The Greatest Hug

Let me tell you a story.  Like any great love story this involves a boy and a girl, but what makes this story great is the risk taken for a chance encounter.

In a Galaxy far far away, on a planet called earth a young boy was enduring harsh training in the scorching lands of Georgia to become an instrument of death.  Meanwhile at the same time a young lady was enduring harsh training in the land of Texas to become an instrument to save lives.

Two individuals with two different missions who shared a love for each other, but were separated because they had decided to answer their country’s call.

For four months the only form of communication was through hand written letters.  By this point the sorrow of missing the other person was so great that the boy decided to take a huge risk.

During Airborne school (where they teach you to jump out of planes) he saw an opportunity to see the girl he loved.  It was a small window, with a huge risk, and minimal room for error

For the first time during his training he was allowed to have a weekend off, Saturday and Sunday.  He would be released Saturday morning and would have to be back Sunday evening right before dinner.  He was ordered to stay within the city limits and by no means could he leave the state.  If caught severe punishment would ensued and his career to join an elite group of men would be over.

The young lady would have the weekend off as well, but she would have to be back later that evening.  If everything worked out as planned they would have maybe 8 hours together.

And so the day came.  The boy had everything booked and packed the day prior just like they had taught him, to always be ready to move at a second’s notice.  Upon release he did not run but walked with a quick pace as to not raise suspicion.  He grabbed his small backpack and rushed to the airport which was an hour and a half away.  The whole time he kept his head low and avoided anyone in uniform.

Traffic was good and he made it to the airport on time.  Plane was on time and departed on schedule.  He landed in Atlanta and rushed towards the arrival gate.  Till this point Aphrodite was on their side till out comes his phone to contact his love but nothing, no missed phone call, no text, no voicemail.  His calls and text messages go unanswered.  She should have been released by now.

On his way to the hotel he finally receives a message.  The instructors were delaying the release and had threatened to cancel their weekend pass.

Fuck.

He can sense her frustration through her messages, and he too was frustrated, but he stayed hopeful and told her everything would work out.

Two hours after the original release time, they were finally let go.  She raised to downtown San Antonio.

He waited for her at the hotel entrance anxiously waiting for her to show up, and then finally it happened.  Imagine this scene happening in slow motion because this is how he remembers it.

She gets out the cab first looking in the direction he was not facing.  She turns her head towards his direction with her brown hair flying through the air seemingly missing her face.  She sees him and a frown turns into a smile.  She runs towards him with watery eyes and he catches her in his arms and an unforgettable hug is forever etched into his memory followed by a kiss that will last a lifetime.

At that very moment their world was complete and everything around them had vanished.

At that moment he thought, this is it, I’m never parting from her again.  Unfortunately, it did not work out that way.  He parted from her 3 more times on deployments, and finally several years later life decided that this love story had to end.

Ultimately they spent maybe 6 hours together with a cost of around $800 USD in cab rides, plane and hotel fare.  Was it worth it?

ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY

So why do I tell you this story?  Well first of it’s a great fucking story.  Secondly to encourage folks to take risks, it’s so fucking worth it even if it doesn’t work out in the end.  It will take you in many different directions you never thought were possible.  Shit, you might find yourself globetrotting hahaha!  Like the Amalfi story, my friends told me to take the risk because it would make for an interesting story and they were right. Hmmm, maybe I should write that story too (insert pondering emoji here).

EXCLAIMER: In no way was this story told to rekindle anything with the ex.  Don’t get shit twisted people

 

A Common Story

There is a common story amongst travelers, a story of risk that results in an expansion of something in your chest.  These stories revolve around those we meet and the sudden spark that happens.  These are my favorite type of stories, and every traveler has one.  How each one starts and evolves is different but how they end is ever so common.

My biggest advice for you is take the risk, and although it made not result in what you hoped, it will make for the most interesting story on your trip.

So how does it start. Very simple, like a story straight out of a book.  Two individuals meet in a foreign place.  The initiation is simple, “Hello, I’m (fill in the blank).

Two people from different worlds, different languages, different cultures, yet your conversations flow endlessly to a rhythm that never loses beat.

Day turns into night and you discover more about each other.  You begin to notice little details that make you more attracted to them. The wrinkle above her nose when she smiles.  His contagious laugh.

You both act coy, trying not to seem overly interested and even though others seek your attention you continuously engage in conversation with each other, eager to learn more about this perfect stranger.

Nothing is ever set in stone and even when a night is looking promising either party can still ruin these perfect moments.  The fact that we don’t know what the other person is thinking is what makes this ever so interesting and exciting.

Finally, the night is coming to a close, do I make a move or do I simply say good night.  Is he going to make a move?  Maybe he’s not interested.  Maybe I should just say goodnight.

