Spiritual Beings

Pete talked to me for about two hours last night. He didn’t allow me to say much.

He is the 40-year-old guy from Rarotonga, one of the island nations in the South Pacific, who has been staying in an apartment at the hostel for five years. He doesn’t really come out much but over the past few weeks he is always around, talking to the young travelers. Some consider him a nuisance. Some might say he has mental disabilities. He is tall and wiry and has a slightly raspy voice that can quickly change from normal volume to yelling in seconds.

I’m on duty as night porter and everything is clean and no one is drinking. I’m watching a movie in the big green hippy tour bus that has long been converted into a TV lounge, late-night joint smoking and hook up spot. The couches and pillows are not recommended for germophobes. But travelers ignore those little details.

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A peaceful night under the Southern Cross

He pushes the door and steps up and says, oh it’s you. Goodonya for keeping everything peaceful and quiet. You’re a good sort, he says. I say thanks, it’s just because no one is drinking tonight but he says no, really you do a good job.

This is my first time talking to him one on one. One of the receptionists, a white New Zealander, said Pete has called him a “nigger” several times. The only time I’ve interacted with Pete was when I was putting my laundry in one night when I wasn’t on duty and I heard a scuffle. I run over and see two men fighting in the bushes and I pull Pete out and a smaller Maori guy is yelling “Black Power, Black Power,” a motorcycle gang in New Zealand. The following night, I look back over the security camera footage and see the two of them having a calm chat and then Pete stands up and starts pointing in his face and motioning with his arms and then they started to push each other then they started swinging.

He launches into a one sided discussion on spirituality and being comfortable with yourself. He says people in Rarotonga don’t care about gay people and it doesn’t matter if a guy wants to suck your dick but they used to be cannibals. It’s a hard life over there. He was the smallest one in the family so he was beat when he was younger. He has been beaten a lot.

It’s hard to follow him and half of my attention is on the movie, but I enjoy listening to him. I like listening to people who don’t stop talking. They are interesting. I don’t care if I disagree with them or if they are crazy. I just nod and mmhmm to see where he goes.

Then he starts talking about when he worked on a farm. They had all sorts of animals and he would abuse them. He doesn’t know I’m vegan. He says he would kill chickens with his hands just for fun.

He asks me if I believe in God and I say no. He doesn’t understand.

“So who made the Earth?” he asks.

“Umm…no one,” I say.

“Oh, was it a woman?” he asks.

“No…I don’t think anyone created the Earth,” I say.

“So, who made Man?” he asks.

“Umm…evolution,” I say.

“Ok, interesting. Wow. And how did life begin?” he asks.

“Uhh…well I’m pretty sure it started as bacteria and then evolved over millions of years,” I say.

He doesn’t understand.

I like the word ephemeral. And transient. That’s what life is like here. Some days I am so happy with the joys of walking into the communal kitchen with the giant wooden table and seeing new faces to meet and sometimes I just think, what am I doing? Where are my friends? The people I have been hanging out with for the past three weeks just left and these are all strangers. It’s a low and it’s a high at the same time.

Over free vegetable soup and bread, I talk to a 30-something Canadian man traveling around New Zealand for a few weeks and I tell him my story and he asks, “How can you do it? How can you live here?”

It must seem so foreign and abstract to someone with responsibilities. He has a wife and kids, a house and a career. He can’t just drive a 28-year-old van into a new town and create a new life for four months. He can’t imagine that. But now that I’ve been back in Virginia for a month and my former travel buddies have returned to that giant wooden table and are currently surrounded by new faces, soup and bread, I want those feelings again. Freedom and adventure. You can’t live that life in this country. At least not around here.

We are walking home from the pub after closing time.

We are getting close to the bridge over the slow, shallow river and the French guy takes off all his clothes and throws them all over the street. Half of our group—most of us just met tonight—follows him up the beams about three meters above the street while the rest of us take the sidewalk like a bunch of pussies. He dives head first into the water and I’m sure he just broke his neck because I’ve seen that river and it is rocky and shallow but somehow he comes up laughing. A German girl is stuck at the top of the bridge—like a cat stuck in a tree—because she is scared and here comes a cop.

