2017 in Places

Another year, another few stories to tell.

One of my favorite posts I wrote last year was 2016 in Places, a meditation on a year of movement.

I started that post with this sentence:

“As I go into 2017, I’m faced with a big choice: do I choose to keep chasing places, for another little while, or is it time to settle down and devote myself to enhancing my relationships with people?”

As you’ll see, I ended up choosing places. Places gave me a lot this year. I leave 2017 with a greater breadth of stories and experiences. But my feeling is 2018 will be defined by people. We will see.

For now, here’s what happened to me in 2017.

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Traveling with a Bleeding Heart

And she said losing love 
Is like a window in your heart 
Everybody sees you’re blown apart 

Paul Simon, “Graceland”

I had a woman in Medellin. Or maybe she had me.

That’s ok. That’s how things go when you’re on the road. Backpacker hostels: young, vibrant, full of energy and alcohol and interesting new people. It’s almost bound to happen — if you’re the type of person to go in for that sort of stuff. Or even if you’re not.

After all, you can be anyone on the road.

Except if you’re actively publishing a memoir of emotional devastation.

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Reading “The Alchemist” in Spanish

My review of Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist is one of my most popular posts. The Alchemist is one of my favorite books; I connect deeply with the message. I feel that it was introduced to me at a pivotal moment in my life — the message appeared exactly when I needed to hear it.

Last summer, a good friend’s long-term girlfriend handed me a copy of The Alchemist. They’re both engineers, based in Seattle. They were making great money, lived in a modern apartment with a magnificent view, and seemed to be doing great. “It’s my favorite book,” the girlfriend told me as she handed me the book. She longed for travel, like I had done.

Mt. Rainer loomed in the distance, visible from their apartment window. The boyfriend spoke of climbing it next summer. I thought that sounded fun. But you could tell, it wasn’t the girlfriend’s dream.

I was just back from extended travel in Asia. I was unemployed, emotionally devastated, and unsure of what to do with my life. I had been home for two months, floating around from friend to friend, spending my days mostly sleeping and trying to make sense of everything I had learned from breaking up with my girlfriend in the Hong Kong airport, and going on to Nepal. I was spending money recklessly, including coming out to Seattle for just a weekend. Chasing my dreams had, in a very real way, destroyed my life.

If there is a better time to be handed a book about the power and importance of following your dreams, I don’t know when it would be.

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