If you’ve followed my blog even haphazardly over the last few months, you know that I spent a semester abroad in college in Milan, Italy on exchange at Bocconi University. I’ve made reference to this six-month period of my life more times than I can count and will continue to do so for one very important reason - it was the first time I ever stepped foot outside the US. It was a monumental moment in my life, and my experiences during that semester still influence my decisions and outlook in life to this day. In fact, one of underlying reasons why I left my life in NYC to travel the world is directly linked to my time in Milan all those years ago.
Before classes officially started in Bocconi, I backpacked through Western Europe for a couple of weeks with two friends, Sweta and Andrei, who were spending the semester in Milan with me. The three of us picked Dublin as the starting point for our tour solely because flights were cheap, but since that fateful day, Dublin forever holds a special place in my heart. It is in this great city where I first encountered all the aspects of travel that I now consider “normal”: the wonder (or horrid fear as it was at the time) of being lost in a new city, the strangeness of using a foreign currency, the funny accents, sleeping in hostels, and meeting other travelers from all over the world. The intense novelty of the whole experience burned the events of that day into my memory and now serves to show me how far I have come as a traveler.
Looking back it’s truly incredible.
My visit to Dublin was fantastic, but there was one evening in particular where Andrei, Sweta, and I joined a group from the hostel for a few pints of Guinness down in Temple Bar. I’ll ever forget the Australian man I met that night who regaled me of his incredible travel stories. I’ve long since forgotten the man’s name, but he told me he’d spent the last seven months traveling across Europe in his car (which doubled as his home most of the time) picking up odd jobs to help finance his adventures. While this now seems like a perfectly acceptable method of traveling, at the time I was utterly dumbfounded. His lifestyle seemed so absurd, so strange, and so absolutely inconceivable to me that at times I believed it to be fictitious. The concept of such a lifestyle completely made me rethink what it meant to travel. How is it possible that there are people out there without a nine-to-five job? How is such a thing sustainable? How could he live a life with so few material possessions and so many unknowns? Hell, the man didn’t even know where his next destination was! Everything in my life was painstakingly planned out (including the very trip I was on) and this man’s approach to travel was beyond my comprehension. How could a person live like this and have such a carefree mentality toward the whole thing! I’d be stressed out of my mind!
Whenever I think back to this moment I can’t help but laugh (even as I write these very words)… how things have changed.
I could prattle on endlessly about stories from that semester and how much it impacted my life since, but that first day abroad became so important to me that I set a yearly reminder to mark the date - August 11th, 2009. Since returning from my exchange program, that little reminder has popped up on my phone for the last four years triggering a severe bout of depression when I realize yet another year has passed and I still have not seen as much of the world as I wanted.
That is until now.
This year when my little reminder popped up it triggered one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever experienced. Of all the places in the world where I could be, I miraculously found myself back in Dublin exactly five years to the day after leaving the US for the first time. There was no way I could possibly have planned for it even if I wanted to. I was in town to meet up with a girl, Angela, who I met just weeks before leaving for Portugal on a cruise and since it was an expensive to flight for her from the US, she picked the destination and exact dates of the trip based on cost.
Personally, I wanted to visit Croatia, not Ireland.
I probably would have been trilled to see that little calendar reminder pop up on my phone anywhere in Europe, but of all the places in this world, to end up back in Dublin on August 11th, 2014 is tremendously special. If you asked me back on my very first day in Dublin where I thought I’d be in five years, never in my wildest dreams could I have guessed I’d be back in this same great city on a year-long trip across the world. At the time I had no idea that I’d go on to make brand new, lifelong friendships in college, graduate, work as a consultant, live in Manhattan, and then give all it up to travel the world just like the very Australian I met in Temple Bar all those years ago! And to top of it all off, I’d get to spend my five year travel anniversary visiting Dublin with an incredible girl who I serendipitously met days before leaving US! Even as I write this story I can’t help but smile and wonder where the next five years will take me. If they are anything like the last five, there is absolutely no way that I would even able to even guess.