If Not Now

I sat on the porch of my aunt and uncle’s beach house in Maine entirely doubtful of the future. My grandpa had just passed away pretty unceremoniously in his trailer quite alone and without much notice, until he was found of course. I was the one chosen to write his eulogy. It was one of the first times I had to think very deeply about someone wonderful in my life who I had just taken for granted. My grandfather lived a full life although he rarely left our home state of New Hampshire except for the occasional visit into Maine or Massachusetts and there was always that one trip to Las Vegas. Quite honestly, we couldn’t be further from each other. Me with my worries, him with his carefree nature. Me with a Master’s degree, and him illiterate. Me unemployed, and him always hustling. But man did he live fully. So I sat on the steps feeling quite sad for obvious reasons and quite disappointed with myself for not figuring out how to at least get a job.

My whole family went to the beach house after the funeral as we had planned to do even before my grandfather passed. My boyfriend who has been around long enough to be family pulled in a little later as usual in his Jeep Wrangler. Alone on the porch staring out at the ocean, he turned to me and said, “let’s go on the trip you’ve always wanted.” I paused. I didn’t have a job. I had no idea where my life was going. Even when life presents you with an amazing opportunity that you’ve always wanted, sometimes you back away because it’s just too big and perfect. But, thinking of my grandfather, I said yes. Ignoring all logical reasons that my mind could put in front of me to deter me, I decided to go. Because, if not now, when? And if later, remembering my grandpa, what if I never made it there?

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Deciding to Take the Epic Trip of My Dreams

I’ve always wanted to travel.  Fortunately, Matt is completely okay with my inherent need to go places and see things. That’s an important quality because I’ll be this way for the rest of my life. As I am coming upon a three month trip around Europe with Matt (I will post an itinerary at a later date), I started to think about how I came to the decision to take an extended trip. Making the decision to travel can be difficult and complicated mainly because life gets in the way. Here’s my story of how I decided to make my dream of backpacking Europe become a reality:

How I almost never got to go backpacking:

I decided I wanted to go on an epic trip through Europe back during my sophomore year at Georgetown University. That feeling strengthened even more after coming back from studying abroad in Ireland during my junior year. By the end of college, I pushed that idea aside for a couple of reasons. The first: I was off to graduate school for Museum Studies. The second: Matt focused on getting a job and starting his career. I often talked to Matt about going on an extended trip but he said that it probably wouldn’t be possible for quite a while. At the end of my first year of grad school, I still wanted to figure out how to travel and I needed to find a partner. Traveling alone wouldn’t be fun for me. Not wanting to give up on my dream, I asked my sister Sarah if she could go with me. I did a quick estimate of a budget and let Sarah know the price. A trip like this is expensive and Sarah said she couldn’t afford it at this point, especially because she needs time and money to apply to medical school which is understandably her top priority at this point. Going into my second and final year of my Masters program, I completely pushed the idea of a lengthy trip out of my mind and resigned myself to the idea of having occasional one week vacations because it was realistic and I guessed I could live with that.

Matt and Monique in Ireland during Fall 2010.

Matt and Monique in Ireland during Fall 2010.

How plans changed:

The reason I’m going to be taking a three month trip through Europe is because of Matt. About a month ago, Matt came to me and suggested that we go. Just being out of grad school, I’m having difficulty finding a job (it really is a tough economy). Matt suggested it was a perfect time to go because I’m in limbo with my career and he wants to reset his career direction. Matt figured he could just take some time off in between his current job and his future career. In terms of jobs (or lack of), Matt and I are in the perfect place. Plus, we both currently have enough money saved up to do this trip while paying the bills we are leaving behind and still having a bit of money to start on when we come back. Is this trip fiscally responsible? Well, our bank accounts are going to take huge hits but they would do so at any time for an adventure like this. Is it worth it? Yes. Matt and I love to travel and we love each other. We have been apart for so long (Matt and I did six years of long distance during our undergraduate schooling and my graduate program) that this will be ultimate quality time. Plus, as Matt says, this trip will be something that we remember for the rest of our lives. And our dreams will be fulfilled through making this journey.

When Matt seriously asked me if I wanted to go on this trip, it took me less than a minute to think it through and say yes. Was I nervous? Hell yes. I thought through all the scenarios of how this could go wrong or negatively affect my future. But I know that I may never get this opportunity again where all the stars perfectly align to make something this big and important happen. I want and need to take the opportunity before it is gone and may never come again. That was the ultimate deciding factor when I decided to pursue this backpacking journey. I’m sure that Matt would say the same.

Making a decision to take a trip like this is a big one. It can affect your career and it will definitely affect you financially. When trying to decide to travel, my advice is to look at it in terms of whether or not you will get the opportunity again. And also how happy it will make you. Of course you  will need to consider money and career issues but if you can afford to not really worry about those things, don’t worry about them. Or just take the risk. It may be worth it in the end because, realistically, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we only have one life. With the United States’ focus on work, this can be difficult to acknowledge at times but it is something that we should never forget.

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Matt and I will be leaving for Glasgow on Sunday, August 31st. Until we leave, I’ll be updating the blog with tips on planning a trip like this. When our adventure begins, it will switch to more traveling advice that we learn as we go. Matt and I are both backpacking novices so hopefully this will provide you with inspiration that a trip like this can be done as well as give you some useful information. I’ll be posting our travel route by this time next week.