He is young and he doesn’t turn on his flashing lights or anything at the sight of a bunch of drunken backpackers, one of whom is naked and soaking wet and one of whom is above him, stuck on a bridge.

“Make sure you get home safe,” he says casually as he drives off.

Sitting next to each other while watching the Hobbit leads to laying down next to each other while watching the Hobbit leads to meandering hands leads to the night porter walking into the bus at 2 am to put up the new “NO SMOKING” signs and turning on the lights and seeing you sit up naked and look me in the eyes and kind of smile and kind of laugh as I slink out. I’ll put up the signs in a half hour.

It’s another quiet night and everything is clean and I come back to the office after smoking a joint with the Irish girls and I check the security cameras and see Pete smoking a cigarette outside so I grab my guitar.

We sit in the smoke-o room and he tells me the devil is his best friend.

He is a beautiful man. He is a musician.

He launches into a biblical rant about Jesus, Samson, Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem and Babylon. I accompany him with quiet fingerpicking on my guitar.

I ask if he is talking about leaving Babylon and going to Zion, one of the fundamentals of Rastafari. Babylon and Zion mean different things according to different interpretations of the Bible. According to Christianity and Judaism, Zion is Jerusalem. For Rastas, Zion is Africa, specifically Ethiopia.

I start to play “Africa Unite” by Bob Marley. “We moving right out of Babylon, and going to our father’s land.”

He says, Sean, you get it. Wow.

He starts talking about how he only eats good food like oysters and how he knows what the body needs. He takes care of himself. I tell him I’m vegan. For the environment. He asks me what I use for a meat substitute. I tell him I don’t think of it like that. I don’t need a substitute. Before I was vegan I would always think of dinner in terms of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. Now it is just all goodness. I just eat a lot of different plants of different shapes and colors. I don’t think about everything as separate anymore.

After I play a song he tells me I have a very clear mind and it’s because of my diet.

He suddenly starts professing his love for Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old President of Zimbabwe. So, naturally, I play “Zimbabwe.”

Then I play “So Much Trouble in the World.” The bridge goes, “So you think you found a solution, but it’s just another illusion.” And he says, Wow. To hear you play Bob Marley songs, just the chords and singing, really makes the lyrics more powerful than hearing the full band version. You understand. You know your shit.

Bob Marley and Pete both love the Bible so he inadvertently quotes Marley lyrics. When I hear one, I play that song. He says, “Why do you cry for me?” So I play “Concrete Jungle.”

He keeps talking and I keeping playing and I hope we do this again. I want to record us. We are the only people in the common areas and we are creating something beautiful and unique.

He asks me how I can play Bob Marley songs if I don’t believe in God.

I say God is just an escape from the real question. It’s a scapegoat. I don’t know the answers to the big questions but I’m not just going to say it’s all because of “God.” What a strange concept.

He changes the topic a few times and then he stands up with fists and says he quit fighting in ’89 but he is acting very aggressively right now. He tells me he used to get in fights all the time and he never won. He tells me he has fallen off of five-story buildings and he was fine. He has jumped out of cars and he was fine. He knows how to make his body absorb the impact.

He tells me the owners and the receptionists say they have become worried about him these past two weeks. But he tells them, don’t worry about me, I worry about you. God speaks to me.

He says he has lived here for five years and he loves talking to the backpackers.

“I see youze as spiritual beings,” he says.

The next day I talk to the receptionist and he tells me Pete was kicked out of the hostel a couple of hours ago.

Everyone here hates him and thought he was the crazy guy who causes trouble. I’m sad that I won’t have any more late night talks with him. I’m sad I will never see him again. I wonder where he will go.

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First light and the world sleeps.

A few weeks later I look through the hostel complaint book and see a series of notes:

Hostel: Other guests complained that you were behaving strangely and making them feel uncomfortable. You also left strange notes about being “the messenger and child of God.” We are a backpackers and you are not a backpacker. Sorry.

