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I grew up with everything I could have wanted; my parents paid for everything. All I ever had to really do was perform to certain standards, to deliver results and show them that their investment was worth it. My whole life had been planned out for me, my parents being aptitude tests.
“Mom what if I wanted to be a writer?” I would ask.
“Do you want to wait tables the rest of your life?” She would reply.
“What about a reporter?”
“Sure –on TV?”
“No, like someone who travels the world…goes to war zones…who gets in on the action of a story -”
“ -Too dangerous. Why would you want that?”
“I want a life of adventure.”
“Lyova” she said in an exasperated voice. “What adventure?” at this point she would switch into Russian. “You can have adventures when you have your degree and a law firm of your own. Then you can throw away money on adventures.” Back to English. “You would make a good lawyer. It suits you, and so does politics.”
She was completely right, it did suit me, and I loved to debate, to lead, I loved politics. I was good at it, but that didn’t mean that I really knew that was what I wanted for the rest of my life.
All I knew for sure was that before I lived behind a desk, I would live behind the world.
I walked up to my principle at the podium to take my diploma.
“Leon will be attending Columbia University this fall, and will be double-majoring in history and international relations.”
I shook hands with the smiling man towering over me. Smiled for the pictures and took my seat again. I had already given my speech as valedictorian; my work was done. Now I just had to wait for the rest of my classmates and go home.
I hugged my friends, wished them a good summer, and promised to keep in touch with them after college. Afterwards, I rushed out of the gymnasium and jumped over my convertible’s door and into the driver’s seat. I threw my graduation cap into the back seat and popped open the glove compartment to pull out my RayBans.
I couldn’t have driven home fast enough, and even when I was home I was rushing to get out. I had a plan. I tossed my blue gown onto the couch as I ran up the stairs to my room. Bursting through the door I almost slid to my bed and yanked out a backpack from underneath it. I stopped and looked.
I held it by its large metallic frame and stared at the red and silver back pack. It would hold all my clothes from now on, along with toiletries, a sleeping bag, and probably one of the few valuables I’d be taking: a camera. It was big, black, elite, and expensive. I would capture the world and take it home in that lens.
The rubber Trekker logo gleamed at me from the bag, as if it was to be my new title.
“Trekker,” I said aloud. “Trekker,” I repeated. Looking the backpack up and down, examining all its pockets to make sure they were zipped shut. I was ready.
I walked over to my closet and changed from the dress clothes I had worn underneath my graduation gown to a pair of tan shorts and a long sleeve white shirt, to which I scrunched up the sleeves. I put on my black and red Adidas sneakers, slung the bag across my back and carefully put a folded note onto the kitchen table for my parents to find when they got home. I had been up late writing it the night before, trying to make it perfect, trying to make it suitable for my parents, trying to justify what I was about to do, trying to cleanse myself of any guilt:
Hi Mama and Papa,
Don’t worry about me. I’m eighteen, I’ve graduated, and I will return for school…but right now I want to explore. I want to see the world. I want to experience everything it has to offer me. There is so much left to see out there, and I know mom will think most of it is dangerous, but I go out seeking danger, and excitement, and adventure. Please trust me enough to know that I will be safe, and that I’ve got a good head on my shoulders. You two blessed me with that. This whole trip is all coming from my own pocket, all that money from birthdays, holidays, my Bar Mitzvah, I was saving it for something. This is that something. I will have a satellite phone, and when I land after my flight I will call you guys. I love you both so much, and thank you for everything you’ve given me. I’m not running away, I’m going on an expedition. I will be home before you know it.
Your, grown, baby boy: Leon
I cried when I wrote that…but this is what I wanted, and I was going to go through with it. I was about to venture into the unknown, and I forgot to pack my razor and shaving cream.
I called for a taxi and soon enough a yellow sedan arrived outside my driveway. It came so fast I still had tears in my eyes as I locked the door behind me.
A bald, brown man with a black moustache and deep brown eyes was the driver.
“Just the one bag sir?” He asked me in an African accent.
“Yes.” I sniffed.
He stared at me through the rear-view mirror, trying to read my thoughts.
“Are you okay son?”
“You’re not running away from home are you?”
