Why a book?
Traveling must have meaning. Why else would we go abroad? Stories of fun, adventure, girls, seduced me, but in the end, I knew that I wanted something more. To travel was to find out who I was. To discover my purpose in life. And to achieve one of my earliest dreams.
I began writing my first book when I was in 7th grade, when I was struggling in a new home in a new city, friendless and trapped. It was a love story, but one set far way, in the city where I once lived, where I, merely a supporting character, was the friend to the protagonist that I, a lonely child, never had. In it, I faced and defeated all my real-life demons – the popular kids in school, the monotony of suburban American life, the challenges of adolescence. Many lonely evening were spent in my room, pen to paper, writing disjointed stories that, in the end, only made sense to its audience – me.
In the subsequent years, I began many books. A dystopian tale of a young man in a town called Wellsville where everyone accepts the mundanity of repetitive life. A sci-fi novel about a reporter confronting the mystery of what happens when you are too close to the epicenter of a atomic bomb. A adventure tale of a young man sick of predictability, who meets a girl who convinces him to stowaway on a cargo ship with an unknown destination, a quest to recapture the unpredictability of travel.
There was one common theme with all these books. I started them. I never finished them.
This book, my first non-fiction novel, would be different, I pledged, two days after returning home, sitting at my local library with my seven journals, ready to turn my journey into something greater. And, thus, I began writing, randomly, the story a jigsaw puzzle of adventures, experiences, people, from all different countries. There was no narrative, no chronology, and way, way too many characters. For nearly two years, I wrote and wrote but still had no story.
In the end, what I began barely resembles what I finished. A journey into the heart of modernism, into a world where long-term travel is no longer a rite of passage, but as escape from the real world. My fears, my shortcomings, my growth, all raw, all leading into uncharted waters. In my book, I bring you, the reader, alongside me on my attempts to learn about myself, and the wider world that we call home.
This book is about meaning. We all seek it in our lives. I wrote it as a challenge to myself, to learn about what my journey meant, and, hopefully, inspire others to discover who they are through travel. Only through reflection and understanding can the world become clearer. That was the final, ultimate lesson about my trip around the world, one I only learned five years later, through a pen and paper.