Pete: last night I was helping out in the kitchen. I am not God’s messenger. what the fuck?  im just being a dick, I love this place. The other guys accused me of stealing stuff the other night too. Does Ben have a grudge against me because I told him NOT to give you that silly shit… it was a game OK?

Hostel: You are not staying. Please leave or I will call the police. I do not like your swearing or your behavior.

Pete: what the fuck, you will regret it later. Can I please have my stuff from my room?!

Hostel: I am calling the police as you have just threatened me!

Pete: ? no I didn’t?!

Maybe Pete doesn’t exist. Maybe I made him up.

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Under Construction

I’m struggling.

I left New Zealand 27 days ago and now I’m staying in the spare bedroom at my Mom’s house in Virginia.

I made a desk from two saw horses and a door I found in her garage and I’m reading through my journals. I thought I was going to be able to write something from all of this. I wanted to write a book or a series of short stories but this is hard. There is too much. I can’t process this. My brain is weak and I can’t get the big picture. I want to smoke weed to help guide me, but I need to pass a pre-employment drug screen so I can get a menial job because I’m in America.

I’m not even close to when the good stuff started. When I left the hostel and started traveling with the Irish girls and the California girl and the guy from Uruguay and the Kiwi busker we picked up. We would camp out and play music and get dirty and swim in the rivers and eat cous cous and vegetables. But I’m not there yet. Baby steps. Crawl before you can walk, right, Chris?

I’m sorry I haven’t updated my blog in a long time but I’m working on it, OK? This is going to take some time. The word document I wrote from my final month in New Zealand, when I was hitch hiking and camping and communing with nature, is 65 pages single-spaced. Most of it is word vomiting but with a bit of refinement, I believe that vomit can be turned into gold. But I’m not even close to cracking into that document. I’m at the point right now where I start to read my journals and take notes and find themes and I end up with even more hand written notes and that is just making even more work to do and then I have to stand up and walk around the house and look in the fridge even though I’m not hungry and then I go back to my “desk” and I can’t control the demon inside of me that opens up Facebook and the Reddit and then I check my e-mail but nothing has changed.

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I know what I need to do, what I need to write and what I need to focus on but I don’t want to say it until it is done. I feel the compulsion to read everything I’ve written in chronological order and not just jump to the good parts because I don’t know what I will have missed. And then my guitars distract me and then my Mom gets home from work.

Meanwhile, I’m broke and I need to get a job so I can buy a car and move somewhere new because I don’t want to stay here.

At first I was hesitant about Virginia. Then I watched the Washington Nationals play baseball. It’s like nothing has changed. F.P. still says, “And there goes the no-hitter” at the first hit and Bob still says, “SEE, YOU, LATER!” when we get a home run. I sat down and watched my first game in two years and I felt a sense of belonging and community with my hometown. The team has barely changed. Life goes on. I can be happy here for the summer but this is a means to an end. The Drifter in me needs to stay on the move.

Don’t fret, loyal readers, Stories From A Drifter is still running. The resident Drifter is just working out this whole life thing and trying to live while also trying to re-live the past and show people what I have experienced. I have changed. I am different than I was two years ago. Even one year ago. My year in Australia revolved around working. My year in New Zealand was about learning and growing and being a soul rebel, soul adventurer, soul capturer. I’m here. I’m working on it. I promise (eek!) something good will come. But I can’t say when.

Everything was so easy in New Zealand. I had my rucksack on my back and my guitar in my hand and all I had to do was stick out my thumb and after a few minutes or a few hours I would summon a car. Some kind soul would give me teleportation, conversation and positive vibrations and then I would end up at the next campsite, pitch my tent, eat my oats and breathe the air. Constant high speed Internet, cable television and hot showers didn’t distract life in New Zealand. Life was simple over there. I was a wild animal. We all are.

Ahh, it feels good to write.

Doubt

I almost left the farm.

I want to be free and drive south to Taupo, with her beautiful lake and mountains, or some quaint coastal town. Everyone else is traveling around the country and having fun and I’m slaving away on a farm communicating with one human and 200-something cows and 30-something calves. I want to go skiing. I want to live at a hostel. Work at a cafe. Meet new and exciting people. I want to drive my van around the countryside and sleep in the back. No Internet, read books. Go on adventures. Go tramping. Get into silly situations. Drift and create the stuff from which stories are made.

