Over the past two days I've had three different people ask (or tell) me, in one way or another, how I've done what I've done (take off and travel long term) and/or that they wished they could do (or would have done) the same. Without thinking about it, I told them each a variation on the same theme, which I thought that I'd expand on a little here.
I continue to do a lot of reflection on what's happened and is happening in my life; the experiences, who I've met/known, and what I've learned and continue to learn. I've also been reading a ton, both
in old-fashioned books on my Kindle as well as online, and have learned so much. All of it has added up over time resulting in an ever-changing view of the world. Where is Darren now? In such a different place than where I was when I started this blog.
Because you may not be familiar with my back story (up to mid-2008), here's the 40+ year summary in 22 words:
Grew up. Went to school. Started a relationship. Got the degree. Got the job. Got all the stuff. Chose a different path.
The results of that choice, both intended and not, are what would forever change me; the events that directly or indirectly resulted in who and where I am now.
At first, I didn't know what to do but I slowly realized that I wanted to leave San Diego for a while, see some of the world, and have the opportunity to reflect and learn more about myself. So, in December 2009, after losing, selling, or giving away almost everything that I've ever had, I left.
And I traveled, moved to a new country, met new people, and have been out living and learning. I learned very quickly that I didn't need much "stuff" and that I preferred having very few possessions. Once all the stuff was out of the way, everything was much easier to see; there was nothing to hide behind. I grew to appreciate that I have no control over the past and that I need to let it go and that I needed to live in the here-and-now. I also continued to learn that what I valued was my family and friends. They're what keep me wanting to be here--what make life worth living.
Recently I came across a blog by a guy named Derek K. Miller who was from Vancouver, Canada. Derek, who I never knew, was born a few months after me and, for all practical purposes, had a life not unlike mine--growing up, the career, the relationship, and the "required" stuff (in his case he had kids too). The big difference (so far) is that he developed cancer and recently died because of it. As part of his preparation for a death that he knew was coming, he wrote a blog post, which is almost perfect. I can't do it justice but in it he says how grateful he was for the life he led, how amazing the world is, how much he loved his family, and how he doesn't regret anything. You need to read it. Go ahead. (Please do it now, and then come back.)
When I was a kid I always said that I wanted to live each day like it was my last. To live a life where I would be content if I didn't wake up tomorrow. I kept that belief for a long time but life crept up on me and I lost touch with it. It snapped back into consciousness hard in January of 2009. The finality of it all. As my sister-in-law says, One Life One Chance. When we're dead, that's it. No more chances. No more hopes. No more dreams. No more opportunities to visit that friend...or to go to that place...or to read that book...or see your kid's soccer game...or to be that person you've always wanted to be...or [fill in the blank with what you've been putting off]... You're gone. And done. No, actually, just DONE.
I'm committed to live my life in a way that allows me to experience and learn the maximum each day. To live life like I might die tomorrow. I'm not living crazy or doing silly skydiving stunts or something. No. I'm just focused on taking advantage of what we have while we're alive. I've learned this both from people who I loved who are no longer here and continue to learn it from all the people who are still in my life.
For me, it originally took my world imploding for me to go out and travel long term but you have a choice. I'm not saying that in your case you should dump everything and travel the world. I guess what I am saying to you (and repeating to myself) is: Don't Wait. Realize that tomorrow is not guaranteed. One day you too will be done. Do those things. Be that person. Call that friend. Go to that place. Do it for yourself. Do it for those you love and who love you. Do it all and don't regret anything, but if you do, better to regret what you did than what you didn't. This is where I am now or, more accurately, this is Where Darren Is Now.