By Ivan Lindblom
“That’s exactly what I need”, I thought. “A soul-searching trip and a whole bunch of new friends”.
After breaking up with my girlfriend (with whom I worked), seeing her everyday was killing me. I was in desperate need to reset my life, the same way you do with a computer after you find a virus in it.
I had no money in the bank, a decent but low-paying job with a promising career and still lived with my parents: all good reasons to throw it all away and get the hell out of there.
A few years back, I had done the same thing. I took an internship in a restaurant in Costa Rica that turned out to be a no-pay, 14 hour-shift, multi-task job in a 200-people town in the middle of nowhere. All and all, the best experience of my life so far. So why not do the same thing, and in the meantime, get over that cold-hearted person I had considered to be the love of my life for the entire time we dated?
After a few disappointing weeks of research, I found a way to spend a year traveling the world with all expenses paid. I was going to get on board a cruise-ship, and take advantage of the Hotel Management degree I had. This is one of the best things about the career I had chosen – you can do it all over the world. I had considered other options, but given my narrow-minded, rationalistic personality -at least at that time-, I didn’t liked the idea of becoming a careless hippie and living on my dad’s money. I wanted to travel, but I also wanted to continue on my path of becoming a world-renowned Hotel Manager (which I followed that path and ended up as just that as soon as I went back home).
I have always strived to be happy. As they say, I consider it true that happiness is not a destination, but a journey. You should feel happy in order to be happy, and not the other way around. Kind of like thinking happy thoughts in order to get them to come true. And this is what I always do. Always have and always will. So I decided that what I needed was to get out, to escape my unfulfilling life in Argentina and go on an adventure.
Problem was, my new life sucked even more than what I was escaping from. The ship I was hired at was a 1960s cruise liner (the actual boat the used on “The Love Boat” TV series!). Now this was 2006 and some 40 years later the old vessel didn’t quite shine. My roommate was one of the kindest, most loyal friends I could ever ask for, and that was exactly what I needed. But apart from that, life on board started out horribly. We lived two floors below sea level, on a cabin roughly 2 meters wide by 4 meters long. A private bathroom was a privilege that only the most important people had, and I was lucky to be one of them.
Apart from a few fantastic friends I made, the rest of the crew was composed of back-stabbing, self-centered idiots that were on the same quest I was. And that was something I realized soon enough: if I was on board an 8-month long cruise ship, working 7 days a week and living in the worst conditions I could imagine, why would the rest of the people joining me be any better than the ones I was escaping from? I wasn’t exactly trying to find refreshing, good people in the best place possible!
After months of disillusions, I decided to take the opportunity as a way to get to know new places, not new people. And I guess that’s what life’s about… sucking out the good that’s in everything, and leaving the rest alone. While that roommate is now one of my best friends in the world, I haven’t really talked to the rest of the crew ever since, only polite salutations for birthdays and Christmas on Facebook. I needed that trip not to get to meet new people, but instead I discovered the marvels of the streets of Rome, the food in Barcelona, the markets in Tunisia and the beaches of Naples. In not seeking out new people, I instead found a new me. It took me a while to understand that that trip was some kind of atonement for the way I had behaved in the past few years, so I left behind the old me and a new, self confident guy emerged from the waters of the Mediterranean Sea -figuratively speaking, of course!
Coming home after a year in Europe was liberating. I still had my fears and my anxiety issues, but somehow I could manage them. I had grown. And you know what? It’s exactly as they say in the movies, those are life-changing experiences. You never go back to your old self after that.
I did not immediately go back to a life of service or hotels. I took a tremendously logic-defying job as Chief of Production in an ad agency in Buenos Aires, after someone had blind confidence in me. It seemed my story of redemption had finally reached people and I was getting the chance of a lifetime.
The next following years were filled with challenges and new experiences. I continued to travel the world (not living the hippie life I never liked, but as a successful advertising producer). Even though I felt I was living the life I was born to live, I soon met the new “loves of my life” that turned out to be the “worst experiences of my life”, and I had the same need to escape and restart my life. And after a good deal of thinking, I came to the conclusion that for some people, no matter who they are and how happy they might be, they will always have that desire for more. For change. For a different life, or a different set of friends around you. Some people, such as me, are not willing to settle with just anything. Not with the good job, or the good girl, or the nice affordable car. They want a better paying job, a hotter girl, a faster car. We always want more, and we can never get enough. We’ll never feel satisfied.
If you live a healthy, non-toxic life, this desire for more usually comes from traveling… alone or with company. I prefer to do it with someone who shares my interest, like the girl I’ve now been dating for the past 3 years. You can fit your traveling needs to any budget and any schedule. You can have a month-long trip over South Eastern Asia, or a weekend outside the city, but it’s important to keep you free-spirited heart as it’s meant to be: FREE. They say, those who want to do it find a way, and those who don’t want to, find an excuse… right?