In May, I traveled to French Polynesia to shack up on my dear friends Melissa and Scott's boat, Kaimana. When I arrived, I had no idea what was to come: my life was going to change course.
A few days into the trip, I finally started to relax. I felt so alive. Every morning I awoke early and climbed to the very top of Kaimana to watch the sun rise. I grinned like an idiot up there by myself every morning, thinking over and over again, “I’m so happy to be alive.” One morning, the thought of my impending return to ‘real life’ creeped up in the back of my mind. “But I don’t wanna,” I thought. I started fantasizing about living on a boat like this myself. “I could do it,” I thought. Right there I started writing a list called: Alternative Lifestyle Options.
I sat back, watching the sun rise over Bora Bora and fantasized about taking a year off to travel. In the weeks leading up to this trip, I had been half-joking that I'd figure out my life here. I was stagnant in my job and had no idea what I wanted to do next. Could I really just quit it all for a year and travel? Would it be worth it? Why not just wait until retirement like everyone else?
I thought about Stephen Carney, my former boss who died cliff diving at 27, and Dan Fredinburg, a friend who died at 33 in the avalanche on Everest after the Nepal quake. These were two humans who quite literally lived their lives to the point of tears (Camus). I thought about my old college friend and coworker Mallory Rae Dies, who was hit by a drunk driver and killed at 27. We used to work together at Sharkeez bar in Santa Barbara. Later on, after I was “successful” and had a “real” job, I would think, I can’t believe she is still working in a bar. I wonder if she’s ever going to get a real job. But after she died, I realized that the joke was on me. Mallory found something she loved and was good at. She met incredible people and had a tight network of friends who loved her. I’m the one who is unhappy. I thought about my other friends Ivan Bilenky, Cody Pike, Carrie Mach, Chester Alcaraz, Jeff Bjork, Kate Voth and Shawn Blair: all people in my life that have died really, really young.
I felt an anxiety come over me. I could die tomorrow, like any of these people. What if I did? Would I be happy with what I’ve done? Would I feel true to my soul? Could I really travel the world for a year? Is that practical?
It hit me. The answer was so clear: If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, there would be no question. I would leave now. The voice in my head got louder: Do it. Take a year and travel.
A peace came over me as the sun came over the mountain and I felt the warmth on my face. I smiled, and in that moment, it felt like a piece of my soul clicked into place.