The Quarter-Life Bucket List Trip

I originally wrote this post two weeks ago, but trashed it. I never want to come across with a  boastful or “holier-than-thou”  tone and sometimes I write posts like this, but then delete them because there’s too much of “me” in the writing. However, this morning as I sat perched in the living space of my hostel on the island of Fuerteventura, listening to the sounds of the street and overlooking the North African-style flat roofs out to the ocean, my eyes welled up with emotion as I considered just these last two weeks and a strong sense of gratitude came over me, both of what I’ve put in over the last two weeks, as well as what is to come. As I’ve always said, if I can inspire just one person with something I say, then I feel like my job is complete. So I *virtually* dug this up from the trash and present it to you now.

It finally hit me, just moments ago. Thousands of feet in the air, cruising above the Atlantic Ocean, with the entire cabin fast asleep. I had been waiting for the moment. The moment being that point in time where reality hits me and I’m flooded with emotions. I went years without crying; I didn’t even cry at my father’s funeral. Yet over the last year I’ve become what Ron Burgundy would probably describe as a “glass case of emotions”. But I think John Denver really sums it up better in the song Leaving on a Jet Plane, with the words: “Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.”

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I have few addictions that compete with the former television series LOST. One of the many things that I loved about the show was the transformation that each character underwent. As Jack stated shortly after their crash: “We should all be able to start over.” What appeared to be the worst tragedy in the lives of each of the passengers, ended up becoming a defining moment. So many of them had such deep character flaws, yet what’s tragedy to one person is opportunity for another.

The metaphorical island plane crash happened to me just two years ago, at what is considered a ripe age of 27. However, it was more like a series of crashes over the course of a couple years that hit a point in April of 2010; losing my father, then my grandmother, losing my dream job, and then a divorce. Nonetheless, while the natural response would be to have felt like that was the end of life, as I knew it, in reality, that’s when life just began.

As my family dropped me off today to catch my flight, we casually joked that I might not actually come back. I shrugged my shoulders and laughed it off, but yet as I look back at the last couple years, I know that anything is possible. I’ve come to take on a mantra that I’ll commit to a sense of routine each and every morning up to the point that I tie my shoes, and then from there, anything is possible. There’s nothing beyond the realm of possibilities. Attempt to write a novel? I’m up for the challenge. Take a surf lesson? Sure, sign me up. Travel with someone I’ve never met? Why not?

I often talk with people about my traveling lifestyle. Their response is often one of envy mixed with a desire to do the same, but a sentiment that they could never do it. I can relate to most of the reasons, which may include a full-time job, relationship, mortgage, and financial obligations. And so frequent or long-term travel is filed under one’s bucket list – that it’s something that will be done after all of those obligations have been fulfilled. I recently read about one person doing that, a 95-year-old man who has set off on a backpacking trip around Europe, one of a few he has done since 85. However, I think he’s the exception.

If you want to call this a bucket list trip, then so it is. It’s really my second. The first long-term trip was in 2010/2011 and took me across North America over the course of 9 months. It was unequivocally the best decision of my life. The person I came back as, isn’t the person I left as. Yes, travel changed me; and because of that reason itself, I’m on a plane to Europe. This is week seven of a trip spanning at least four months. When this week is said and done, it will have involved visits to seven countries in six days, including a couple Olympics events, attending two soccer games in Glasgow, Scotland, followed by the start of surf camp in the Canary Islands. August will see me hot air ballooning for the first time and then?

I don’t tell you this to rub it in your face or boast. I’m not better than you and don’t consider myself to have arrived in life. I hope, if anything, it inspires just one person. And you know what, it doesn’t have to be inspiration to travel. I want to inspire you to do what you want. Make an investment into what you’re passionate about and what makes you come alive.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.-Howard Thurman

For me, that investment is in the one thing that has always given me more then I gave it: travel. Maybe for you it’s tackling a hobby you’ve always wanted to do. Or maybe it’s starting your own business. Maybe it’s moving to another state or even another country. Or maybe you want to adopt a child. You’ll have some reservations from others and people may try to persuade you otherwise, but the question you’ve got to answer is this: Who do I want to see when I wake up each morning and look at myself in the mirror? Nobody can answer that question but you.

