Entry #001: Friday, April 5, 2013 (Los Angeles)

About a month ago, I was lucky enough to find a journal in some of my old storage. I used to keep a lot of physical journals, like a set I wrote in everyday for my first year of college. But this one goes back to when I was sixteen years old, and I specifically wanted to find it before leaving on this walkabout. It was from a 2-3 week period when I was visiting my sister in Mozambique (she was working in the Peace Corps). I particularly enjoyed the first entry.
3/31/04, 8:34am (California Time), 37000 ft over Palm Springs -
As I begin my flight over this spit of land we call the United States, I reflect on why I am leaving my school, my home, my friends, and most of my family to travel to the Motherland Africa. Is it just to visit my sister, whom I would have seen by the end of the year anyway? Or is there something more? Is there something about the Motherland that makes me, that makes anyone, leave their old life behind to fly through the air at almost 1 mile every seven seconds? I think so, but what? Perhaps it is because the Motherland is the Cradle of Life, the Cradle of Humanity. After all, every child secretly yearns to return to the cradle.
And that's just the first paragraph. It went on and on like this for pages. Just the most overwrought, pretentious, romanticized tripe that my high school brain could think of. It was also completely out of touch with reality. I was a suburban, middle-class white boy with no real-world experience, and I was setting myself up to have some sort of dream vacation. Flash forward a couple days in my journal, and the entries began reading more like the following (and this part is paraphrased):
This sucks! I'm sunburned all over, and I think I might have heat stroke! There's bugs everywhere! I'm covered in mosquito bites! We don't have hot running water! I can't enjoy my normal hobbies here! Everything is unpleasant! I hate it! I'm not happy! I wanna go home!
And this continued for about two weeks. Just bitching and bitching and bitching. And I blame that primarily on the fact that I created this fantasy in my mind that the real world could not possibly live up to. Straight up, I ruined the vacation for myself before I even arrived. It wasn't until about two days before I had to leave Mozambique that I turned a mental corner, realized that you can't let the hardships bring you down, and started legitimately enjoying my stay there. Then I had to leave.

I was reminded of all this, I'd say, back in December, when people started asking me, "You excited yet?! Can't wait to go yet?! You ready for this?!" And while I was (and am) indeed excited, I wanted to temper my way of looking at it. After all, I'm not leaving for two weeks; I'm leaving for a year, and the last thing I want to do is overhype it - to romanticize it so much - that I just disappoint myself when I face some less-than-ideal circumstances. I also have the advantage of being a different person than I was a decade ago, so I can ideally take in those foibles with good humor.

And I have no doubt those foibles will occur. And I equally have no doubt I'll bring them up. All I can ask is that if I start sounding like that bitching 16-year-old Andrew, I hope that somebody gives me a slap on the face, either digitally or physically (proximity permitting).


  1. Good luck Andrew! You're certainly doing something that I don't know if I would have the courage to do. Just seeing your immunization card was enough to make me queasy! I suppose though that it's a small price to pay for this experience.

    One thing though - "this spit of land?" How un'merican! Why, back then I was out there...oh...oh yeah, protesting and stuff. Guess I can't be too critical. Uhh, with that, enjoy your final weekend in the good ol' U.S. of A!


    PS. WOOT WOOT! First comment!

  2. Good luck buddy. I'm liking the blog already. Looking forward to living.vicariously through you for.the next year.