Pull up the anchor, raise the sail, head off that way where the wind blows. That was the beginning of the poem I wrote before I began my year-long unobstructed journey throughout Europe. Unfortunately I can’t remember all the lines, but I do remember that it ended by saying life and death dance together. In my preparation for this unobstructed journey I consulted my wise old brother for recommended readings to supplement my visual and touchable observations. He provided me with a large list of books by period and topic – all Penguin classics of course. And when I say classics, I am of course talking about pre-Christ and pre-industrial revolution. Some of the books would be a re-read from my liberal arts education in undergraduate, but books can mean different things at different stages or mindsets during our life. I fit all my clothes into a back pack, but the books I purchased filled two sport-sized duffel bags that probably weighed forty pounds each. Oh, the weight of past knowledge was immense!
I have used the term “unobstructed journey” often in the above paragraph and other posts. What I mean by this is that I wouldn’t have to be concerned with making money. I wouldn’t have to endure working five days to make a buck and then call upon my reserve energy on a weekend or short vacation to engage in higher and more bountiful endeavors. If you are honest with yourself, the need to make money expends and drains your energy leaving you with nothing but fumes to pursue what you really would like to pursue. Rare is the man or woman who can refute this maxim. But, to be clear, my freedom was restricted by two aspects. First, I had to watch my funds and as such I decided to live in hostels and holes in the wall so that I could splurge on good food, wine, and cultural excursions to museums and concerts. Second, the money would run out so there was certainly a time constriction on this journey. Notice the common limitation? Who created money? Man.
My travels included three months in Paris, two months in Austria (Salzburg and Vienne), three months in Italy (Rome, Florence, and Venice), and the remainder in Greece on the Island of Santorini. In Paris, my focus was the museums which I would combine with reading material that aligned with the art and architecture I would observe. I also began writing my thoughts based on what I was learning, thinking, and observing. I applied the same program to my time in Italy. In Austria, I tended to focus more on music of the likes of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Greece was used as a means to decompress and begin to summarize my thoughts and learning and apply it to my purpose in life going forward. Of course in Greece I focused on works from the great philosophers and epic poets born from that ancient flower.
Greece or Santorini was really the pinnacle of the excursion for it was at this place that I began to reflect on my future purpose. I still remember the ferry ride from Italy to Greece. I had enjoyed a great meal and drink while I awaited the ferry. My mind was so supple and alive from the last eight months. Once aboard the ferry and under way, I vividly remember the wind blowing in my face, the smells, the clouds, and the color of the blue Mediterranean. Such a feeling of freedom and clarity have I rarely known. I was a very different person from whom I was and whom I am. My hair had grown quite long with blonde streaks from so much time outside in the parks and wandering the city streets. My skin had a golden glow. My mind was clear and supple. My spirit was relatively open and free. My body was lean and strong. Once I landed on Santorini, I made a cave hostel my home. The cave-like hostel was drilled into a mountain equipped with beds, bathroom, and a couple that served us meals outside of the cave. I could walk to cafes and restaurants or take a bus to the beach where I would take long powerful swims in the Mediterranean. I met many people and realized I wasn’t such a brave man for taking a year out my life to travel with relative freedom. Many Australians travel for up to two years and the culture actually embraces such an excursion.
My three months in Greece was both fruitful and tragic. The fruitful piece was that I had finally decided how I wanted to expend the rest of my energy in this life. I had decided to become a landscape and sky scape photographer and also approach human subjects that reflected the beauty of past and present achievements. I knew that I wasn’t a deep intellectual, or a talented writer, or skilled with my hands in painting or sculpture, or a god-like composer of music, but I also knew I had a great eye for observation and a talent for merging deep feeling with the sublime moment nature often reveals. I also love to be outside amongst nature and detest being locked in doors. I feel so free and alive when I am outside amongst beauty, and the opposite when the walls of humanity close me in. The tragic piece was that women found me attractive. I had never been a playboy and preferred long-term and meaningful relationships. But, these women were like sirens and I didn’t have the discipline to walk the other way. As such, I expended resources beyond my means to enjoy food and drink at incredibly beautiful spots. I expended resources on villas overlooking the beautiful sunsets. This weakness of mine led to the conclusion of this short breath of freedom. Resources had dried up and it was time to return to America. The time had come to begin my new-found purpose in life and leave the sirens behind.