Tuesday, February 28, 2012


As I enter my fifth month in Europe, I realize I am quite fortunate compared to the hostel-dwelling denizens who pass through these cities for only a day or two at a time. Of course, they are freer than I am, free to travel to any number of countries on a whim, financially secure in the knowledge that a life (and, often, a job) awaits them back in the U.S., or Britain, or wherever else they hail. For a few months after they return home their bank accounts will sting, but eventually those temporarily lightened wallets will bulk up and, as the jet-lag and the memories fade, these people will gracefully segue back into the worlds they were born into and are most comfortable.

I envy such travelers because they are often young and full of unbounded energy. They live life two or three times harder than I do, as if impelled by some biological force that reminds them that, if life isn't always short, youth certainly is, and youth is its own valuable currency. They stay out past 3 AM every night spending it, share rooms with five or more other people—at least one of whom snores terribly—and recklessly cram as many life experiences as possible into 36 or 48 hour cycles. They experience two sensations as a result: 1) the romantic feeling of being in a lucid dream as they wander the rain-slicked streets of Paris after four hours of sleep, and 2) some extremely painful hangovers.

For some, the hangovers become worse later in life, when the older versions of themselves reflect on the good times they had way-back-when and start to hear the siren call, as I did, inviting them to return for another round of drinks and adventure that might even exceed the intensity of those bouts enjoyed during those earlier days of youthful inebriation.

Today, I am a participant (an admittedly minor one, but nonetheless) in life here, as opposed to a garrulous bird migrating through for a day or two, squawking over drinks with similar transient species while the native pigeons putter about, tiredly serving beers to that colorful foreign flock while entertaining escape fantasies of their own.

I live between two worlds, half native pigeon, half exotic transient. Call me an exotic pigeon, perhaps. Sure, it's silly, but it fits my epic metaphor. And every day and night that I go out I realize that at any moment some unexpected gale may blow me irrevocably in the direction of one of those worlds or the other.