The intensity builds up, you ago against your fears and kiss her.  She kisses you back.

The next morning you are asleep next to a perfect stranger.  Your arms around each other, finding yourself strangely comfortable.  You’ve been here before with an individual you’ve known for years, but this time you’ve only know this person for 24 hours.

A perfect sleep is ruined by a screeching alarm clock.  Reality sets in.  It’s time to go, your flight leaves in 2 hours, but then a strange thought hits you, “Maybe I should stay”.

You motion ever so gently to turn off the alarm clock and not wake her.  You failed.

She lays there and wonders, “Is he going to leave? Maybe he’ll stay”.

You make up your mind, “this is ludicrous, I’m staying the course……but maybe just maybe”

You lie there and watch him pack his bags reminding you that you both have different destinations, different paths, and different futures.

Neither wants this to end and both wish there was more time but they accept what it is, a perfect 24 hours, why ruin it.

They look at each other one last time, both hold back what they really want to say, “Stay!”, “I’m staying!”.

He kisses her goodbye.

All good things must come to an end, regardless if it last 24 hours or several days.  Both parties remain in contact, but eventually communication seizes as they return to their routine lives’.  Their moment together becomes a faint memory, but it will never disappear.

But every once in a while a song, an artifact, or a joke will remind them of each other and they smile is brought to their face.  They wonder, “I wonder what she/he is doing”.  They snap back to reality when their friend asks them, “What are you smiling about silly?”.  They respond, “Nothing….so what are we drinking?”

By now you are probably wondering if this has happened to me or if this story is directly from my own experience.  Perhaps, or maybe it belongs to a friend, really it’s a story that belongs to all us but in many different variations.  There are of course so many more details to this story that make it more intriguing and humorous, but I try to keep my blog posts short so I don’t lose your interest.

I have yet to hear a story that has ended differently, and although the ending is not what you want to hear, every traveler treasures these memories.  You can see it in their eyes and hear it in the enthusiasm of their voice.  This is why these are my favorite stories to hear, because they are real, touching, adventurous and straight risky.  Traveling exposes us to these experiences and trust me it will happen to you, it might even happen more than once.

Good luck out there fellow travelers, safe travels and don’t be afraid to take a risk.

 

Operation Echo

Nearly a year ago life suddenly changed and all of my objectives changed along with it. I was no longer pursuing a career in physical therapy, and I was no longer working towards achieving a family of my own. I was alone for the first time in eight years with no goals to achieve or path to follow. This is when I wrote “Op Echo” on my white board. A long term goal I was hoping to achieve within two years. Op Echo is code for Europe trip and the beginning of a new adventure.

The famous white board.  Upward right corner
The famous white board. Upward right corner

I wrote it in code because I didn’t want anyone to know what I was planning, at least not till it became official. I’m sure my roommates and anyone who visited the house was confused by all the hidden objectives I wrote on my white board. I felt like I might jinx it if everyone knew, especially since I was so far away from this goal. I didn’t even have a job at this point to fund this trip, but it felt good to have this hidden objective to myself, it was the one thing that to put a smile on my face every time it popped in my head.

Op Echo started out as a dream, my first actual goal that benefits only me. People are calling this a life changing experience, “a real adventure” as my school counselor said. I’ll give it a title when it’s over and done with and I return home, but according to my friend Sergio, “bro, your not coming back.” This son of a bitch is already making arrangements to move into my room. He thinks this because I have a one way ticket, but I promise I will come back, I just don’t know when exactly. This was a trip I’ve always had in the back of mind. The original plan was to visit Europe and all of it’s historical battlefields. This is still an objective I plan on completing but I don’t necessarily think I will accomplish it this time around.

Building towards this goal was a slow start. I needed to find a job, a new school, and roommates first. At this point surviving was priority. After these things were accomplished, life began to pick up steam and so did the dream. As I began to meet new people, I found that some shared the same dream as me, but very few were working towards it, it was simply a dream they hoped would fall into their laps, except for one. She was one my first motivators.

Then came a coworker who told me a sad story. Her friend’s mom was a successful real estate agent when the market was doing well. She was working her ass off so that she could enjoy her efforts in a later time. She did this for years, not taking any time off to enjoy herself. Finally when she had reached her desired goal and it was finally time to start traveling and enjoying her hard work, she was diagnosed with cancer. She died a couple months later. She had the same mentality as me, “work hard, play later”. This is a mistake. There was no balance in this poor women’s life. Work will always be there but some life experiences we need to snatch up while we have the chance. It is important to balance work and personal time. During this time I was dealing with the possibility of having an aneurysm growing in my head, so this story scared me shitless. Since then I have done a well job of balancing my major stressors such as work, school, and taking care of mom, with personal time that includes small trips, writing and music.

