Day 120 of Year 26 [Thursday, August 3rd, 2017]
Year 26 concluded earlier this week because I am no longer backpacking around Europe. I started a new job and now live in an apartment back in my hometown. While in Poland, a great opportunity presented itself worth returning for. While not the original plan, my plans often have a habit of rapidly changing during their sequences. This is no different.
So, let’s debrief Europe.
While Year 26 lasted 120 days, in total I was living abroad for a year and a half. The following are my thoughts on my experience.
The last year before departing Canada I had this overbearing cloud of anxiety waking with me. I could not stop thinking, ‘is this it?’, in regards to my life and my future. I should note that things were good for me at this time – I was comfortable, had a promising future, and enjoyed many freedoms. However, I kept on wondering what was outside of my little carefully constructed bubble. What was outside of my city? Would I be the guy who never left London, Ontario? Would I just find someone, date, have kids, work until retirement, and then do some travelling? I could draw myself a clear narrative of the next years of my life. It was, for the most part, predictable enough for me to create. It was its own sense of torture.
I was craving the unknown. I knew I had to trade stability and take a risk. I had to find a way to go find whatever it was that was weighing me down.
Then, I was invited to go work in the Netherlands. It was exactly what I needed, and would grant me the ability to step outside of my comfort zone, into the unknown.
Stepping on the plane at YYZ was euphoric, because there were so many elements of my life I truly had no idea about. There was a lot of question marks.
Amsterdam was a lot of things for me, one of which was personal growth/discovery.
Back home I had an incredible tribe surrounding me. I quickly understood how great my friends and family were when I entered a foreign environment and had to fend for myself. The great days, the good days, the bad days, the defeating days – they all had their stage time. A big learning curve for me was understanding that the cavalry was not just over the hill, that my friends were not just a few minutes away to meet up for a beer to celebrate the wins, or to vent, or in general for anything.
Back home, sometimes when I felt tired of it all, or a bit down, I would go to my mom’s and lay on the couch like a fly on the wall. I did not do this often, but I figure she probably understood I just wanted family around me for whatever reason, so I was normally left alone to just be until I regained my strength.
However, in Europe I did not have my mom’s couch.
This was an accomplishment for me, as understanding this I was able to accept that I was now my own man. While there are different ways people gauge becoming a man, mine was accepting full responsibility for my environment in all ways, as well as licking my own wounds. This was a strengthening actualization for me.
My new environment was all mine to discover.
As for work, it was an incredible year and a bit. It was a development role in which I was able to create. I had not been in this type of role before, and found it was an awesome experience to look at fitness from another angle. I was intrigued, and every day was different than the former. I am grateful I had the opportunity to grow not only personally, but professionally abroad.
My overall experience abroad
I will not speak about the places I travelled, but instead my overall feelings and thoughts from my experiences.
To be in love
Part of leaving everything I knew meant I could take time to consider who I was freely, without pride, reputation, or ego standing in the way of my self-discovery. In the past, I would be quick to dismiss the idea of romantic love. Often times when I would like someone, I would self-destruct at the point of growing real feelings for them. To be in love was something that scared me, for many reasons. It could have been fear of it not working out, fear of choosing wrong, fear of not being accepted, fear of being lied to, fear of being hurt, among factors. I thought of love as something that would compromise my future, casting a doubt of uncertainty and risk – slowing me down longterm. I would create the narrative of the years ahead, and give myself some grade A twisted logic as to why it would not work out.
Ultimately, I feared being vulnerable. As someone who thinks he wears a strong armour, the fear of giving another the magical dagger to cut through his armour, was not ideal.
Relocating around the world allowed me to further consider my feelings, to grow as an individual, to be more open to life. One of which was being able to give and accept/receive love. I was able to conquer my endgame detonation code, and live in the present. I now view love as something that creates strength, and enables even more opportunity for the future, instead of compromising it.
I have been able to have love. While I must say, I am not yet easy to love (its a work in progress), I am learning. I feel a whole spectrum of new emotion is unlocked for me to interpret as life would have me experience it.
Living in the now
I mentioned living in the present, which is another element I have taken away from my travels. I think more immediately, and let life flow freely. I think a major cause of my anxiety before was always thinking about what life at 45 would look like. Now, I am enjoying that I really do not know, but I can plan today and tomorrow, which eventually will create a happy 45 year old Malcolm. That is calming.
Friends around the world
Before Europe, all of my friends were either football, fitness, of nightclub related.
In my travels, I have met some incredible people. Not only have I been able to meet awesome people, but they have all have been from different walks of life carrying unique experience to be shared. I have met backpackers, nomads, gap year folk, quit-your-job-find-yourself types, travel bloggers, weekend warriors, and of course, the locals. While the majority I would meet for only a day or two, there are people I know I will see again at some point. It was also unique to be received as not a fitness guy, but just a fellow guy on his own path. I enjoyed that as a nice pause for the few months I was mostly in Poland.
Now & forward
Now I am once again the fitness guy, which I am happy to again be. This next year is exciting because I have a couple clear, intense goals to work for. I am sure in the coming articles they will trickle out (or, I will post a goal based article, if thats an interest to you, the internet).
In closing, I do not think everyone has to travel to grow or discover what they want/like. Personally it was a necessary chapter to my life that I am both happy and satisfied to have experienced. Now that I am home for at least the next year, I am excited to be a better person, and I no longer walk with anxiousness.