One of my best friends is from Northern Ireland. We met in my third year at my American college when he came over with an international scholarship and we bonded over our interest in business, our sense of adventure, and our exceptional knack to survive on no sleep.
When I graduated almost three weeks ago, he was one of my toughest goodbyes, not just because he's one of my dearest friends, but because he doesn't live within a two-hour drive of me... Or even a drive at all. We were now an ocean apart instead of a block of Main Street in rural PA.
Saying goodbye, therefore, seemed more definite, more final, than most. As I type this into my phone screen, I am sitting on a 6.00am bus from Belfast to Dublin, having just spent a couple wonderful days with him and his family--also making him the first friend I visited as a college graduate. He lives in Northern Ireland. Yet somehow, it was remarkably simple.
Granted I was already in Europe, something that took a good deal of insight and planning. I had already preordered foreign currency and bought my converters—all tasks which required a bit of pre-planning on my part, but a base essential for the things I was about to experience.
Once I was in Europe, I realized I had done my work. I had bought the ticket to the old continent and now getting around was a breeze. There are always cheap flights from country to country and trains can take you nearly anywhere. The public transit is amazing and hostels and Airbnb are fantastic resources to have at the tip of your fingers.
So why did I ever think this was impossible? Why did I treat our end of college goodbye as a life sentence…as though we would be confined to Facebook messenger communication until we reconvened by a twist of fate in the jungles of South America, (or whatnot).
I think we find an experience such as exploring a whole new world to be thrilling and fantastical and therefore so far out of our realm of day to day living. It becomes a thing we save for the future or a thing we imagine we can do when we get older or an unchecked line of a bucket list or, worst of all, a lustful sigh of "I wish."
The "I wish" syndrome, as I've just decided to call it, is when we find ourselves looking at someone else's adventure with happy jealousy. We're happy for them, naturally, but seeing someone explore a place we long for naturally brings up feelings of "I wish" and "take me with you."
And I used to think that way as well...until I realized how comically easy it is to live the wish.
If you've always wanted to see New Orleans, go there. We live in a developed world with trains and planes and automobiles. There are MegaBuses that connect major cities and there are even websites that allow you to hitch a ride with strangers. As I mentioned there are hostels and Airbnb but there are also free options like Couch Surfer or even camping out.
Traveling is easy. If you want to get somewhere, you will. But you have to stop making excuses for it. I don't know where you are in your life--how old you are or what you do. But I do know that there will never be a better time than right now. You are, in this moment, as young as you will ever be again. Why wouldn't you take every opportunity you have to try something new?
As you've been reading this, I'm sure you've been thinking of that one place- or more- that you've always dreamed of. Go there. Check out websites like Sky Scanner if you want to fly and talk to friends or family who have been there. Use your resources or brush up on the local language using a free phone app like DuoLingo.
In a day, I had decided to go from Florence to Northern Ireland. I booked a bus ticket to Bologna, Italy, flew to Dublin, Ireland, met up with my friend and his friends-- who were returning to the same airport from a trip to Germany around the same time [planned accordingly], and drove north through Belfast to his home in Northern Ireland. In one day, I had decided on adventure. In one day, I had followed through. And in one day, I realized how remarkably easy it is to get around this beautiful little world.
An ocean may take a while to fly over. America might be a big country to drive through. But if you want to try exotic foods and meet new people, or experience different cultures and see history and natural beauty that is unfathomable than I insist that you buy a ticket. I insist that you renew that dusty passport and find transportation and give up a lifestyle of watching from the sideline. I urge you to become the "I wish" and embrace every single thing you want to see.
And you'll get there. I'm certain of it. Because nothing is too far and nothing is out of reach for those who believe in pursuing a life of their making.
Never stop exploring. Never stop doing what makes you happy. And in case you forget what that is, don't be afraid to go looking for it.