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Why Europe?

Soundtrack: "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan

"How does it feel
to be on your own?
With no directions home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone."
--Bob Dylan

By March of the last semester of university, the general atmosphere around the campus was filled with post-graduate plans: all engagements, marriages, moving in together, job interviews, grad school applications, and PLANS FOR THE FUTURE. Everyone was serious about this whole figuring-out-the-rest-of-their-life thing, studying for finals and writing long essays. People buckled down for the sprint towards graduation and the real life. Nearly every guy spontaneously stopped shaving and started growing beards, with varying success.

I, on the other hand, was petrified with fear of commitment and a complete inability to plan for The Future. So while I stopped shaving along with the rest of my brothers, I sought ways to prolong the inevitable. For a long time I thought that graduate school was the answer, a way to prolong my exposure to reality by hiding even further in academia. Unfortunately, I burnt out on school. I can even pinpoint the exact moment when I realized "I no longer want to fucking do this anymore." It was upon reading this simple sentence: [Unfortunately, while I did copy the offending sentence down, it is back in the U.S., and consequently won't be unearthed until I return there. So keep checking up around November for the culprit].

Far from wanting to find a career or go on to graduate school, I was in love with the idea of becoming a drunk vagabond with no responsibilities and no one depending on me for anything more complicated than as a partner for drinking games or someone willing to help out on the keg deposit and pick up the pizza.

I think that some of the people I went to high school with would be absolutely shocked by my new attitude. I believe most people who knew me four years ago expected me to go on to greatness immediately, to start working for some high level government think tank, or curing cancer, or developing a unified field theory or something complex and heroic like that. Or, conversely, maybe they expected that I'd wind up as some sort of misanthropic supervillain, living high in my mountain keep, face scarred by acid and sending off my winged monkeys to do my bidding.

And, as my hair grew to hippie lengths, graduation came and went, and war broke out, I did what any self-respecting hippie would do. I moved in with my parents for awhile, and then fled the country with a bottle of bourbon, Jack Keruoac's On the Road and some Charles Bukowski, visions of the Lost Generation bohemians, and very little money. I took off to Europe to travel and see the world. I would be the wanderer, the adventurer, traveling light, set down no roots, and I would see the World.

I had no justification for my trip, beyond it being something I wanted to do, in a vague sort of way. I had no real purpose or goal for my life, much less my trip to Europe. I did it mostly to delay being one of those people--the type of people who envy you for traveling, but refuse to, or are unable to do it for themselves. Ultimately, I just didn't want to become one of those cranky people who idealize something or somewhere as the place where their problems will be solved--like Truman Burbank struggling to get to Fiji.

Everyone seems to have that "place to see before they die," (I have a dozen of them, I think) as if seeing that place will somehow make their life worthwhile. I know that I can't rely solely on a place to make my life worthwhile, but traveling to all of those places seems to at least be successful in getting that particular excuse out of the way. On the plus side, it also delayed the necessity of actually making my life worthwhile rather than only vicariously worthwhile via worthwhile places. Giving in to unease and lack of purpose feels somehow less horrible when it's done with a spectacular backdrop. Especially if lots of alcohol is involved.

With that in mind, I left for Edinburgh at the end of October, 2001, having graduated from university 40 pounds heavier, $80,000 lighter, with a full beard and incipient alcoholism. I wound up staying for six months.


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This page last updated on 25 February, 2003, and has been passed out on the couch ever since.
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