“No sir, I’m just going on an adventure.”
“An adventure? To where? Why? This country has everything you could ever want for excitement!”
“I know, but there is a whole world out there to see, and I want to see all it can show me.”
He grinned and nodded his head.
“Where to boss man?”
“Logan International Airport.”
I flew by security and boarding. I shoved my backpack into the overhead bin and grabbed a bottle of sleeping pills. I then flopped down into my seat to stretch. I had paid for economy plus seating, so I could have a little extra leg-room. I stretched and gulped down the blue gel capsule and began to drift and melt into sleep’s warm embrace.
It was at that very moment the captain got on the loud speaker.
“We are about to close doors for British Airways flight BA061798…”
I bolted upright as I heard someone yelling.
Through the doors and stewardesses bursts this skinny girl, a foot shorter than me, with bright red hair.
“I’ve got my ticket right here!” She almost yells at the stewardess checking her ticket. Her smile brightens the entire cabin, and lucky for me the seat next to me is vacant…after all the commotion she walks by and barely looks at me.
“I guess she isn’t sitting next to me…” I mumble. All of a sudden–
“Um..hi,” I look up. “I guess I’m sitting next to you then.”
“Hi,” I stammer. “Yea, sure, no problem!”
Stunning. Her eyes are bright blue, like sapphires, contrasting brilliantly with her black tank top, and red sweatshirt. However I think I should stop staring at her tan cargo shorts.
“I’m Leon,” starting I put my hand out.
“I’m Nora,” she said, sitting down and accepting my handshake. Nora drops her spotted backpack in between her legs and nudges it under her seat.
“Just the one bag?”
“Yep,” She flashes a bright smile.
“Are you running away from home?”
“No, I’m just going on a expedition. I just graduated today.”
A big, dumb, grin spreads across my face.
“Why are you going to India?”
“You stole my answer.”
“Adventure,” I nod in reply.
She looked me up and down, and I did the same in return.
“I want to get as much done and see as much as I can before I’m stuck behind a desk for six years.”
“College is four years though.”
“Law School…and I’m not counting all the years I’ll actually be working behind a desk. What about you? What fuels your desire for adventure?” I was trying to sound more exciting than I was.
“To soak in and capture all the beauty the world has to offer.” She pulled a smaller Nikon case out of her backpack. “And I’ll store it all in here.”
“The whole world on a memory card…mine’s in my bag in the overhead bin.”
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” Nora smirked.
Innuendos aside, I pulled down my camera and we compared ours. I even admitted that I hadn’t the slightest idea about photography, besides my iPhone and Instagram. She laughed, but we enjoyed each other company while the plane sat still.
“Taxing to runway. Prepare for take off.”
Nora grabs my hand tightly in hers.
“Scared of flying?”
“First flight ever,” she laughed nervously.
I squeezed back.
“I’ve flown before. Nothing to be scared of…just hold on to me.” We exchange smiles and look into each others eyes. Her pale skin glows in the dim cabin, and her eyelids droop with sincerity and gratitude and even affection.
The plane begins to rush forward and with Nora trying to break my hand in half, we fly: enroute to India and all its wonders.
My alarm goes off. I’m in my bed at home. It’s 6:45 and it’s Saturday. Today is graduation day. I smile.
“Just a dream…” I turn over and look at my phone. One text message:
Hey baby, have fun at graduation today! I’ll be in the crowd taking pictures. I can’t believe senior year is finally over. I can’t wait to spend the whole summer with you; that will be our adventure. I love you!
Slowly everything was coming back to me. Nora was my girlfriend. I was graduating. I was going to Columbia…but as I got out of bed, I thought about the dream.
“Why India?” I said to myself. “Right now all life is an adventure. As long as I have the right people with me: any trip or place will become an expedition. India, Europe, Africa, South America, they will come soon; but adventure is everywhere.”
I replied to Nora’s text:
Then let our adventure begin! Honestly though…you are my greatest adventure, and I wouldn’t dare go on any without the person that makes them fun. I love you too baby
I left for graduation, looking up at the sun, already high in its perch, and recited a Mark Twain quote in my head: Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Let the adventure begin. I thought. Who knows if I’m ready…“but that’s part of the fun.”