My current feelings are ones of excitement, mixed with gratitude. I’ve had the privilege to make my greatest passions of travel and writing into a career. I have multiple assignments on this trip and will be working part-time while I’m traveling. I could probably wrap up most of the work I’m doing in just a few weeks, if not less, but when an opportunity like this comes, I can’t afford not to take it because it may not come around again. After I close my laptop, I’ll shut my eyes and wake up in a place I’ve never been: Amsterdam. I’ll tie my shoes and then from there, anything is possible.

18 Comments on “The Quarter-Life Bucket List Trip

  1. Hey Spence!
    I have to say, travel is a remedy greater than any modern medicine out there. It’s biggest side effect is opening up your mind and world to discover who you really are at your core and root. You can’t embark on a journey without coming back a better version of yourself than you were before you left. :)
    Cheers to this next journey Spence!
    - Lauren :)

    • It’s for those reasons that I keep traveling Lauren. Sometimes I wonder why I continue to have days like I did last week where I travel through 7 countries in 6 days, but then I look back after the fact and see how it shapes me, and I just can’t afford NOT to travel. Aim big Lo!

  2. When I was your age, I was right where you are, taking chances and opportunities as they presented themselves. I don’t regret a single one, even though most of my friends thought I was crazy for it. Do what makes you happy and the rest of the world seems to fall into place.

    Enjoy your journey Spencer. =)

  3. Kudos for taking the time to live; the hardest part is leaving (though the next hardest part is going back).

    Even better, kudos for taking the time to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities. Most people neglect to do this and end up with less than they had hoped for. Keep that mindset, however, and you’ll find yourself with plenty to keep you occupied for the rest of your life.

    • Thank you Colin. That means a lot coming from someone like yourself who I’ve followed. As you mention, it’s important saying “yes” and keeping the change and opportunities fresh. It can be easy to fall into complacency and it’s for that reason, and many more, that I find myself continuing to reinvent myself.

  4. Very inspiring indeed Spencer. I always hear people say they will travel “later” when there is time, but I say there is no time like the present, enjoy life now, you never know how much time you have on this earth.

    • Absolutely. I say “yes” to the now! We’re not guaranteed tomorrow and so I want to make sure I live for today.

  5. I’m really glad you dug this out of the virtual trash. It needs to be read and savored. Traveling isn’t on everyone’s to-do list, but the motivation and want that leads people to travel is inherent in everyone. As you said, maybe the desire is to start a business or a family; perhaps that’s their goal. Whatever it is, I say do it! I live by the mantra, “Life is too short to live with a someday mentality.” You never know, Spencer. I say bravo to you for taking off on your adventure and publishing this piece. Well done, sir. Safe travels.

    • Thank you Leah! I’m glad I pulled it out as well judging from the response. My intentions are never to come across with a mindset that you HAVE to travel or do life how I’ve done it. My intentions are that people would heed those calls of opportunity and adventure, whatever they may be. That’s what the world needs more of, whether it’s travel or something else.

  6. Thanks for sharing, Spencer. These kinds of posts always give me a warm, happy feeling- someone’s out living their dream! Travel DOES change us, and it takes a brave person to embrace and search out the change. Have a great trip- and looking forward to following along!

    • I’m a strong believer in embracing change. It’s for that reason that I continue to travel like I do!

    • Thanks Ayngelina. Judging from the response, that’s indeed the case!

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  8. My father died tragically at the age of 56. Young by any standard. It taught me a very valuable lesson. There may be no tomorrow. All the reasons in the world to not do something are often excuses we give ourselves out of fear that our dreams will in fact change us in a way we can’t imagine. The unknown is a frightening reality of travel. Both in the sense of travel itself, but also its profound impact on our psyche. We leave to sail the Med in 2015 … two adults and a dog. Because I (we) do not want to be one to talk about it … I want to DO it.
    -Sonja

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