“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
– Edith Sitwell
If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you probably noticed my absence from your inbox over the past couple weeks. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you! Far from it.
First things first: I cannot thank you all enough for the support, encouragement, and love you’ve shown me over the past 6+ months. Deciding to write and share my journey with you (and the rest of the world) brought me a sense of fulfillment I never expected. In a subtle way, it shaped the trajectory of my journey and added a dimension that I would have sorely missed had it remained a private one.
So from the deepest part of my heart, THANK YOU.
Writing helped me articulate my thoughts and understand my feelings while traveling, and I expect it will equally help as I readjust to life back at home. And as I’ve settled in over the past few weeks, I have a lot I’d like to share with you. Over the next couple weeks, I’m writing a 5-part post entitled Thoughts on Coming Home. Here’s what you can expect:
I. Was That Life? Very Well! Once More!: Initial thoughts on coming home after a 6+ month wander.
II. Reverse Culture Shock: First impressions on being back in these United States.
III. These Things Traveling Taught: The most important lessons I learned on the road.
IV. Art, Creation, and the Written Word: How writing changed my life.
V. The Next Chapter: What’s next for me? And for this website, blog, and email newsletter?
You might be saying: “Whoa, Matt. I followed you because I was interested in your trip through Europe. You’re home now. Why are you still sending me emails?”
Here’s the thing. I have big plans for GiveLiveExplore. I plan to continue to build GiveLiveExplore.com as my platform to explore personal and professional projects, to share my voice, and to keep writing, creating, and inspiring.
I’ll share more about these plans in Part 5, most of which scare the shit outta me. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is too short to ignore the big plans we feel compelled to make. It’s too to short avoid running toward things that scare us. And it’s way too short to put off living the life we want to live.
But this was really my plan all along — to use this trip through Europe as the launch pad, as the first chapter of the GiveLiveExplore story.
And I only want you to be here, on this bigger journey with me, if you want to be here. So if you’ve enjoyed my writing, learned a thing or two, or have been inspired in any way — if you’re pickin’ up what I’m throwin’ down — I’m thrilled to have you!
If you’re continuing onward with me, THANK YOU. And since you want to be here, can you think of anyone else who might want to join us? If so, please forward this to a friend or share on your favorite social media platform. It would mean the world to me.
And to further show my appreciation, I have a special gift for you.
At the end of each of these five posts, I’m including a link to download a high-resolution poster I created using pictures I took and quotes that inspired me along my journey. Feel free to download them, share them, or print them. (The first one is available below).
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Was That Life? Very Well! Once More!
On December 14, 5:05pm GMT, I spent my final minute on European soil in 2012. The final minute of a 280,345 minute journey, to be approximately exact. As the Icelandair plane lifted off from Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport and we rushed between the vast sea and sky, my stomach churned with the most unsettling concoction of emotion I’ve felt since I left for Europe on June 2:
Excitement. I couldn’t wait to see my familiar friends and family. It was Christmastime, and oh by gosh, by golly…a familiar bed and a bedroom ALL TO MYSELF?! Merry Christmas to me!
Deep Sadness. Coming back home also meant leaving another home: The Road. Being back meant I wasn’t traveling, which was hard to swallow.
Anxiety. Do I really want to go back to work? No. At least not “work” as I once knew it. So, what will I do? I don’t know. What will I tell everyone who asks about my “Next Steps”? CRAP.
Glory. Did I really negotiate a sabbatical from my job, take a mini-retirement, and wander around Europe on my own terms? Damn straight I did! I just did what millions of people dream about, but will never do.
Fear. What if I lose everything I learned along the way? What if I forget those ‘unforgettable’ moments? What if all those vices I conquered on the road — selfishness, prejudice, envy, and even fear itself — creep back into my life? This scared me the most.
Awe & Disbelief. The pace of time never ceases to baffle. I couldn’t believe how quickly this journey came and went. I’ll never completely grasp the concept of time.
During the short flight from Reykjavik to New York City, I finished reading And Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a 19th century novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
[Side note from an Iceland advocate: A flight from New York to Iceland (5 hours, 30 minutes) is shorter than a flight from New York to Los Angeles (5 hours, 45 minutes). Just sayin’.]
Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is described as “a friend to all who take long journeys and do not want to live without danger.” He’s an introspective dude who finds comfort in solitude and mindful journeying, because it’s where he discovers truths about himself and about the world. Needless to say, I underlined precisely half the book. One of Zarathustra’s lines in particular sung to me.
'Was that -- life?' I will say to death. 'Very well! Once more!' My friends, what do you think? Will you not, like me, say to death: 'Was that -- life? For Zarathustra's sake, very well! Once more!'
Wow. A barrage of questions stacked up in my head as I scribbled notes in the book:
What if the life we’re living now is a life we’d have to live infinite times over? Would it be a life you’d choose to live again?
If not, what would you do differently, starting this very moment, to make it a life you’d happily choose again?
Shouldn’t this be our aim in life? To live a life we would happily live over and over and over again? Or at the very least, become enough at peace with the life we find ourselves living to accept it so it becomes a life we’d happily live over again?
And what about my journey through Europe? If given the choice, would I boldly say: “Very well! Once more!”?
The net-emotion I felt on that flight home could be categorized as negative (Sadness, Anxiety, Fear, Disbelief vs. Excitement, Glory, Awe). But was the net-negative emotion of coming home enough for me to regret taking this leap? Would I rather not had taken the trip in the first place to avoid these negative feelings?
I reflected. What a fun, gut-wrenching, crazy, boring, thrilling, confusing, enlightening, lonely, uncomfortable, and necessary journey this was. Would I happily repeat the trip again, in its entirety, knowing that I would have to go through the worst of the lows so I could enjoy the best of the highs?
To this question, another line from Zarathustra:
Did you ever say Yes to one joy? O my friends, then you said Yes to all woe as well. All things are chained and entwined together, all things are in love; if ever you wanted one moment twice, if ever you said: 'You please me, happiness, instant, moment!' then you wanted everything to return!
This was a glorious journey. Of course I would do it all again. I would boldly and without a doubt say “Very well! Once more!”
Once I accepted that the low points were actually necessary for me to grow and get closer to where I needed to be, I began to appreciate any mishaps or minor sufferings. You could even say I began to enjoy them.
So in the end, there’s nothing I would avoid — even the worst parts. Especially the worst parts. Because, I learned, the worst parts were actually the best parts. And the best part was, well, the whole part. Because, quite simply, it was the whole journey that mattered in the end.
Click here or on the picture above to download a High-Res poster. Feel free to share or print.
In that moment I realized that this anxiety and sadness and fear I felt coming home was completely natural. It was exactly the type of minor suffering and confusion I had come to appreciate on the road. In fact, it was necessary.
As I landed in New York, I was consoled by a voice in my head as it whispered: “Don’t worry. The journey’s not over yet.”
Of course it’s not. It’s only just begun.
Part 1. Was That Life? Very Well, Once More!: Initial thoughts on coming home after a 6+ month wander.
Part 2. Reverse Culture Shock: First impressions on being back in these United States.
Part 3. These Things Traveling Taught: The most important lessons I learned on the road.
Part 4. Art, Creation, and Getting Naked: How writing and creating art changed my life.
Part 5. The Journey Continues: What’s next for me? And for this website, blog, and email newsletter?