Monday, May 31, 2010


I've been waiting to write this entry for a long time. I've had a million ideas about what to say. Sometimes, only halfway through my journey, I'd think I knew exactly what I was going to say at the end. But those things are not what I thought they would be. They were what I thought at the middle.

As much as I hate writing it, this is the end. For this trip. My backpack is sitting in my closet, empty. This trip is over.

I'm not technically home, but in some ways I'm closer to home now than I could be when actually there. I'm sitting in the house my grandfather built out of stone, all those years ago, after coming back from World War II. I'm sleeping in my mother's old room, which wasn't ready for her to sleep in until she was almost a teenager. It's very pink.

Outside is the river valley my mother and her brothers played in up to adulthood. If you see how my uncles spend time with their tractors and dirt bikes, you could argue they never stopped. Halfway down the dirt road between the stone house and the barn is a half-disintegrated truck, the back of which was the playhouse for my cousins and me when we visited. I think we spent most of our time making gourmet meals out of mud. Maybe they were just pies.

Surrounding us is the garden my grandmother spent most of her life tending. Just up the hill, along the road that bears our family name, is the stone that marks her final resting place. The cows we kept have been sold, but the horses are still around. I can't remember being somewhere with so many birds and wild deer, something I never really appreciated much before leaving.

This ranch is one of the few places I know with no cell phone reception. My aunt and uncle's place on the other end of this part of our property has the only internet, connected by satellite. Every month, my mother comes for a long weekend. Growing up, every couple of months, depending on my school schedule, I would come up with her.

I used to think of it as being not that worthy of note compared to the other wondrous things in the world. But now I've seen those other things, and, this spring, this place looks as beautiful and deep as the best of them.

It makes sense to end my journey where my journey began. It's not exactly the same place it used to be when I left, but I'm not the same guy I used to be when I left it, so I guess fair's fair.

Ever since I turned about eighteen, my life has had a lot of goodbyes. I got good at them. Either they came with leaving Seattle for college in Chicago or coming back, every break, or to some other place entirely and home again. Parting ways with people and places is like going to sleep. Part of life.

The secret to handling it is knowing that, short of death, none of them are permanent. I never really say goodbye. I just say "see you later." Because there's no way of knowing you'll never see each other again.

So when I say goodbye to this adventure, it's not goodbye to adventure. Adventure and I go way back now, and I expect we'll cross paths again sometime. Maybe sometime soon. But for this trip, it's time we went our separate ways.

I've learned a lot. I've become more of a risk taker, comfortable with anyone I meet, adaptable to any circumstance, and resourceful in any situation. I hope for new chances to put all those things to good use.

So while I sit here at one of the places that smiles when I call it 'home,' I can relax, trying my best to hold on to all the memories of the world, knowing at least half of them will slip through my fingers back to where they came from. I'll have the photographs, the journal entries, and the tidbits I wrote here. Beyond that, it's going to be me trying to hum the tunes somebody played for me somewhere far away, hoping I still get some of the notes right.

So, what's next for me? Well, I'm in a play, going up in the end of June, in Seattle (EDIT: No I'm not. The show has been canceled. Twice.). I'll be making some music, spending time with my family, keeping myself busy with all those things I could never do on the road. After that, unless some big opportunity grabs me somewhere else, I'll be heading to the next adventure in New York City. Before that, I have a lot of things to sort out from this trip. Tickets, guidebooks. Pictures. Videos. And I'll keep writing.

This blog will be reorganized, to put emphasis on the places I've been, rather than the most recent thing I've written. And any future public announcements regarding my travel, writing, music, new blogs, or anything else interesting will show up here, the usual online outlets (twitter, Facebook, google buzz), and on a new website I'm tinkering with (as of this writing, still under construction):

But this will probably be the last blog post of its kind. I'd like to post a few more tips. Maybe a "where is he now" sort of post in a few weeks. I might even upload a couple of those videos I mentioned, if I think they're good enough. That's all.

Thank you, everyone, everywhere. This adventure has been everything I hoped and more. I will leave you all with three words that I think sum up my feelings nicely:

Best. Planet. Ever.

Check out this entry's Photos.


  1. Your blog has made me ridiculously happy, Joel. I tell people about it as much as I can. I've always wanted to do something like that, but never really thought about it seriously until you went and did it. I have to inspired me so much that I'm going to buy a one-way ticket to New Zealand in September or February-ish, and see how far and how long my money takes me...
    I'd love to talk to you/get some tips and such, but I'm sure you've got a lot of people asking you already. It's visa stuff that intimidates me most, honestly.

    Anyway... Thank you for writing this blog. It has made several work days far more interesting ^_~

    -Emily Purington

  2. Welcome home, traveller. I've followed all the way, with deep pleasure. I don't think I could see the world through more generous or honest eyes. May you have many more journeys as delicious as this one, and may home always be waiting.