Tag Archives: NYC

Packing is the Easy Part

This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader. 
Overview: Everyone always asks how I leave. How do I clear out my apartment and pack my whole life into a suitcase, knowing that it will essentially be my portable house for the next year. Well I’ll tell you: everything gets really weird the week before I leave, and packing is the least of my concerns.

 

You know in action movies when an explosion is triggered under water, and all the surrounding matter gets sucked in for a few seconds before being expelled outward in a burst of kinetic energy? That’s kind of what the week before traveling is like for me. When I opened my eyes this morning, I was gripped by an odd nostalgia and realized I felt the same way that I did two years ago when I realized I only had a week left in NYC—like everything was moving in reverse.

I now have one week to prepare for my second trip around the world. The next few days will be exhausting as I run around the city sealing up loose ends. Time seems abundant and scarce at the same time. I’ve already ordered all my gear and have everything I need in proximity. I’ve thrown the things I want to pack into the suitcase but I’ll probably just look at it in the middle of the living room floor this whole week, sprinkling items on top as I remember that I need them. I’ll do this until the last possible moment when the fact that my flight leaves tomorrow will hit me like an adrenaline injection to the heart. Maybe medically this is a panic attack, I don’t know, but it will power me through a 24 hour packing rampage that somehow reaches completion the minute before I need to leave for the airport.

But packing is the easy part.

It’s always in that last week that somehow I will stumble into an improbable love connection that could maybe practically work, even though the previous year has yielded nothing but boredom and heartbreak. My ideal house pet will fall into my lap (or literally, fly into my apartment like a budgie did last time), even though in months of searching pet adoption sites, nothing seemed to quite fit. The meeting I’d been requesting for 6 months will finally get scheduled—for the week after I leave. And, as history repeating itself would dictate, the inevitable weird job offer will come knocking, but I’m only eligible for if I stay. Last time it was something so lucrative but so out of left field that I asked the headhunter if she was sure she was talking with the right person. That’s another story.

Thanks but no thanks.

I shake it off and keep prepping.

Meanwhile, there is the ambush of invitations from the people who need to tell me one last thing, face-to-face: the apology, the confession, or the exploration of the possible “moment” we had that I was oblivious to but you purposely ignored because we were too good of friends to go there. The “I really need to see you before you go”s. The sentiment is appreciated, but at the same time it makes me feel like there’s a secret death pool going on behind my back, like I’m the final painting of an aging artist.

I plan a rooftop BBQ so everyone can feel good about me leaving.

I refuse to do anything that isn’t familiar, because nothing will be familiar to me for the next year.

I’m trying to find the best way to digitize all the notebooks I obsessively fill and constantly reference but won’t bring with me because every ounce of luggage matters.

Then there’s the hard part: the reassuring my friends that this isn’t goodbye forever. It’s squeezing in all the “last” late-night whiskey prowls we can manage, savoring the “last” laughs, holding on longer than necessary in the “last” hugs. It’s knowing that the next time I see them again we’ll all be different people, and hoping that whatever happens in the time between doesn’t drive a cultural wedge between us that would have us look upon each other as strangers at our next encounter. It’s reminding myself over and over again that it never happens that way, and that even 10 years apart isn’t enough to delete a true human connection. It’s convincing the ones who are always there for me that I’m not leaving because they’re not enough for me, but because I feel whole enough to do this now because of them. It’s crying like a fool because I hate goodbyes.

It’s trying not to be melodramatic because it’s not like I’m going to war or something. Unless someone wants to pay me to write about it. Then I would.

Destination Unknown

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This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader. 

As you may know, I’m traveling around the world right now. I lived in NYC for five years which, as any legit New Yorker will tell you, is like being in an abusive relationship with the coolest guy in the world. Even now, as I sit in my big French apartment in Toulouse, which I will leave in two days to head to my next apartment in Paris, I can’t help but think to myself that I miss “the grind.”

Remnants of that grind are what propels me in my current journey. New York was my boot camp, and it gave me the confidence to know that I can stretch my tentacles out and get what I need no matter where I am. So far, the results have been awesome.

I’ve been an official expat since July 22, 2013 when I took a 21-hour train ride from my hometown, Ann Arbor, Michigan, across the Canada border. When I tweeted the duration of my journey, my friend and e-doctor Peter pointed out that the trip only takes five hours by car. “Are you walking there?” he asked.

This was the moment I recalled a token of wisdom that Max, one of my loft-mates in downtown LA this past June, had given to me one night while cooking steaks. I was worrying out loud about how I was going to get from place to place by myself during my upcoming journey around the world, and he turned to me and said: “The journey is the destination.”

I had him repeat it a few times, rolling it around in my mind. He told me about Dan Eldon, the man who coined this phrase, and we flipped through his travel journal with wide-eyed wonder that night while we ate our steaks. I liked this concept. It meant that, while lying on a blanket in the grass outside the Buffalo AmTrak station reading Peter’s tweet during the seven-hour layover I overlooked while booking the cheapest ticket possible, I was content because I was already where I wanted to be: traveling.

I have recalled this nugget of reasoning frequently over the past three months, and it’s taken me to places not found in any tourist guide. I’ve been to the top of an Icelandic volcano, to middle-of-nowhere England in a town full of characters that may have inspired Alice and Wonderland or vice versa, and into the mountains of Catalan country where I worked on a farm. And I’m just getting started.