Sunday, February 04, 2007

On the Road Again

Feb. 1, 2pm, at the American Airlines terminal at JFK, waiting for the first of three flights that will take me to Sydney over the next 30 hours. I’m again struck by the chatter that surrounds me. Most of it is people on cell phones talking to friends and family about the fact that they are at the airport waiting for a flight. Airports bring out the worst in me.

Otherwise, I’m having a hard time believing that I’m actually here and waiting to begin the trip I’ve been planning for the last seven months. Some might say that the trip has already begun, or that it began as soon as I decided to make it real. If that’s the case, I’ve been on this trip since May 22, when I brought up the idea to Kathleen at Sapporo over bowls of steaming ramen noodles. Her response was that I had to do it, that it was an opportunity to do something special, and that if I didn’t do it she would hunt me down and hold me accountable. With that support, I approached a few other friends, and all of expresses support (and a smidgen of envy). I broke the news to my parents, worried that they might see this as my way of shirking responsibility (I would be quitting my job after all), but was again pleasantly surprised to receive full support. Perhaps the notion of shirking responsibility is all mine.

The plan all along was to take myself out of my comfort zone by traveling alone in unfamiliar parts of the world. I’ve always wanted to see Australia, and not for just the two weeks I could secure while on the job, but to make it an extended trip, with time to see the cities and sleep under the stars in the outback. This trip will allow me to do just about everything I want to do in Australia. Having no return date is the key to this trip; flexibility and a relaxed pace will open possibilities that two weeks will not. I say all this assuming I will be able to enter the country. While checking in for the American Airlines flight, I was asked whether I have a return ticket or passage out of Australia. I replied that I don’t as this is an extended trip and I plan to purchase onward passage once I’m in Australia. That seemed to satisfy the agent, who typed a few keystrokes and handed me my boarding pass with a smile. I have to remember that I am not the first person to do a trip like this, nor will I be the last, and that anything I say they will have heard before.

Keeping an open mind, being flexible, patient and honest will carry me through this trip.

So I sit at JFK, excited to get going, anxious about what lies ahead and open to all possibilities. Until this morning, I hadn’t thought much about being outside of the U.S. for so long (however long it may be), and now that I allow these thoughts into my head I’m curiously unfazed and even excited to leave the U.S. behind. The sentiment was expressed best the other day when Michael Park came over to move some furniture. My iPod was on shuffle and playing through portable speakers. As we struggled with a three-ton television set, I could make out The Clash’s “I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.” coming from the kitchen. I smiled, knowing that the cure to boredom is to buy a ticket, cross an ocean and hit the open road.

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