How did I get here?
I am not sure if I can put into words what these four letters have meant to me for the past 2 years. However this is my attempt to let you into my mind, and hopefully my life.
I believe my favorite characteristic about myself is my ambition. On the contrary, it is also the biggest contributing factor to my biggest regret. I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college trying to figure out what it is that I was gonna be doing for the rest of my life. Usually, people just want to be successful. Everyone answers the same way, but not everyone can truly define success because everyone has a different definition. It has no true definition to me, at least not anymore. It is a word that has no borders. What is success? How do you want to be successful? How do you measure it?
As a 19 year old my definition of success was the amount of money I could accumulate, the job title I could achieve, the materialistic possessions I could gain. 19 year old Andrew was young and stupid, he was mistaken. I was working at Foot Locker for 5 months as a part time assistant manager before I had the opportunity to land a position as the store manager. I was a full time student chasing a degree, but I also wanted the opportunity to get something on my resume that I felt would benefit me once I completed my degree. So I decided to take on both. However, it didn’t come without making one of the biggest decisions I wouldn't realize would bite me in the ass until it became the driving force for who I am today.
The same week I was waiting on a decision on if I was going to be the next store manager, my entire family on my moms side was gearing up for a trip to Peru. My Great Grandmother was turning 100 years old! My Great Grandmother whom I had never met, My Great Grandmother who gave birth to my Grandpa. The man who has been the most stable male figure in my life, the man who has helped my mom shape me into the young man I am today. I was supposed to be on that plane, on that trip to go celebrate a milestone that not many people get to experience. I was supposed to get my first dose of international travel. I was supposed to meet my Great Grandmother for the first time. I was supposed to share a bond and create a memory with family that would never leave me. I was supposed to be there for my Grandpa. This feeling I have is a feeling I have never quite expressed with anyone.
But I wasn’t on that plane. I was selfish. & it is without a doubt my biggest regret.
I decided to stay and chase what I thought was gonna fulfill me. I gave that job what I could outside of school. School was still my main priority, and I soon came to realize that managing a store, and having employees that are older than you, same age as you, and younger is not an easy task to juggle as a full time student. A year and a half I did what I thought was gonna benefit my future. During that time period, 6 months after my Great Grandma turned 100, she passed away. I didn't feel the effects of my decision to miss out on the trip until that moment. The emptiness I felt, the regret, the complete shame I felt was something that would eat at me for the next year.
I had always had the bug to travel, I had always had the bug to just get up and do something. The bug was subsided by my ambition to climb a mountain that can't be scaled.
I was climbing the wrong mountain guys.
My biggest regret fueled me to make one of the best decisions of my life. Quit my job. I literally went home one night got on my laptop and bought the first ticket I could find to Paris. A trip that would last a little over a month. I didn't think twice about it because I knew it was a decision I couldn't come back from. I didn't think twice about it because I knew it was something that was gonna help me grow. I went to bed that night knowing I only had two more months at Foot Locker. I went to bed in a state mixed with countless emotions. The one emotion that was absent though...regret.
The following 2 months were filled with research, curiosity, planning, more research, fear, but most of all EXCITEMENT! I am going to dedicate a few blog posts to my first backpacking trip but I want to express to you guys what was born from this experience, what was going on in my mind throughout the trip. I had countless hours to myself, I had countless hours surrounded by friends. I had countless hours doing things I won't ever forget. There was one specific train ride though, somewhere between Paris and Nice, France where my mind was just lost in itself. Where I was just on a train, no internet, no cell service, no travel buddy, nothing but the strangers in the same train car. I had ample time to just reflect on myself, and figure out who I wanted to be, what life meant to me, and what I was gonna make important in my life. I think on that train ride I found my answer.
EXPERIENCE & ADVENTURE.
I found something that I think about every day since it popped into my head. I found something that I think kind of symbolizes who I am. I found something that I hope people can resonate with, find an identity with, or simply appreciate the meaning.
It’s a play on Wander & Wonder. It has no correct pronunciation, it has no correct definition. It is a word with no boundaries. It's my version of success. It's my fulfillment. I so desire for people to long for the next adventure, the next curiosity, the next destination, the next opportunity to say yes and have an incredible experience. I want these four letters to stand for ADVENTURE, CURIOSITY, EXPERIENCE, & HAPPINESS. I don't want to sell you a life of no work and all play. I don't want you to think that I am living in a world where I'm all dreams and no reality. I will however share with you that I will NEVER sacrifice another adventure/experience/opportunity at the hands of my ambition for what I previously thought was my formula for happiness.
I am just saying to go on that trip, go see that ONE thing that you think about every day, go do that ONE thing that you keep saying you will do next paycheck, or next year. DO IT NOW. Never stop being curious about what is on the other side. Be curious about everything. Wander here or there, Wonder there or here. Just don't miss out on something because of fear. Challenge yourself to go out and just see what you can experience outside of your hometown.
I understand my mistake isn't everyone's obstacle or downfall. This is just my experience, my vision, and my hope. I understand not everyone will agree with the opinions expressed, I understand not everyone has a desire to experience life the way I wish to experience life, but I will say that you won't go wrong with choosing adventure.
I hope that with time my vision will develop into something that can be shared with my friends, my family, my readers. I hope that you can support my point of view, I hope that we can share the same thing that these four letters have done to my life.
My last hope is that you never sacrifice what makes you happy.