I see you there, somewhere in row twenty-two on that Avianca flight from New York City to Bogota. I see you sitting with your shoulders thrown back and your earbuds blasting Tame Impala like this is any other flight. I see that nonsense confident facade hiding what’s truly underneath: fear.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. You’ve thrown away your whole life. You’ve tossed aside your career, your fiance, your apartment in Williamsburg with the view of the bridge, your whole damn narrative of your whole damn life. You even wrote a blog post about it. I commend you for knowing that much, anyway. And now? You’re just this guy. This flesh and blood person. No frills. No fluff. No plan. You’re just a dude on a plane to Colombia. What do you do when you get there? You have no idea.

No, don’t tell me you have an idea. You don’t. I’m you eighteen months from now. Lie to the guy in the seat next to you (though I know you can’t because you can’t even fart in Spanish yet). But don’t lie to me.

The truth is you’re in the best position in the world. The actual best position in the world. I know you think you’re about to go on this adventure for a few months (six, you have in your head. Hah). You think you’re going to come home and get a job in your field and keep on keeping on and this whole thing will be a cool story you’ll tell your grandkids someday. Something like your grandfather’s time in the Navy. A neat little mystery.

You don’t have that much control. Thank God. Because the you tomorrow? Well, he’ll look pretty much the same. He won’t know what the hell he’s doing. He’ll be lonely and confused and unsure about everything and he’ll be seriously considering a return flight. But the you in a month? He’ll get his sea legs under him. He’ll feel a little more like a human. He’ll let the ball of yarn that was his brain in New York City unfurl into a seamless straight line. It’ll get better and better and you’ll ride mopeds through the hills outside enormous, sprawling metropolises you haven’t even heard of yet and you’ll crouch on a toilet seat in a public bathroom at a bus station because you think you’re being kidnapped and you’ll see sunsets and you’ll see fist fights and you’ll learn to salsa dance.

You’ll meet people. Beautiful, wonderful people from around the globe. And your faith in humanity will creep back in, bit by bit. You’ll have whirlwind romances and beautiful friendships and so many goodbyes you can’t possibly count. Your mind will fog with vignettes of memories - hazy on the edges and bright in the center - and you’ll envy your earlier self. This self - the one on the plane. And then your next self will envy that self, and so on.

And then your trip will seem to end. You’ll be back on US soil even though your brain never really came back. You’ll apply for jobs and you’ll get a few interviews and even a couple offers. But nothing will really grab you. You’ll think it’s the gigs. It isn’t. It’s you. Because you’ve changed. More than you’ve ever changed, you've changed in just eighteen months.

Because you stopped caring about the narrative of your life. You stopped caring about your resume. And you just started living. You’ll be surprised how much that does.

And then - not to freak you out too much, but - the whole world will shut down and you won’t be able to travel and you won’t be able to work, either. Not professionally, anyway. But you’ll be just fine.

Anyway, none of that would happen if you weren’t sitting, right now, in row twenty-two on an Avianca flight from JFK to El Dorado International. Well, the world shutting down still would’ve happened. But none of the other stuff. So I guess I just want to say I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for getting on the plane. It changes everything, just like the deepest part of you hopes it does.

Also, that thirty-liter bag you’ve got? Way too small, moron.

Click here to listen to the Baggage Claim podcast.

Will Conway


Former political software guy. Now a traveler and adventurer, which isn't a job, and host of the @heybaggageclaim podcast, which really isn't either. Travel stories no one tells.