After a day of traveling and facing strange encounters, I immediately feel the need to write and it flows out effortlessly. They are novel and interesting, I think, but the best stories take patience. Some stories evolve and get better with time, like chili in a crockpot. Maybe your feelings change. Maybe you develop a new perspective. Some stories never end.

I wanted to leave the farm because I felt like a burden. When I first met Digger, he didn’t want to hire me. This story started when I met Jeremy…

I stayed at a hostel for my last month or so in Australia. I had moved out of my flat and needed an easy place to stay until my visa expired. The receptionist recognized me from the Wide Open Space music festival and knew I was “cool.”

I’ll put you with Jeremy,” she says as she looks at the hostel notebook.

I get my key and enter a dark room with a small TV playing Spiderman on DVD. There are three bunk beds covered in dirty sheets, candy wrappers, empty coke bottles, and one outline of a human body underneath a blanket.

I hear a raspy, cigarette voice come from the top bunk in the corner.

“Hey, bro. I’m Jeremy.”

I set my bags on the bottom bunk bed on the opposite side of the room and introduce myself. I tell him I’ve been living in Alice for about 11 months, just came back from a three-week road trip to Adelaide and Melbourne, and I’m going to New Zealand soon.

He slowly lifts his fist into the air and says, “New Zealand,” with as much enthusiasm as his hangover can handle.

Jeremy works at the hostel as the maintenance guy. His job consists of fixing shower heads and repairing the table he broke last night when he was on the piss. He can usually be found around the hostel, barefoot and shirtless in the desert sun wearing raggedy denim shorts with a black peace sign bandana holding up his unwashed blonde surfer hair. Just yell his name and you will probably hear a response. He walks tall on the balls of his feet with his chest puffed out. And he is loud. Very loud.

He's a loose cunt.
He’s a loose cunt.

When I come back from work and step out of my ute I hear his booming voice greet me from the other side of the hostel.

I wave because I’m too soft-spoken to yell across the hostel courtyard.

I’m not sure where the desire came from, but something told me I should work on a dairy farm in New Zealand. I didn’t know why or how, but that was my goal. Luckily, there are heaps of Kiwis in Alice Springs. They are drawn to the easy lifestyle and high wages. I had been talking to Jeremy and Matt, both from the Waikato, about farming in New Zealand.

Don’t work for an Indian,” Matt advises me.

They tell me I’m coming at the perfect time — late June — because the farm season begins on June 1 so everyone will be looking for help. They say some farmers prefer hiring new workers because they don’t have any bad habits. They say it’s easy to find a job. They say to expect a weekly salary of about $800, free accommodation and a freezer full of meat if the farmer kills a beast.

It seemed like a great gig, almost too good to be true.

I asked Jeremy if he could help me find a job on a dairy farm. He is from Matamata, right in the middle of some of the best farmland in the world. The next morning he tells me he called his old lady and she said I have a job starting on June 31. That would give me 10 days after I fly into Auckland to buy a car and make my way to the farm.

Once I made it to New Zealand and talked to his Mum, I found out he lied and there was no dream job waiting for me.

I thought I would have to try something else and give up on my farming pipe dream. The dairy payout in New Zealand is the lowest in ten years and most farmers are set to lose at least a quarter of a million dollars this year. Farmers are culling their animals, laying off workers, and not spending any money. That means no one wants to hire a completely inexperienced American guy who used to work in sterilized Washington, D.C. offices and tourist town bars in Australia.

Jeremy’s parents let me stay in his bedroom for a few days while I figure out my next step. On my second night they invited Digger, one of Jeremy’s best mates, over for dinner. He seemed like a very genuine guy. I told him my situation. He said he couldn’t hire me. He has been on his farm for less than a month and he doesn’t have a budget for me. I told him I’m looking into WWOOFing and willing to work for free. I just want experience.