By this point almost everything was pushing me towards this trip, but at the same time I was still planning other small trips because the Europe trip was still a distance away. Another motivator is a friend who is stationed in Italy, therefore I began to map my trip around Italy. Then came the drive to the bart station.

In January I spent a single Sunday morning talking to this amazing girl about her travels. She came from a world where the majority of her friends were travelers, and although she had done plenty herself, she did not see herself as one. She’s been to Europe and backpacked through Peru and most of South America. I spent all morning picking her brain and trying not to embarrass myself. As she drove me to BART a song came on her playlist. It went a little like this, “My house in Budapest, my hidden treasure chest, golden grand piano my beautiful Castillo, you, you, leave it all”. I was instantly hooked. As I said my goodbye this song stuck in my head. I found the artist and downloaded his album. George Ezra’s album was inspired by his trips through Europe, hence some of the song titles in his album; Budapest, Barcelona, Blind Man in Amsterdam, and Da Vinci Riot Police. This album became the soundtrack to my future trip. It’s been four months and I’m still not sick of this album, but I’m pretty sure my roommates are, since I play it every morning. Budapest is now one of my primary locations that I will visit.

On a random day a couple shows up to buy furniture for their new apartment at my work. As I assisted them I noticed that at certain points they spoke Spanish to each other. I began to converse in Spanish with them, even though we could easily communicate in English. This made them feel more comfortable and made me more relatable. As we began to get to know each other I learned that they were a Spanish couple from Spain. I had already identified this since all of the Spaniards I have met talk with a lisps. I mentioned I was going to Europe and that Spain would be one of my stops. “Any suggestions I asked?” Over an hour later I had two pages of hand written places to eat, drink and see. They gave me the hidden gems to the country. I went from planning to spend a week in spain, to two weeks in locations I hadn’t even thought of.

Back to the drawing board I went. My white board did not have enough space to write down all the notes and advice I had received, so I bought a cork board and began to fill it with anything Europe related. I spent an entire Saturday at work mapping my route. I didn’t focus on customers all day. It was a shitty day to purchase furniture but a great day for me because I finalized my route. There is still much planning to be done as I continue to receive more information from people who have been there. Till today I continue to revise my route, especially now that I bumped up the date. This trip couldn’t come any sooner but I’m glad I have some time because there is much more money to be made.

Work almost held me back from this goal when I was considered for a management position. Two months as a sales associate and I’m being considered for a management position, I must be doing something right. Unfortunately I did not get the job. Policy states that I need to be with the company for a year before I can take a management position. My age also frighten them a bit. I guess it’s uncommon for a 28 year old to be running a furniture business. So they went with someone else who quit four days after being hired. He told me he wasn’t qualified for the job and that he needed to do some soul searching. In my head I was thinking, “bro, this is the easiest job in the world. I’ll help you with the retarded IT system. It’s confusing and kind of worthless but it’s not rocket science.” I chuckled and then I felt bad. Poor bastard was properly intimidated with the amount of information he needed to soak up.

The clock is ticking and I will soon have to inform my management team that I will be leaving. I’m going to miss that place. I executed a similar strategy as I did in the military; I established a fake criminal organization as a joke to bond with my fellow coworkers. Our rival gang is IKEA, and if for some reason I didn’t make it into work, it was because IKEA gangsters gunned me down. I know it’s stupid and it properly doesn’t make sense to you, but it’s quite comical when your involved in it, and it’s a good way to bond with your coworkers. I even got some of my leadership involved.

There is one last thing that could derail this plan, a possible job opportunity. A friend has been trying to help me get into a really good job with an energy company. I think we’ve been trying for 3 years. Finally we gain some momentum when I get invited to take a test to see if I qualify for the position. I haven’t gotten the test results back yet or been offered a job but I don’t want to choose between Europe and this job. When I asked a group of adults what I should do, they all said in unison, “You take the job!” I kind of jumped back, not a single supporter for the Europe trip in the 50 and above age group. The smart move would be to take the job if it is offered, but I’m not going to lie, I’m leaning towards the trip. I’m not afraid to come home jobless, broke and have to start over. I’m a bright kid, I’ll figure it out. If you know me, you know I got shit in the works that I haven’t revealed, so you know not to worry about me. The only reason I question this decision that I might have to make is that I would be letting a friend down. A friend from the ex-wife’s side who has remained in contact, and continues to help me out. If the time comes, I’ll assemble the council over some beers and see what they suggest. Hopefully some divine power will make this decision for me but we’ll see. Till then I continue to move forward with Operation Echo. Everyday is a day closer towards backpacking in mother fucking Europe! Cue the music, “Give me one good reason why I should never make a change. Baby if you hold me than all of this will go away.”-George Ezra