It's been a minute.
A 1.5-year-long minute, away from writing these stories. Which doesn't mean my life has been uneventful, in fact quite the opposite. Yet somehow this dense, sedentary, and routinely efficient recent working period hasn't rendered itself optimal for reflections of the kind I have enjoyed writing about here. So, as you might be able to guess, the fact that you're reading this indicates that that life, once again, is about to change. It's time for a new chapter.
My return from Australia in the summer of 2020 marked the beginning of perhaps the toughest period in my professional life so far. With eight months left to finish my PhD and numerous pandemic-related research setbacks, the remaining amount of work was borderline overwhelming. The only way I made it to the end was through ridiculous levels of single-minded focus, scheduling and efficiency, and with tons of selfless support from Maria. With the defense concluded, the degree awarded and all my work now published, the doctoral journey I embarked on nearly four years ago has officially come to an end.
It's a period I look back on with mixed feelings. Back in the fall of 2017, I arrived in Copenhagen after a year of traveling the world on my own, depleted of money, filled with experiences and confused about the future. I wanted to live with Maria again, needed a job, and ultimately applied for a PhD grant rather on a whim. It wasn't easy to readjust to societal circumstances, yet I slowly found my pace at the lovely working place that was Hearing Systems and in the vibrant living environment that is Copenhagen. We got a taste of what the rest of our lives could be like, with all the comforts and possibilities an affluent Scandinavian country possesses. We worked hard during the week and enjoyed ourselves intently during the weekend. We slowly made new friends, mostly thanks to Maria's conviction and social aura. We explored the possibilities of a liberal lifestyle while nurturing a partnership of nearly half a lifetime. I came to realize, yet again, that our life together is truly unique, and has shaped my perspectives in ways that have greatly increased my own self-respect and confidence.
At the same time, however, the more I've learned about myself, the more I've started to appreciate and acknowledge the parts of me that I dislike. The past few years have been my most accomplished ones. I've achieved things that most would consider respectable, even admirable. I've managed this through logical optimization and rigid execution, at the expense of creative exploration and playful open-mindedness. I have improved vastly at charismatic, positive communication in my personal and professional life, while making virtually no effort to responsibly engage in or handle difficult, tough, yet necessary discussions. This behavior has hurt myself and others around me, probably more than I will ever know. And while the imbalance may stem at least in part from professional demands and my own past, it is not a good way to live and I no longer want to accept it.
There are countless reasons to travel, and I've written about many of them in the past. Having the opportunity, the freedom and the time to work on establishing or restoring one's inner balance may be the most important one. For this reason, and all the others, I'm leaving to Argentina in two days for another year of exploring myself and the world. I am super privileged for being from a place with superior passports and an unbeatable living standard, and to have the financial means to take this amount of time off. I realize that, and those realizations provide an even more compelling argument to actually go for it.
And I won't be going alone. This journey will be a joint venture with the person I've been following around for a while now. It's far from the first time we've traveled together, but it will be the longest period yet. We're both very independent, highly opinionated and stubborn to a fault, so nothing can really go wrong. At the same time, we're also relatively experienced at this point, so we know that nothing travel-related ever quite goes as expected. That's why we're not expecting anything in particular, except perhaps shared moments, interesting encounters and meaningful projects that we'll have the chance to undertake. We'll be seeking value in truly learning about the local environments we visit, rather than mindlessly bouncing between Western hostel crowds. Although I'm looking forward to doing that as well once in a while.
I'll also be bringing along, for the first time ever, my violin. Apart from being somewhat of a risky proposition, it's mostly an extremely exciting one. I've always missed not being able to play on previous trips, as well as the potential exposure to unexpected musical encounters that carrying an instrument can provide. I hope that I'll be able to play some new, exotic music, in exotic places, with exotic people. At the very least, I'll be able to annoy neighbors around the world with chromatic scale exercises.
I will not deny that traveling may not be the most straightforward activity these days, but there's a time for cautious contemplation and one for action. 2022 will be a year for the latter. So, let's see where we make it to, after officially commencing our travel year in Buenos Aires, just in time for a 30-degree New Year's Eve...
December 27th, 2021