The author will embark on a two-month tour through notable locations in Western and Central Europe, and provide scintillating commentary on over-remarked phenomena on a weekly basis.
Through a combination of poor decision-making, bad luck, and constitutional maladaptation, I’d ended up living hand-to-mouth in a legally contested sublet in not-ready-for-primetime Crown Heights. Holding down three erratic part-time jobs in the hopes of having adequate time to work on a stalled novel, I instead devoted my vocational flexibility to nurturing despair and building up a sensory tolerance for bodega cans with the word “Ice” on the label. In short, the author viewed the world through shit-tinted glasses and had little hope for material or spiritual advancement.
The sudden resolution of a long-simmering personal injury lawsuit left me with a cash windfall in the early summer of 2013. The only unifying notion that cut through my subsequent money mania was to finally do some old-fashioned old-world traveling; this idea manically snowballed into pulling up stakes in New York, moving back in with my mother in Salem, Oregon, and planning an itinerary for the Fall while I worked on a few short stories in a safe, non-stimulating environment and performed daily calisthenics.
Seven weeks oozed by in a state of previously unimaginable spiritual stupor and moral turpitude. A planned immersion into Rosetta Stone French, Levels 1-4 rerouted into dozens of hours of videogames. Hundreds of dollars disappeared into ubiquitous Oregon state video poker machines and crossword scratch-off lotto tickets. A pass was made at a friend’s freshly minted ex-wife during a brown-out interlude at a 10-year high school reunion. The exercise routine grew indifferent and yielded no visible results. $10,000 was pledged and withdrawn from Harry Knowles’ Kickstarter as part of an elaborate trolling scheme. Contradictory schedule I and II drugs were free-based with a stripper. Communication between my mother and I ceased almost completely.
- I fly to London in early September, and will spend four days with a group of British friends following an eight-year absence from the UK.
- I head to Paris, where I will reside in an entire AirBnB flat for eighteen days and have no contact with a known soul.
- I arrive in Barcelona in late September for a week’s stay in an AirBnb room, this time in a habitated apartment.
- I find my way to the chalet of friend’s family in the French Alps for a stay of unknown duration beginning in early October.
- I meet up with a friend somewhere in Italy for a week, possibly Bologna.
- Vienna maybe?
- An AirBnb room share awaits in Prague in mid-to-late October.
- Two friends and I will occupy an AirBnB flat in Berlin for nine days in late October.
- I fly back to Oregon on Nov. 1st, refreshed or destroyed.
I know nothing about any of these places other than London, where I studied abroad for a semester. I procrastinated away any advanced planning and compiled no points of interest or activities. I speak no languages other than a remnant of high school Spanish.
- One backpack and one piece of medium-sized roller luggage.
- Four pairs of pants, eight button-ups, eight undershirts, eight pairs of socks, eight pairs of underwear, two sweaters, one pair of pajama bottoms, one scarf, one beanie, one pair of gloves, one light jacket, one winter coat, one pair of sneakers, and one pair of work shoes. I am greatly scared of gaining too much weight during the journey to be able to wear these clothes without appearing ridiculous.
- Prescriptions of Adderall, Ambien, an antibiotic, and Viagra. The first two are for my broken brain and the last is for my broken penis (re: above mentioned personal injury) and is largely aspirational.
- One Chromebook, on which I will write the ensuing posts on this blog.
- One point-and-click digital camera, the sort of thing I hadn’t owned in years, and which now comes with an astoundingly unnecessary 20-megapixel imaging capacity. I can’t imagine what I’d want to take pictures of, but perhaps there will exist amusing graffiti.
- One power adapter and one voltage converter.
- One American passport and one Eurorail pass. I haven’t checked schedules at all and I have no idea how train travel works, but hope to smoke inside and become inveigled in a murder mystery.
- One electronic cigarette and 40 nicotine capsules. I’m going to attempt to smoke as few actual cigarettes as possible while traveling, but this is probably a joke.
- One copy of V, one copy of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, and one copy of Finnegan’s Wake. I figure I might as well look like as big a twat as possible while reading in foreign lands.
I originally lacked any great animating desire for this trip, and treated it like an impending back-to-school marker to excuse the personal anarchy of the intervening summer and lack of coherent long-term life planning. Now, on the eve of my departure, I’m shaken and soul-scraped, with a tenuous grasp on the nature of self after blitzing a bevy of personal red lines. This excursion, then, must now either rebuild my sense of adult autonomy and stabilize my flatlining telos or burn what’s left of these constructs to the ground.
Why do I hate talking to strangers, have no interests, and never want to do anything? At what point will the money I’m blowing feel real? Do I have a personality, or am I just gyrating amalgam of neurosis, addiction, aesthetic preference, and hormone?
Are these questions answerable via the brute-forcing of novel experience? By leaving this European tour negligently under-planned, will I discover a wellspring of fortitude and ingenuity that allows me to experience the present, untainted by past shame or future terror?
If I change my surroundings, will I change?
Or will I blow $20,000, kill 2,000 brain cells, embarrass myself 200 times, gain 20 pounds, fall two steps down Maslow’s heirarchy, and learn nothing about myself, other people, or the world at large?
Stay tuned to find out!