It’s been three months since my last blog post — which had nothing to do with my travels — and for probably the last sixty days I’ve been verbalizing in my head what until now I have not been able to put to paper.
This blog has served its purpose.
My first ever blog post, written just a little under three years ago, was a defiant shout into the rainy dark night sky on my last night living in Boston, the city where I went to university and worked my first job.
I was desperate for something new and unconventional after a lifetime of living up to expectations, following the right path, and feeling empty for all my efforts. You know what happened next.
The original tagline of this blog — “I quit my job and bought a 1 way ticket to Europe” — summed up the whirlwind first twelve months of my travels. For that hectic first year after I arrived in Europe, I was never in the same place for more than a week.
First there was the Camino. Then my wandering feet took me to Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, France again, Spain, Portugal, Spain again, Morocco, Spain yet again, Italy, back to the Netherlands, once again to France, then to Denmark, Sardinia, Spain (guess which country was my favorite?), Ireland, the UK, and Germany, where I celebrated my one year travel anniversary in Berlin and took a break there for a little less than a month.
Nine months and many countries later I was on my first flight home to the USA. That was May 2015.
That summer at home was an adventure in itself, culminating with my pursuit of a girl who was, to put it kindly, an emotional parasite. I left her behind and went back to Europe this past October.
I wrote a few blog posts from Florence, my home for October, and sent out a few dispatches from the refugee camp in Slavonski Brod, eastern Croatia, where I volunteered for a week in December.
The map above shows where I went (and roughly when), but it doesn’t tell you about the quiet reunion I had with Gerwin, my first pilgrim I met on the Camino, and the memories of the dusty roads we walked together in France and Spain.
The map also doesn’t tell you about the raucous alcohol-fueled rendezvous I had with my friends Andrew and Liisi in Warsaw and a month later on New Year’s Eve back in Budapest. Not did I share about my Christmas, spent with Jenny and Tomo, my wonderful hosts from my month in Split in January 2015.
Tomo suffered a fatal accident in Thailand only a few days after I hugged him goodbye when we parted ways the day after Christmas– and that, along with the passing of my cousin Sally from a long battle with cancer, have occupied many of my idle thoughts. I spent January thinking about them both while I walked through the blustery medina of my beloved Essaouira, which I returned to almost two years after being captivated by its indigo and white walls and endlessly breaking waves on my first visit to Morocco.
At the end of January I went back home and celebrated my 26th birthday on the night of my arrival into San Francisco, where my parents were visiting my brother Eli (my dad had no idea I was coming — it was probably the best surprise I’ve ever given someone).
Occasionally I have pared back the scruffy veneer of adventure that you came to know this blog for, and I have shared my heartbreak, my anger, my ecstasy, my open-eyed wonder (the latter, I hope, is implicit in much of what I have written).
As I become more established as a writer and turn towards a career in copy and blog writing, I find it increasingly difficult to devote the time and effort that this blog deserves. And truthfully, the original spirit of this blog — that I quit my job and bought a 1 way ticket to Europe — is no longer completely whole. It has changed, a natural consequence of my changing life. I am satisfied with the freelance work I do, even though I could no doubt make much more if I worked full time for an agency.
I no longer feel the strange mixture of resentment at my old life and breathless awe of exploring a completely new continent and meeting new people at every turn. Indeed, my trip from October til January was more to meet up with old friends, not make new ones. And I think that dizzying concoction was what made this blog so great; it was a palpable enthusiasm for the new and unfamiliar, and it left its marks in me even when I no longer feel that same desire to just up and leave everything and everyone I know behind.
The name of this blog is true, even as it comes to and end. Life is a Camino. I (metaphorically and literally) walked a certain path for a very long time, and during that part of my life I kept this journal. It is one that I relish re-reading as I get older, when my memories blur (they already have!) and I can return to this website and remember that music festival I went to in Ireland with rain pouring down, or spending the day of my 25th birthday wandering alone amidst the waterfalls at Krka in Croatia.
So, this is my last blog post. What comes next?
Who knows! 😉
Written at Belgrado Cafe, San Sebastian, Spain. May 3rd, 2016.
PS-I told you, I would come back one day to San Sebastian.
PPS-I am grateful to all the people here who I wrote about or had their photos featured. Thanks especially to all the excellent Couchsurfing hosts (literally every single one of them), drivers who let me hitch rides with them, and all those other wonderful random kind people I bumped into along the way. Without you, there would be no stories to share, no faith in humanity to pull me through the doubts I have.
PPPS-I’ve never been one for those silly blogging awards and self-congratulatory nonsense, but I would like to mention a few people who always seemed to comment on my posts/generally give a shit about what I wrote:
Dennis & PJ, from Via Lucis. So far the only people in real life who I have met from the blogging community. You are the cool/crazy/artistic/romantic/bon vivant uncle and aunt I never had. Looking forward to visiting you in Ohio someday soon.
Nancy, from Food is Travel. You were a relative late comer to my blog, but I appreciate our on-again, off-again email correspondence. Whenever I have creeping doubts as I get older that I need to become a circle peg, your squareness will dissuade me. Sorry I couldn’t make it this time to the south of France to see you — maybe on my next trip. We know there will be a next one!
Wife of Bath, from Picnic at the Cathedral. I don’t read your blog as much as I probably should. Love your enthusiasm for all things Romanesque and your snarky wit in your writing, which is as delightfully eye-watering as sticking my nose into a jar full of good Dijon mustard. Come to San Diego sometime, but only if I’m there.
Nadine, from Begin with a Single Step. Man, when I first found your blog, I was the veteran peregrino, and you were just trying to figure out your plans for your first Camino. Oh, how the tables have turned! You have the best pilgrim’s account of the Camino that I’ve read. I hope you keep making progress on your book — you have way more willpower than I do, that’s for sure.
And as for the rest of you, thanks for reading and tolerating when I annoyingly shared my posts on Facebook. It’s been epic.
UPDATE: I launched an awesome, free newsletter for cheap flights between the USA and Europe. Sign up, it won’t cost you anything!