Friday, December 17, 2010

The Best of Decisions

Last Sunday, I went to a going away party for a guy I know who’s leaving everything he knows behind to go traveling for a year.  As we said our goodbyes, I found myself struggling for something to say – some wise, all-encompassing Zen master line of wisdom from one traveler to another.  Instead, I stood there babbling nonsense.  Then, out of nowhere, it came out.  I said,
“This is the best decision you’ve ever made.”

It was actually a surprise to hear myself say it. The traveler in question, Daniel, knows something about my own adventures, and so he’s well aware that I was not reassuring him that next year will be 100% free of worry, mishap, social awkwardness and weirdosity, and that he will float effortlessly from continent to continent as if on extremely good drugs.  I hope it is, for his sake.  But in my experience, traveling for a year was – I can think of no other way to say this – the best and worst of times. It was the saddest and loneliest of times, and the scariest and most confusing of times.  But it was also exhilarating, enlightening and right-direction-pointing.

Even though I spent some that year living off canned lentil soup and cheese every day because it was all I could afford and I shared a fridge the size of a mini-bar with 6 Australians… even though I got fired two jobs and sometimes wasn’t sure how I was going to survive… even though some really, really awful things happened to me, it was the best decision I ever made.  It changed almost everything about me for the better.  I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t left everything I knew behind.  And being able to say so is kind of like going back in time and thanking myself for having made the decision in the first place.  But more importantly, it’s also a reminder: that the same laws still apply. 

We make big decisions all the time.  And I don’t know about you, but I spent most of my time worrying about them.  But that night, I remembered that if I made those choices in the right spirit – listening to my gut and doing what I know is right – they, too, will be the best decisions I’ve ever made.  They will point things in the right direction, even if it doesn’t seem that way right now. 

Saying goodbye to Daniel, I was surprised to notice that I didn’t feel jealous.  Well, maybe a little bit, but I didn’t want to be in his shoes.  I felt thrilled for him, and that was it.  I hope I will always travel, but in a different way.  I found what I was looking for on that trip.  And I’m pretty sure he will, too.

And I walked home in the snowy night, to everything I know.

Daniel Baylis is one of the most entertaining and introspective bloggers I know.  Travel vicariously with him at: