-for-ten-days-at-a-time later). I’d focused most of my time, energy, and finances on uncovering as much of the world (and discovering myself in the process) as I possibly could, delaying what felt inevitable and frankly orthodox to my twenty-something self: a stable job, savings account, marriage, mortgage, children, and so on.
My thirty-something self feels few regrets, but at times they ebb and flow, as all journies do. And why should the journey of the self be different from any other trip?
Choose a life you love; it’s all we have (in this lifetime, anyway)