To the end of the world

Trip Start Feb 28, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Monday, February 28, 2011

I wouldn't be at this moment of my life if it had not been for the biggest snowstorm New York City has seen in years. The day after Christmas I made my way to Newark Airport to meet my friend Ben for a trip to Athens, Istanbul and Cairo. We were sitting on the runway at Newark airport with our bags checked and our carry-ons stowed. I looked out through the frosted window of the plane and thought that we had no chance of actually taking off. The entire runway had been covered with at least a foot of snow for the last hour. All other flights on the departures board were cancelled and yet somehow our flight was the only one still scheduled to take off. 

We were the only plane on the runway; actually, the only people still at the airport, because it had closed for hours. By this point even the employees had all gone home. I was trying to "will" the plane into the air to Athens along with everyone else. Then the inevitable happened -- we were called back into the gate and landed before we even took off. There were moans and groans but I knew that the snowstorm had happened for a bigger reason. There was an inner knowing which I felt for the first time in my life. I know the storm was a blessing and that it was bringing me closer to something that didn't understand yet.

When we got to the customer service desk in an empty terminal at Newark airport, we heard the news that the airport would be closed for the next few days with no time table to re-open. Re-booking our trip for a few months later would be the only option. That was fine with me but I still needed to get back to Miami from the same airport, which would be closed for days. The first sign that told me not to worry, and let me know that it was meant to be, was when Nancy, the Continental customer service manager, gave me her personal cell phone number as I tried to re-book my flight. She put me on a flight to Miami for the next day, which was scheduled to be cancelled anyway, and she told me to call her so that I didn't need to keep coming back to the airport and rebook each day. I didn't realize what a lifesaver she truly was until four days later.

So Ben and I grabbed our bags and headed to the sky train, which was broke and took hours to show up. Once it arrived, the sky train doors didn't shut properly.  The doors were frozen with huge chunks of ice and we just watched them open and shut repeatedly in front of our face. I remember feeling a strong sense of calm and laughing as the doors opened and shut over and over.  Something told me to smile remind me that this was meant to be. I wanted to go to Greece, Turkey and Egypt and in my mind on that runway I was already there. But four hours later from the sky train to the NJ transit train to the New York City subway to a taxi and to walk through a blizzard I had for the first time an inner peace that reminded me to be grateful and appreciate it all. Those four days I was able to spend time with great friends in the New York City area and meet their children that had been born since my last visit. This in itself was worth the trip, it was a reminder about what life and values are all about. Which isn't always easy to find -- especially in Miami Beach.

Nancy told me to call her to rebook and over the next four days she booked, re-booked, triple booked me on every flight to Miami until finally I got on the first one that actually flew out of Newark.  I got a call from Nancy telling me to get my things and head to the airport; she had put me on a flight that she thought would actually take off.  I couldn't even get into the airport because there were thousands of people in line to re-book their flights. I had never seen a line so long and a sea of people snaked through the same terminal they slept in the past four days. Somehow I was able to spot Nancy behind a counter and she got me my boarding pass within five minutes. If it wasn't for her I would have had to stand and sleep in line for four days like everyone else in the airport.  I tried to thank her but she wouldn't accept it.  I probably spoke to Nancy fifteen times over four days and she went well out of her way to help me. I went though security and twelve hours later, delay after delay, three gate changes, along with the other passengers signing a petition against the airline we finally took off for sunny south Florida. I can remember the feeling of watching passengers crowd around the Continental gate agent during our repeated delays. They were screaming and yelling at her like she could control the weather or air-traffic. I just sat behind her for hours and during that time something else inside me had changed. The women was just trying to survive her shift and every chance I got, I just gave her a smile or told her something positive.

Once back in Miami I went through my typically New Years routine of laying at the pool, late nights out, sleeping until mid afternoon, watching TV and repeating that cycle for the days I thought I was going to be in Europe and Africa. The following two months my job turned into the same thing day after day just like how it was before the holidays started.  I felt myself just going through the motions for the first time in my life. Each morning when my alarm clock went off I wanted nothing more than to throw it off my fifteenth floor balcony. I knew that there had to be something more but just wasn't sure what it was. Then after a mid-year review presentation in Sarasota, one of the women in the audience pulled me aside. I had worked with her all year and we became friends.  She was completely honest with me for the first time. She told me that what I was feeling about the job was now being reflected in my presentations. For a second, I felt the need to justify myself and tell her that it wasn't me and that it was her, that I was right and she was wrong, even if she was right. We sat there talking for about thirty minutes and I decided to just listen instead of trying to defend myself. Her honesty and that conversation changed the course of my life. She saw what I was feeling inside and on the three hour drive back to Miami I promised myself I would never feel like that again. 

Along the way home it took about one minute to decide I was going to backpack around the world.  I reached a point where I needed to follow my intuition and take this journey.  I had a great job on paper, it paid great, I could travel, set my own schedule, work from home and help teachers and kids. But I felt as if I had lost some of my inspiration along the way.  I told myself that if that ever happened at any point in my life I would make a change.  I was given a leave of absence from my company with no guarantee that my position would be there when I returned.  I already knew in my mind that I would never be able to return.  Within two weeks I finished up work and bought a one way ticket to Hong Kong.  I am leaving with no plans or agenda other than to do and go everywhere I want.  Not in a bucket list sort of way, but in a way where I am going to let the universe guide me and be open to everything.  The world feels like my own personal menu and each stop along the way I will decide where to go next.  Some people have told me I am crazy but I think I would be crazy for not doing it.  I know its going to be an amazing journey and just the two weeks leading up to this trip have felt like I have already lived a full lifetime.  I got five shots, a visa to India, found a sub-letter, stopped my bills, put my car in storage and bought a backpack.  The day before I left I made 3 trips to the post office and mailed 14 boxes of my ex-girlfriends things to back to her.  I knew they couldn't be in my apartment whenever I return.  Just having the courage to confront my dreams is a freeing feeling.  Really looking deep within to find the one thing that you want to do with your life and being truly honest with yourself is the best feeling in the world.

"To do one's own duty even unsuccessfully is better than to do someone else's duty successfully.  It is better to die while trying to accomplish one's own duty than to settle for another's duty though safer and easier.  That course is filled with danger and uncertainty."-The Bhagavad Gita
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Anonymous on

I would just like to say this is incredibly inspiring and thank you for posting this.

ghousehasan on

I am newbie to this trvelpod. I felt very interesting when I saw the title and started reading your article. You are awesome. Congatulations for succesful trip. Similar trip was a lifetime plan. Thanks for posting this article

crystalwaitekus on

Great blog, beautiful quote.

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