Digger decided to give me a chance. The next morning he picked me up and we drafted his cows. The next day I put up a fence. The next day we lit some big bonfires and I took the thin foam mattress out of my van and onto the floor of one of the four empty bedrooms in his cold house.

For the first few weeks it was easy work and I would come and go as I pleased. Preparing the farm for calving, fixing fences, readying the milking shed. I was learning something new every day and I enjoyed being outdoors in the beautiful Waikato.

Once calving started, he said, “Well, I guess I should start paying you.”

Now we were talking hours and pay and everything was confusing. I didn’t want to be a burden and every time I fucked up and dropped a tape gate or let a cow escape I felt like I should be paying him for lost time.

He said he likes working alone because if something goes wrong he only blames himself. I could tell when he didn’t want me around.

I would work with Digger during the week but he said he would quiet happily work alone on the weekends. So I would sit in my cold room and smoke and watch movies and TV shows and browse inane travel blogs, not understanding how something so trivial and boring could muster 400 followers and 20 likes on every post. Just because you are somewhere noteworthy, doesn’t make your 200 word listicle post noteworthy. I would search for the bloggers who write with passion, who actually have something to say besides the best place to get a coffee in Queenstown.

I am happier when I’m on the farm, but the new rules about money and time relegated me to only being needed at certain hours. It’s a strange relationship having your boss, roommate, workmate and friend all rolled into one. It takes time to get a feel for how to communicate with each other.

After being in a funk all weekend, I perform my morning tractor duties and when I return to the farm Digger drives up and skips the greeting and says a heifer jumped a fence and can you stand here and be on traffic control duty. My mood immediately picks up and I remember that I have a place here and everything is right with the world.

I’ve realized that Digger and I both like having our own space and being alone, but we need each other. It’s getting busy now so there is always work to do. I am more confident and independent and we know how to work with each other. Digger can go into town to buy Mastitis drugs and I can milk the first two rows myself and hopefully not fuck anything up.

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After a victorious milking.

I can’t believe I wanted to leave this place just a few days ago. I love being here. I did so much badass shit today. I drove a tractor down the highway with a full load of silage. I taught two newborn calves how to drink and fed eight buckets of milk to the heifer calves. I shoveled soiled sawdust from the calf pens into the bucket on the tractor and then changed to the forklift to dump the rubbish bins into the trash pile. I rode a two-wheeler around the farm and chased cows and set up temporary fences. I got poo flung in my eye. My finger was caught between a cow and a metal bar. A cow kicked my arm into a beam. A cow stood on my toes while I was wrestling her back through the gate with her head in my arms grimacing, “Fuck you, cunt,” through my teeth. I’m sore and I’m tired but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This story isn’t over yet. I can’t just cut a story short because of a brief period of doubt. I have to see it through. It’s OK to be uneasy. It’s ok to have that feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you want to move on and leave everything behind. I always want to travel and drift, but right now my place is here on the farm.

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At peace.

There is no right time to write. Everyday I become a new person. Sometimes I read back on what I wrote in my journal last year and I wonder how I ever thought these thoughts. I think that is the purpose of writing. To make yourself immortal for a day. Maybe there is no write time, it’s just right all the time.

Past, Present, Future

Two years ago I studied abroad in Ireland for six weeks to finish my remaining two university courses. I wrote the following reflection paper on my last day:

July 23, 2013

Dublin, Ireland 

This is the first time in my life where nothing is planned for me. My future is a blank canvas. The thought excites me. I honestly have no clue where I’ll be in two weeks or two months or two years. I don’t know what to expect or what will happen or where I will work or what I will do. My life is mine to be molded. I’m ready to find out what I want to do.

I’ve always thought I would get a job in the D.C. area and eventually move out of Fairfax when I have enough money, but I don’t have to limit myself to that. Ireland has opened my eyes to the world. There are so many opportunities to consider. I’m willing to try anything and everything. Maybe I’ll look into seasonal employment or some kind of work experience abroad. I just don’t think I’m ready for a 9-5 for the rest of my life.       

