This spark started exactly two years ago. My insides had rend themselves apart and I was laying in a hospital bed after the surgeon had put them back together. Brandon was still living in LA and couldn’t be next to me, but his face was on my phone and laptop almost every moment of my week there. I left the hospital finally better, knowing I’d have a huge bill to pay – so I opened a credit card to get the miles. It was so easy, it became the start of this game. In the spring, Brandon moved to Brooklyn, into my tiny little apartment, and for the first time in my life, we traveled. We took every day off we could and criss-crossed this continent: Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a wedding in Cabo San Lucas, a Memorial Day drive across Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, a surprise weekend in Bermuda, an anniversary drive up to Big Sur.
Until this, I had spent most of my life drowning in the fear and anxiety of a phobia. Every plane and bus and boat ride was an exercise in panic attacks. I wanted to travel, but it was so incredibly overwhelming that I never really tried. This irrational phobia that controlled so much of my life is difficult to describe, and I’ve never found a comprehensive way to explain the breadth of effect it’s had on my thoughts and my life, every day. I attempted, many years ago, in this essay published on Thought Catalog. But years of therapy, and the unexpected exposure therapy of being so sick for months finally pushed me to a place where I had climbed on top of my anxiety. I still get nervous, I still panic sometimes, but I no longer let it control what I can and can’t do with my life – a simple decision that took 15 years to make.
We had both advanced in our careers, but instead of finding joy in that, we were starting to live from trip to trip. We used those original Hospital Miles on tickets to Hawaii, and on that trip started playing with making a video. We had no real plan, just brought my camera everywhere and passed it between the two of us. After coming home, I was addicted to editing it. I couldn’t stop – I’d come home from work, sit down and suddenly it would be 2AM, my legs numb from having them wrapped up under me for hours. I was starting from the bottom, knowing hardly anything about video, but I was hooked.
We started planning our biggest adventure yet – three weeks in South East Asia, and both came to the realization that we were living through our weeks just to get to the weekend, living through each month waiting for our next chance to go somewhere, anywhere else. The decision was so instant, so simple, and so unwavering: we would leave our comfortable lives here in Brooklyn, and see the world. Not in these two week spurts between months of day-in, day-out monotony, but for as long as we could. Our count-down started with 1 year and 5 months to save and plan, and now there are only 8 months left.
This story is about choosing exactly the life you want to live, and running towards it. I thought I would forever be trapped in my phobia, in my fears, in the eating disorders that led me to be almost obese for so many years (There will be more on that later, I’m sure). I believed that the world would be a place to see as a tourist, in once or twice a year vacations. I thought that I missed my chance to take the time, since I didn’t go backpacking at age 21. We thought that since we both had moved up in our careers, the only choice was to keep moving upward: get the promotion, get the raise, get a house, and a car, and all of the things we were supposed to be working toward. But I battled my way through eating disorders, I battled my way through a lifetime of a phobia, and learned not to accept anything as mandatory – as long as you are willing to give it everything you have. So this is the choice that Brandon and I are making – to pursue the unthinkable. To sacrifice the beautiful apartment and expense accounts and security, to go seek our true happiness.
This is just the beginning of the adventure.
Big Sur, 2013. The first trip we took together, exactly 4 days after we started dating. Crazy? Probably.