Trusted reader, you’ve followed my journey this far. And now you ask, what is in store for Chris Healy from this point forward?
I’m leaving Chile today.
Whoops, I started writing this post six weeks ago.
I’ll be in Mendoza, Argentina for one week. It’s a city just on the eastern edge of the Andes, the second highest mountain range in the world only behind the Himalayas, and only XXX miles from the XXX tallest mountain in the world. Famous for wine, horseback riding, hiking and other outdoorsy stuff, it should be a nice week. From there I head to Buenos Aires, where I’ll be. I’m trying to work a trip to El Calafate in the far south of Argentina and gateway to Los Glaciones National Park. Whether or not that works out I’ll be back in Buenos Aires by November 4th, where Jennifer is coming to meet me for a week. Buenos Aires is supposed to be a fantastic place We also hope to take a trip to Iguazu Falls. I’ll leave Argentina and head to Peru. Hope to do Machu Piccu, perhaps skip over into Boliva for a week, but considering where I’m at now I’m not sure if that’s going to happen. I’m leaving Peru today. I left Peru yesterday. For the sake of getting this post live, I’ll have to fill you in on Peru and Bolivia next time, but for now I’ll just tell you they were both phenomenal.
In one hour I’m flying to Panama City (in first class). From there I’ll attempt to share a taxi with someone from the airport to the Gran Terminal de Transporte Albrook, where I’ll further attempt to procure a ticket for an overnight bus to Bocas del Toro. Bocas is a small tropical island town and popular tourist destination where I plan to snorkel, chill out on the beach, reflect over the past 11 months and prepare the for next three. My last little vacation, if you will.
**It worked. I’m here now, posting this.**
After four days in Bocas I’ll head back to Panama City, where Sheila and Kay – not to be confused with Sheila Kay – my mom and grandma, are going to meet me for five days. You see my great grandfather Robinson worked on the Panama Canal, during which my grandma Kay lived in Panama as a young child for several years. We intend to explore some of our family roots and heritage and spend the week together.
With mom and grandma leaving on December 15, I’ll have two more days on my own in Panama. This is going to be an interesting time for me, and I’m certain to experience a some mixed emotions.
Because on December 17, my 31st birthday, I will return to the United States of America. I’ll first fly into Miami where I’ll stay for a night, with plans to visit both Kennan Torgerson, a Sigma Nu Brother of mine from Fresno State, as well as Audie James Brown, a Sigma Nu from Bradford University in Peoria, Illinois, who was an intern at Sigma Nu HQ during my first year on staff.
On December 18 I’ll fly from Miami to Charlottesville, VA, from where I’ll (hopefully) be picked up by some familiar faces for the one-hour drive down to Lexington, home of Sigma Nu Fraternity Headquarters, my former employer of nearly seven years.
I’ve though a great deal about Sigma Nu this year, working for the national office, and what it meant to me over the years. The job itself, the guys I worked with – most of whom will be dear friends for life – the team atmosphere, my old boss, the autonomy I had in my job, the great people who I met along the way and the opportunity to travel across my beautiful country and live the business travel. It was a life-shaping experience for me, working for Sigma Nu, and I have have a lot to be thankful for in that regard. It was the most important time of my life, and I’ll cherish it forever. So you can imagine how thrilled I am to be going back there.
After four days in Sexy Lexy I’ll head up to DC to visit my cousin Brian, who I stayed with in Japan – check that, Brian will already be in California by then, so I’ll stay in Lexington as long as I can before going up to DC for my next flight.
On December 23, 2012, four days short of 11 months, and barring significant weather delays like the Blizzard of ’09, I will fly from Washington Dulles to the San Francisco International Airport, direct, in business class, ending my journey around the world.
There my dad and my 11-and-12-year-old brothers will be waiting for me. We’ll spend the day in the city, enjoying some festive holiday spirt, listening to Nat King Cole and maybe even going for an ice skate in Union Square. I can’t wait to see the lights and decorations, and breathe the crisp California December air.
I’ll spend a few days with the Healy family in Stockton before going to my mom and step-dad’s house in Sunnyvale, where I grew up and went to high school. Here I’ll see most of the Young side of the family and hopefully some of my friends from high school.
On December 27 I’ll drive back to SFO (IN MY OWN CAR!!!!) to pick up the one and only Maciek Wcislik who is flying in for X10…in 3D: “It All Comes Down to This,” and a subsequent tour through California. From the airport we’ll drive directly to my house Fresno, CA, which I’m as pumped about as anything else. There is something special about a man and his home. This will be exciting but short-lived, as the X10 crew will be rendezvousing in Fresno for immediate departure to Lake Tahoe the following morning. 5-days of epicness will ensue.
After X10 I’m taking Maciek on a nearly-all-inclusive trip through the Golden State, with stops back in Fresno (including the Red Wave, Friday’s, Dog House Grill and other favorites, as well as a proper homecoming/football party at 6468), San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Sunnyvale and back to San Francisco. Whew.
After sending Maciek back to Poland (via New York) I’ll spend a few more days in Sunnyvale, then a week or ten days with my dad and brothers in Stockton. From there back to Fresno for another week leading up to the Super Bowl (all while trying to ski as much as possible having missed nearly all of last season), after which I plan to move, temporarily to start with, to San Diego. WHEW.
These plans I’ll divulge at present, but all this excitement begs a question:
What’s it going to be like coming back to the US?
Some travelers talk about a sense of “reverse culture shock” returning home. That it’s weird, that they can no longer relate, that they feel unsettled or anxious or even unhappy.
Well I can tell you right now it’s going to be just fine. Like the story of another traveler making it home after her trip of 13 months, I do not anticipate any such problems.
