I am a mid-twenties, Iowa boy, who caught the travel bug after finishing my degree at the University of Iowa. When the vast majority of my peers decided to commit themselves to a cubicle, working 8-5, five days a week in an office, I decided I would instead move to Europe. A number of things ultimately led me to make this decision, but one thing is for sure, I’ve never looked back.
I didn’t choose, “the easy route.” Moving abroad, away from close friends, family, and familiarity is anything but easy. Adapting to living in a new culture, thousands of miles away from your ‘comfort zone,’ is a challenging, albeit rewarding experience. Ever tried dealing with your local DMV? Try figuring out the Irish bureaucracy.
I didn’t, “delay getting a job.” I’ve held a number of jobs since choosing this relatively unique lifestyle. I’ve washed dishes. I’ve cleaned toilets. I’ve poured pints in Edinburgh pubs. I’ve made cappuccinos in a Galway cafe. I’ve stood for hours on cold, windy, and rainy streets in small, Irish villages attempting to sign locals up for charities. In short, I’ve taken on jobs most college graduates would never consider.
I also didn’t, “travel carefree around Europe.” Being a backpacker requires you to budget, to plan, to accept the unexpected. I’ve spent many a night sleeping in a train station. I’ve been kept up for hours in 15 bed hostels by snoring dormmates. I’ve arrived in cities I know nothing about at 2 am only to have to find a place to sleep. I’ve lived for days eating sliced bread and peanut butter. I spent 20 hours catching trains to Bari, Italy, with the hopes of catching a ferry to Greece – only to find the last ferry for the week had already left. Traveling as a backpacker is worlds different from most types of travel.
I did choose a path that has allowed me to visit 14 countries in Europe in the past year. I did choose a lifestyle that allowed me to call Edinburgh – one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, “home” for almost ten months. I did find out that the Turkish are some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met. I did jump into an icy, Galway Bay on Christmas day, 2007. I did sleep for nights on a beautiful, Sicilian island. I did hike across the Highlands of Scotland. And lastly, I did learn more about myself, the world we live in, and other cultures.
I am a backpacker. I choose to travel on a budget – saving money whenever possible with the hopes of traveling longer and farther.
On Tuesday, I am moving to New Zealand to embark on a one-year, working holiday with my Scottish girlfriend. I have a one-way ticket to Auckland, a backpack, a work visa, and a desire to experience a new culture and live life outside of my comfort zone – halfway around the world from this small, Iowa town I call home.