The other night at our Drunk Publishing meeting, my colleague Mary and I were chatting about my last blog post—the one about how to ACTUALLY get going overseas. And mid-conversation she asked me, “But what EXACTLY made you want to go in the first place? What was the defining moment?”
Her icy blue, inquisitive eyes get me every time, and I took a deep breath—marinating in her question. It was a great one. I loved it, and I loved the answer I was about to give her. I knew the answer well, because I log defining moments as closely as an accountant logs dollars. Defining moments are fascinating, because they are crazy powerful. They shift the trajectory of lives.
Think about it—you know the exact moment you first fell in love with that fucking idiot you now barely admit you made out with due to his obsession with steroids and Sponge Bob, but he’s the reason you moved to New York. There was a millisecond that ticked off the clock when you decided you wanted to run a full marathon—the one that led to a new you—and it might have had something to do with some guy’s well-defined calves standing in front of you in Starbucks. Maybe it was a smell that made you become a baker, a comment that made you join the military, or a neon sunset that made you want a baby, but something always sets you off. And once that happens—once a decision is made—you ACT. Blam. You’re a thugsta pranksta muthafucking hustler on the move.
For me, my decision to ACTUALLY GO OVERSEAS BY MYSELF was an extremely distinct and memorable moment, but before I tell you about it, I want you to know that I was born a small, white pirate. My whole life, I’d always wanted to explore and maybe get a gold tooth and sport an oversized, purple velvet hat that featured a scruffy Albacore feather, because….I dunno.
Do I like peg legs? Not necessarily. I’ve never plundered. I like the letter “Rrrrrrrr” but I don’t overly use it. My best guess is that my pirate connection has everything to do with wanting to wander across unusual topography, smell exotic spices, and feel jungle soil squishing under my bare feet. I dig intrepid. I heart nature. I obsess over the untouched and the difficult to find. But in saying that, I’ve never been so daft as to claim I’m against a nice castle or yacht. I’m not. They’ll do. But the point is that I like adventures. New experiences fill my soul—no matter how they’re packaged.
I dropped the remote, picked up the lighter, ripped a giant bowl of dank that made me cough a factory cloud of perfumed exhaust into the living room, and then leaned back into my destiny. On that ratty couch and watching that nice TV, I sunk into my future.
So yeah, that means traveling is not an option for me—IT’S A MUST. I would have been that person raising my hand when the king asked for volunteers to sail into the horizon and off what was presumed to be the edge of the world.
“Yes sir, I’ll sail a ship off this giant cube we call Earth! Why not? I mean, maybe there’s a land full of friendly bears on the other side that like Tic-Tac-Toe, and an orchard full of small trees that grow tacos. No worries. I’ll find out for everyone. Hold pattern. Be back in a few. Water my plants, will ya Silvia?”
And off I would have gone. For real. Scurvy ain’t shit but hos and tricks. All I would have needed was a gang of oranges and a bomb ass pillow for the sweet, sweet sleepin’ I would have never gotten due to mad storms and the random attempt at butt pillaging the other pirates would have been offering me.
Note—I’m telling you about my “pirate gene” so that maybe you better understand the bong session on my couch that changed my static life into a full- blown, world travel mission.
I was twenty-one years old and living in Flagstaff, AZ. It was my senior year of college, and I was getting higher than an air balloon on a random Wednesday night on my living room couch. I was by myself, and this was rare, so to make it feel less trippy, I turned on the television to keep me company.
While flipping past channels—glazed eyes dragging lazy pupils across shifting images—something caught my attention. I dropped the remote, picked up the lighter, ripped a giant bowl of dank that made me cough a factory cloud of perfumed exhaust into the living room, and then leaned back into my destiny. On that ratty couch and watching that nice TV, I sunk into my future.
Keep in mind this was before the year 2000. It was the first time I’d ever seen a “Top Ten” list show—ever—and that was fascinating enough, but this particular show was blowing my mind. I had landed on some travel channel, and on that travel channel, they were featuring the number one place to visit for almost no money all.
In front of me—shining, beckoning, and looking sexier than Justin Timberlake in his “Rock Your Body” video was Bali, Indonesia. Some hot chick with a curtain of shiny mahogany hair was relaxing on a massage table overlooking a rain forest.
Alongside this woman in the gold and marble, open-air room, were two equally beautiful Indonesian girls, massaging the American chick at the same time. The American talked about how she’d just gotten back from one of best beaches in the world, decided to get a quick massage before dinner, and was planning to join her boyfriend in a few minutes for a lobster and crab feast.
They were in a resort that looked royalty-ready, and…here’s the kicker….she was doing it all for under $20.
WAHHHHHHHHH?????? Stop it, hooker.
So through a haze of captivation, I decided I had to go. I knew I could afford it. If I saved, hell…I could go for an entire year. And that was that. One year later, I had saved up for my first year overseas alone, and right before I was set to leave, Sept. 11 happened in New York.
Due to a few reasons, I decided stop my plans. I didn’t think Indonesia was the right place to go at that unsteady time, so instead, I bought a work visa for Australia. The rest was history. I traveled for ten-ish years. BOOM SHOCKA-LOCKA.
Funny, those defining moments.
THANK YOU whatever travel channel I was watching, and THANK YOU weed. You made everything a little more incredible to view, and the chocolate chip cookies I ate afterwards so amazing that I went through the entire box. Fuckin’ yum. Fuckin’-A to travel channels.
Check out Shelby’s book, Good Globe, for more stories of her adventures and a glimpse at what we can discover when we find courage within ourselves.