In fact, it’s going to be incredible. I can’t recall having felt such anticipation. And there will be a lot of emotions.
Seeing my friends and family, my house, my car, my dog, all the familiar sights and sounds and things and people I’ve missed so dearly, while at the same time reconciling with the fact that it is all over….it’s going to be a time like I’ve never experienced before – the closest probably being the two months before I left.
The truth is, I miss home. A lot. Halloween and Thanksgiving passed by, rather sadly, almost without notice. Now it’s Christmas-time, my favorite time of year, and I’m starting to see Christmas trees and decorations here and there and I even heard “Feliz Navidad” today on my way to the airport in the local microbus. But it’s late spring/early summer here, and it doesn’t feel right. I should be seeing my breath, waxing my skis, getting my Christmas tree, decorating my house and wrapping presents while listening to Bing Crosby and drinking egg nog, with cheer. It should be cold and snowing outside, with a fire burning in the proverbial hearth.
It’s time for me to come home. And I’m almost there.
I wrote these words back in April or May:
I do really look forward to getting back to the US, and to California, and to life. The problem is, I don’t have anything to go back to…yet. I’m not going back to my old job. And unless I want to go and find a job, there is nothing there for me.
I have to earn my way back home.
Six months later, the question has been put: what am I going to do?
Before leaving, and for many months into my trip, my plan had been to come back to the United States and start a new career in sales, ideally in the high-tech/software industry. At the same time I had aspirations of going into business for myself eventually, but that it would be easiest to get home, get a job (with benefits and packages and etc.), get the income flowing again and quickly recover from a year without earning. Later I’ll have time to think about my own projects. Pretty sensible.
And it appears there is opportunity for me: I’ve been offered a sales position at a software company in San Diego, starting in January.
However, over the last two months in particular, my thoughts have been drawn elsewhere. Right now I have a blank sheet of paper, a fresh start to do anything. What has this year meant for me, and how has it shaped my future? What am I going to make of my life? What do I really want to do?
I turned down the job offer. Respectfully, and with all gratitude, of course.
I’m afraid my path isn’t going to lead up the corporate ladder. I’m not denouncing it by any means, it’s just not going to be the right fit for me.
I’ve resolved to build my own independent career, beginning with the book I am now writing, inspired by my adventure around the world.
It’s not because I’m afraid of hard work. On the contrary, I know this decision will necessitate exceptionally hard work.
So why pass on such an opportunity?
There are several reasons which I’ll share, but the most compelling is this: the things that are important to me are too important to me. For example:
I have a strong sense that a good friend in Malaysia is going to get married in the next couple of years. I’m going to go there, and I’m not going to fly to Malaysia for a three-day weekend. I’m going to spend a month or two in southeast Asia, and I’m not going to burn all of my vacation time for the next seven years doing it.
I want to visit Lexington as least once a year and play in the Lexington Golf and Country Club Member-Guest Tournament.
When my friends invite me for an epic ski trip or a bro-weekend in Vegas, I want to say yes.
I want to explore the United States with more earnest, and especially my beloved homeland of California.
I want to drive from San Diego to Patagonia.
I want to grab my gear and smash up to the mountain on a perfect mid-week powder day.
I want to live a life of extraordinary learning, and leading, and teaching, and helping others.
I want to have significant and meaningful time to spend with my family – not just nights and weekends and short vacations.
I want to have time and freedom.
I want my work to make my life possible; not my life make my work possible.
I’m also going to be earning several hundred thousand frequent flyer miles in the next few months, and I intend on having the time to redeem them for future travels around the world. More on that later.
It would be far easier and much more comfortable to get a well-paying job that comes with stability, benefits, and the security of having a regular income – and trust me, those things sound very appealing right now.
But I know in exchange for those comforts I’ll have to give up the freedom to do all of these things – not entirely, but to a considerable degree. After having a job for seven years where I worked mostly from home, and with more flexibility than probably 75% of jobs in the US, followed by 11 months of traveling the world and ultimate freedom….I can’t do it. I won’t do it.
Finally, if I start a job now, it would be too easy to start making money and get trapped, and never realize my dream to make it for myself. And that would not be ok.
While it sounds like a sensible option and a safer bet – and it well might be – my heart says no.
Besides, I’ll be 31 years old in 12 days. If I’m going to go for it on my own, why spend two or three or five years doing something else first? Why not get this thing going and see what happens? There is no better time. Let’s get this show on the road.
So, after the re-entry dust settles, my sole unrelenting focus will fall on the writing and production, publication and promotion of my book, “What I Learned.” Beyond that I have a few other projects in mind that I intend to pursue, but the first step will be the biggest and the most important.
After sharing my plans with him a fellow traveler said to me, “you sound very optimistic.” I’ll concede that maybe I’m naïve and overly-optimistic; perhaps it won’t work out, and I’ll learn the hard way that it’s tougher than I expected.
Well, if it comes to that, I’ll get a job. I’m thinking about the worst things that could possibly happen, and none of those things are really that bad.
But that’s not what’s going to happen. I believe there is limitless opportunity, and that I’ve got what it takes to win. And I’m going to make it.
And you could probably make it too, if you really wanted it.
But I’ll wait to see how things go for me before getting on the self-employment bandwagon. For now, maybe just think about how you might do it, what it might be like, and what you would do with your life if…
Not to suggest you’re not happy with where you are. I’m lucky to have a lot of friends and family who are. Just consider, once again:
You can go anywhere; you can do anything; you can be whoever you want to be.
It’s up to you.
I don’t know what they’re going to say about me when it’s all over (assuming anyone says anything); but I know what they’re not going to say:
“Chris Healy, he played it safe.”
He went for it.
Look for new information about the book in the New Year. In the meantime, you know where I’ll be. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride with me.
May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?