As I write this article, I’m sitting in the room I grew up in. I spent the first fourteen years of my life in this rickety old house before I shipped myself off to boarding school. If history proves anything, it’s that I have a track record of getting out of dodge. It’s never been easy for me to stay in one place; I actually attended two high schools and four universities. So it wasn’t all voluntary, but it’s not like I’m known to stick around.
Before I left home I held a reputable position at a very reputable company here in Boston. But, the recession had just hit, my salary was about two-thirds of what it should have been, and I could see the rest of my life disappearing down a computer screen and swallowed up by the endless array of cubicles I was destined to spend my adult years inhabiting. After not being able to study abroad (due to extenuating circumstances I won’t publicly disclose on the internet), I had this crazy idea to go travel on my own terms. This was a much scarier notion, considering my choice destination was on the other side of the world. There was something about Australia that drew me to it. Nothing could possibly be farther away and I was intrigued by the idea of hiking through the outback, wrestling crocodiles and swinging from vines in the jungle.
So most of those things didn’t happen, but I did know that I couldn’t prepare myself in any way for the journey that was about to ensue. I was ready to learn about life, to live on my own terms and do some fairly awesome things along the way, but I couldn’t fathom what I would inevitably do and discover. I put my game face on, packed a single backpack, and left town. No biggie–I was only going away for six months.
Well, that was two years ago. 25-and-a-half months, to be exact. And I’m still not done.
My six-month stint in Australia ended up taking a full year and, instead of buying a two-thousand dollar plane ticket home, I paid a hundred and fifty bucks and flew to New Zealand…where I forfeited another year of “real life.” It was the best decision I ever made.
Since I’ve been gone I’ve done some incredible things (by my own standards). I’ve been skydiving off the coast of Australia, bungy jumping (naked) in the canyons of New Zealand, and white-water rafting down rigorous Queensland rivers.
I spent three days driving and camping on the biggest sand island in the world and two weeks hiking through Tasmania.
I’ve cuddled koalas, hugged kangaroos and gone cruising with crocodiles.
I’ve snowboarded the backdrop of The Lord of the Rings and I’ve motorcycled into the Australian sunset.
I’ve laid on the most opulent beaches, I’ve learned to surf and have even seen where two seas collide.
I’ve met people from all over the world. I’ve slept in hundreds of beds and on countless sofas, often alone, often with international women.
I can safely say that I’ve partied my freakin’ ass off.
I’ve gone hiking through sacred Aboriginal grounds in the Australian outback and have camped directly next to the Tasman sea. I’ve even met the real Tasmanian Devil.
And that’s only a very small portion of it, my friends.
I’ve acquired a new skill and have found a new direction in life. I left home as a recent college graduate working in the IT field and have returned as a skilled cocktail bartender, having worked at some of the finest establishments New Zealand has to offer. I began working as a glassy/barback at one of Australia’s dirtiest, most well-known night clubs. From there I climbed the ranks, starting at the bottom and quickly finding a place at the top. I worked at clubs, cafes and beach-front bars. I worked on a party bus! Life was colorful, carefree and intoxicating. But, as chance would have it, I ended up training with a man who has worked at London’s most prestigious and exclusive cocktail bars who kicked my ass to become the best. Though I still have a long way to go, I take what I do seriously.
I am not a man who will pour you the strongest Long Island Iced Tea you’ve ever had because you want to get totally freakin’ wasted, dude. I am not that man who will pour vodka and juices into a glass, call it by a fancy name and serve it up as a cocktail. I am a man who will determine what you like and mix you one of the best drinks you’ve ever had. And I will tell you exactly what’s in it, the history of every ingredient, and why each of them gets used in that drink. Now, I don’t mean to sound pretentious–I only mean to convey that I am not some idiot pouring Bud Light or the international equivalent into a glass (anymore). I am not a bartender at a pub (anymore). I am a professional barman. And one day I will open a place of my own.
And through this profession I have learned to be the center of attention. But, in the past two years, I have also come to understand the true meaning of loneliness. Helplessness. I am more refined, yet more awkward and vulgar than ever. I have loved and lost again and again and again. I have learned of the impermanence life can bring and found the true beauty in every passing moment. I’ve found bliss on the beach and despair in a bottle. I’ve made incredible friends, only to say goodbye forever. I’ve fallen down and barely found my way back up. I’ve been broke. I’ve borrowed money. I’ve been frustrated, lost, bruised and battered. I’ve made friends who became family. I’ve built a life. I’ve found new hobbies and interests. I’ve pursued my dreams, aspirations and goals. I’ve done the unspeakable. I’ve done the unthinkable. I’ve been up, down, sideways, backwards and inside out.
And I have never been happier in my life.