Ireland has renewed my love for nature. My favorite times on this trip were spent wandering through fields and mountains with cows and sheep. I want to hike part of the Appalachian Trail as soon as possible. I don’t need much to be happy. I’m a simple man. Hopefully I will find something to do that satisfies that desire to be outside.

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Getting lost in Connemara. July 10, 2013.

Even if I do end up working and living in the D.C. bubble, I will definitely still want to travel. I’ve realized that traveling can be easy and affordable, if you know what you’re doing. Nothing is stopping me from going wherever I want. Well, maybe money, work, bills and commitments. But that hasn’t hit me yet. I’m still a college student for one more day.

When I walked out of my last final exam in May, I felt a strange sensation. Of course I was happy that I was done with finals week, but I felt empty. I wanted to keep learning. My time in Ireland has made me realize that learning out of the classroom is just as important as formalized college classes. Traveling through Ireland has taught me how other people live. I’ve learned more than history books could ever teach me.

Ireland has been everything I needed it to be. I wanted to travel and find adventure, and I needed a break before I start working. Now that it’s over, I’m looking forward to finding my place in this world. I’m ready for the next chapter.

Killarney, Ireland. July 1, 2013.
After hiking Mangerton Mountain in Killarney. July 1, 2013.

Past Sean certainly was bright-eyed and optimistic, Present Sean thinks, looking back on the past two years. I was completely broke when I started working on Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for Governor of Virginia — earning a monthly salary which amounted to less than minimum wage — a few weeks after I left Ireland. For the next 11 months I became entrenched in job applications, failed interviews, unpaid internships, temp jobs, suits, ties and endless commutes around Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. I was too lost in trying to save enough money to move out of my old man’s house to even think about traveling.

As months went by my resume and job experience grew stronger. I was getting used to the formulaic interview questions and was firing off answers from the hip. I walked out of every interview feeling like they would be crazy not to hire me, but as the rejections started crowding my inbox I thought they must be going for candidates with a stronger personality or better qualifications.

My spreadsheet filling, key-word searching temp job at the Bipartisan Policy Center was set to end on Friday, May 30, 2014. My Dad, with the new Step Mother, told me he was kicking me out of the house on June 1, 2014.

I had been Facebook messaging my long-time friend, Josh, who was living in Alice Springs, Australia. His Dad got a job at Pine Gap, the super secret satellite tracking station in the middle of the desert, and relocated there about three years back. Josh moved there in January 2014 to get away from some legal trouble in the states and found a bar tending job at the casino hotel resort.

May 13, 2014

Josh: my new boss is Scottish and tonight was his first night and he got so drunk he had to be carried to his hotel room by security lol he is like 50

Me: is he like craig ferguson? cause hes a really funny Scottish man and that who Im picturing

Josh: actually he looks quite like him it was just funny to watch this guy it was his second night in alce first night working and he got fucking trashed with all of us the F&B workers plus i got to hook up with this french chick which was dope lol

Me: hahaha thats awesome congratulations on that. im jealous man it sounds like youre having a good time. im getting kicked out of my house at the end of the month.

Josh: wtf?!? r u serious

Me: yea I dont fit in with andrea’s ideal life

The Step Mother was constantly complaining me slamming the front door and the kitchen cabinets. I never noticed I was doing it and it wasn’t on purpose. She sat up in her jewelry studio and said she was startled whenever I left the house or made some food. One night I was watching a TV show in my room. As she was going to sleep she told me to turn it down, a very reasonable request. I was in the process of getting out of bed to lower the volume when she naggingly told me to turn it down again. I walked out of my room and slammed the door as loud and hard as I could. She did not approve of my flagrant act of rebellion. I was so frustrated with her constantly asking me and my family to change. Why can’t she change? It was clear we could not continue living in the same house.

May 30, 2014

Me: so ive had 5 job interviews in the past 2.5 weeks. i got 2 rejections yesterday and im like 95% sure im gonna get rejected from 2 others. so now i have one possible job that i have a chance of getting an offer from. so im pretty much fucked. how is it in australia? easy to find a job?

Josh: man two days and y can find a job

Me: really?

