"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Friday, December 28, 2012

How The Sopranos Led Me to Indonesia

A lot of people ask me how I make decisions when I travel.  These days, most of it is following threads and relying on divine providence.  However, there is another important element.  I am going to let you in on a secret.

I have a personal travel agent/therapist in my head.

She looks and talks like Dr. Melfi from The Sopranos.  I go to her when I need help sorting out my travel life (and really, my life in general).  She is gentle but firm, understanding but clear.

I like to think I'm an easier client than Tony Soprano.
(photo: alignmap.com)
A recent conversation I had with her went something like this. . .

Dr. Melfi: Hello, Melanie.  How are you?

Me: I'm alright, Dr. Melfi.  Honestly I'm a bit confused again.  I need your help.

DM: What feels confusing to you?

Me: Well, when I first got to Santa Cruz, it seemed like this was where I was supposed to stay.  Doors opened easily for me.  I found a few free, short-term places to stay, I got a job at the coffee shop, I found a church. The first layer of "settling in" to a new place went smoothly.

DM: And how are things going now?

Me: Sigh.  Not as well.  I'm still loving my job at the coffee shop, but it's not enough to pay rent here - which is a moot point anyway because none of the apartments I've looked at have come through.  Also, it's been hard to make friends.  People aren't calling me back.  I was hoping I could join the choir at the church but even the choir director didn't call me back.  I spend a lot of time alone.  

DM: So "settling down"in Santa Cruz doesn't seem to be flowing easily for you.

Me: No, it's not.  This is too much effort.  I'm anti-effort.  I want to go where the flow is.

DM: What is flowing?

Me: My writing.  My blog has gained a lot of new readers, and I've been published in several places.

DM: Great.  Isn't that really what you want to do anyway?  Write?

Me: Yes.

DM: What else is flowing?

Me: Surprisingly, money.  I've saved up way more than I would have expected in these six weeks - between the coffee shop, odd jobs, and generous gifts from friends and family.

DM: Melanie, why did you leave your job?  Why did you quit your successful career and leave your friends and family?  To work at a coffee shop and join a church choir?  You could have done that in Maryland.  What do you want?

"Cut the crap, Melanie."
(photo: weblogs.baltimoresun.com)
Me: I want to travel and write.  I know that.

DM: Then why are you putting your energy into settling down if you want to travel?  Why are you applying for jobs at Trader Joe's when you want to be a writer?

Me: Well I need to make enough money to live somewhere and eat!

DM: There are cheaper places to put a roof over your head and food in your mouth while you write.  Haven't you been talking about going to Asia for awhile now?

Me: Yes but I don't have the money.

DM: Didn't you just say you've saved up more than you expected?  Are you sure you don't have the money?

Me: (checks bank account and airfare, and does some calculations)  Oh.  Maybe I do.  Maybe I do!

DM: (smiles) Interesting.

Me: Rather than using most of what I've saved up on first month's rent and a security deposit, I could buy a plane ticket!  But I don't have much money to travel with once I'm there.

DM: So work while you're there.  Teach English or something.  You can live on $10 a day in southeast Asia, you know that.  You won't need to work much to take care of your needs, and then you can explore and write with most of your time.

Me: Great!  I'll find a school online and apply to teach English.  When I'm accepted, I'll fly there and live for awhile.

DM: (twists mouth in questioning disapproval)

Me: What?

DM: How has committing to things you find online worked for you in the past?

Me: (innocently) What do you mean?

DM: The hostel in Taos?  You thought it would be perfect place to spend a warm winter, but when you got there, it was 10 degrees and full of crazy, dirty men.

Me: Right.

DM: And what about the guys you dated from okCupid a few years ago?

Me: Oh my god I can't believe you're bringing that up.

DM: You thought the first one was soooo hot with his long dreads and fascinating career as an herbalist.  But it didn't take long to find out that he was a full-time stoner who was wildly homophobic and wasn't paying rent.

Me: Right, ok, I get it.

DM: And second guy?  What about the Greek one? (sitting forward in her seat now)

Me: Yeah we don't need to talk about him.

DM: He was a musician who said he wanted to travel with you, but then you found out he had no intentions of ever leaving his parents' house, and he was still in love with his bipolar, self-mutilating, abusive ex-fiance.

Me: Ok ok!  Enough!  I get it.  I should be using my intuition to live, not the internet.  I shouldn't find some school online and get all romantic about it only to get there and realize I've committed to something I don't want to stick with for a full year.  (Long, awkward silence.) Damnit I hate how well you know me.

DM: (straightens blazer and repositions self as professionally calm) Good.  I'm glad see my point.

Me: But listen, practically, what if I can't find a job once I'm there?

DM: Then you'll be in the exact same position you are now, except you'll be in a tropical paradise.  But  you'll find what you're supposed to find when you get there - whether it be a job, a volunteer opportunity, friends, or writing contacts.  And you'll find it by following threads and trusting divine providence, just like all the best parts of your travels so far.

Me: That's scary.

DM: Then it's the right thing.  Jump in.  Live with gusto.  You should know by now that you don't have to have all the details figured out first.  In fact, you block gifts from the universe when you do.

Me: You're right.  It's one thing to say it but another to actually live that way.  Oh god this is really scary.  And thrilling.  Thanks, Dr. Melfi.

DM: You're welcome.  That will be $300.

Me: (muttering to self as I walk out) What a bitch. . .

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  1. “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” - Bilbo Happy adventuring Melanie!