I always thought I would buy a leather key chain. Something simple, just a loop that would hold my keys and give me something to twirl. I always thought it would go well with the simple truck I would be buying. Then, I was 15, finally with a permit, and excited to get behind the wheel of my own Chevy or Ford. Navy blue, maybe white, and old, thirty or forty years old, with a thin steering wheel and a basic dash – something I could fix and work on and take care of.
Today I am 20 years old, and going to school at Tulane University – still without a truck. I tried many times in high school to save up, taking on many different jobs. I could have, and I would have, had it not been for my trips. Every summer I would fund adventures; one year a bike ride from Seattle to Portland, and another ride from Chicago to Los Angeles. It wasn’t until my freshman year did I start to settle down and really consider what it would take to buy my dream.
After receiving my first paycheck from my part-time job, I began scouring the internet for old trucks. With just $136.72 cents to my name (Yes, I was flat broke for the two weeks prior) I felt as though I had a fortune. Nothing could stop me from my dream.
After crunching the numbers, I came up with this wild fantasy for financing a beautiful 1989 Ford F-150 out of Huntsville, Alabama. I thought, “If I make this much in just 2 weeks I’ll have a truck in 4 months,” and then “Why not just put some money down now and pay as I go?”
With $136.72 I began calling dealerships offering cars for three, four, five thousand dollars. Out of my range no doubt, but I was thinking with a big wallet. I began multiple conversations discussing condition and price with a few dealerships across the south. And then, something else came to mind.
What if I biked from Chicago to New Orleans? How about Cuba in the Spring? Maybe Paris in the summer?
All these ideas, these trips, these adventures, poured into my mind and left me dreaming and thinking of plans. Plans of how to make money, how to get my way over there, or on that road. It was like I was 16 again. I was in university, growing up, becoming an adult, yet I had the same dreams as I had in high school.
I thought hard for a good while on what to make of this; two different dreams, different goals, opposing one another. I couldn’t possibly spend all this money on travel and buy the truck. Not even with $136.72 every two weeks. I was stumped.
Recently, I have come to a sort of – revelation. I thought about my life, in the present moment, and what is important to ME at this point. I want to chase greatness, and success, and the real world. I am excited to work, to begin my career. Whatever it may be in the end, I just want to take a joy ride at everything I can, and really test the waters.
There are still nights I look at the videos and pictures on my old camera and lose the pit of my stomach with longing to go back, back to those simpler times out in the wild. Those nights make me doubt, but in my heart I know what I want. Those trips were great, amazing, truly life changing, but they are not for me right now.
The success I chase is not monetary, not what my parents tell me to do or be, but it is a vision I hold within myself, a vision of a future me. I think of all the different things I could be; a contractor, a President of a company, an actor, a writer, a director.
At school now I can see all the opportunities around me. All the teachers, alumni, friends, family, there to help me start something. My visions and dreams stretch as wide as the MIssissippi, but I do not care, I want to chase them all, and I put work in towards every single one.
I realize everyone has their dreams. Sometimes I envy my old travel companion, and best friend, Tim, who is out in California working on an old VW bus. Or I look at videos of people crossing borders, crossing countries, crossing oceans, and I think of all the miles I could be conquering. But I am different than those – for now.
I can’t tell the future, but I am excited to see what it holds. That will come in time, but for now, I sit back and think of the musty leather riding under me in the truck on the way to some job. This summer I am focusing my energy on just that.
I think, though, about the leather key chain. You know the loop that I can twirl. I look down at my lanyard – simple cloth with some lacrosse company’s logo – the same old thing I’ve had since I was 13. I look at its broken metal and the key to my dorm, separated, in each hand. My first thought; how can I get this fixed?
You see, the leather key chain was all apart of this idea I had of becoming an adult, a working man. But as I grasped the symbol of my youth, years spent twirling between my pointer and middle finger and around my palm, late nights quietly getting the door open, I saw that I can be both – both the traveller and the worker.
I am focused on my working dreams right now, but I will hold on to my travel dreams, my youth, for as long as I can. The desire to keep this old lanyard, this old piece of myself, and all the images of teenage years, proved to me I am that same person inside. I will travel, I will go see what there is to see, I am completely confident of that. As long as I have this lanyard, I will have my youth, and all the wanderlust of those simple years.