Josh: really and 22 dollars an hour

Me: do you need a visa or some shit?I think they are going to kick me out this weekend so im trying to think of my options and going to Australia seems like a pretty good option.

Josh: yes u need a visa i got a work and holiday visa it took me like three days to get it it wasn’t hard but ye man really consider it we could get a place some jobs and we could just see the world money is great here jobs are everywhere its paradise

Over the next week I was offered a second interview for Communications Assistant with Chesapeake Public Strategies, and first interviews for Assistant Press Secretary at NextGen Climate and Communications Assistant position with American Farm Bureau Federation. I declined. I was so close. I gave up. I was sleeping on my college buddies’ couch with no job, no car, no savings.

June 3, 2014

Me: ok so ive been homeless for a few days and Ive talked to kerri and my mom about going to australia and they both said they dont want me to go and i was hoping my mom would pay for my plane ticket and i dont think shes willing to do that. i think im going to stay here and apply for jobs and work at my moms house shes gonna pay me to help with her kitchen and other jobs around her house and ill do that for a week or so and i really want to do a trip on the AT like a ten day hike or something. sorry man but i dont think australia is in the cards for me. if i wasnt dating kerri and if i had more money it would be a no brainer though.

Josh: mannn no worries just know uf u come over here things would be dope man but do whatcha gotta do bro but it was funny tonight… wait so i fucked this tiny lil asian chick pretty cute but today i found out she has a girlfriend and literally today a gir came up to me and told me back off her woman it was one of the most backwards things i have ever experienced

Australia felt like too much of a stretch. I couldn’t leave my girlfriend who, I thought, was O.K. with our current arrangement. She was, is, a nurse and she was, maybe still is, living an hour away. Sometimes our work schedules overlapped and we couldn’t see each other for a week or two. We didn’t communicate well. Our personalities were too similar. Opposites attract.

Deep down I knew it was inevitable. That it wouldn’t work. One night she called me and we talked and cried and expressed what we had repressed for so long and at the end of the conversation I asked, “Did we just break up?”

“I think so.”

June 7, 2014

Me: I’m coming to Australia. Kerri and I just broke up so I have nothing here for me.

June 9, 2014

Me: i dont know what the fuck im doing man this has been the craziest week of my life. i just want to get out of here for as long as possible

Josh: man i get what u are saying before i came over my life was going fucking insane an honestly this place has given me an incredible amount of self worth and purpose plus i got to get away from the most fucked up situation in my life. to me this place is an eden man its perfect i get that u don’t really know what is good for u but this place…. its perfect if u focus urself on coming over here it will be rewarding in more ways than u can count i promise

I felt so lost at this point. Josh was my best friend and he told me he found paradise. I would be crazy not to trust him. Reading back on our conversation I realize that everything he said was right. Alice Springs is good for the soul. Especially for someone who was content with spending a total of three hours and $15 a day to catch the bus to the train to arrive at an unpaid internship for a United States Congressman. Life is easy in Alice Springs. The arid heat, the diverse travelers, the hardened locals, the misunderstood Aboriginals. Transplant anyone, from anywhere, there for a year and they will grow into a better, more complete person.

Walking around the outback with Josh on my first day in Australia. June 22, 2014.
Walking around the outback with Josh on my first day in Australia. June 22, 2014.

I realize now that being forced out of my childhood home — the most difficult decision a parent can make — was the best thing my dad has ever done for me. He gave me a beautiful gift: Freedom.

I remember walking through the kitchen checking for any leftover possessions. The kitchen where years ago my Father, Mother, older Brother, baby Sister and I recorded a home video of a peaceful Saturday morning making scrambled eggs and bacon with smiling faces and laughter. I will never be with family like that until I have my own wife, children, house, scrambled eggs and bacon.

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Those carefree days are gone.

I stood in that kitchen for the last time and thought about the far off possibility of going to Australia. I felt an incredible wave of euphoria pass over me. The Past Sean on his last day in Ireland knew exactly what Future Sean would want. Now the Present Sean is in New Zealand wandering fields with cows and sheep still thinking the same thing: Where will I be in two weeks or two months or two years?