Leaving home is an arduous process. It’s a system of complex thought that starts with a hunch and spiderwebs out into a conclusion that leaving is better than staying. That doing away with the world as you know is the only solution, the only future worth living for.
It doesn’t happen right away, at least it didn't for me. I had known since childhood that I wanted to leave. Growing up sheltered in the suburbs of Somewhere, Ohio had destroyed my perception of the 'world at large'. By age 10 I was convinced that the folds of manicured lawns and white vinyl sided duplexes literally had no end nor beginning. I had dreams where I would run top speed through my neighbors back yards only to find myself trapped in a complex maze of suburbia with no end. This city was my world and I was trapped.
I really had no other option but to plan my escape.
This warped worldview made the smallest things interesting to me. A trip to the grocery store was akin to a road trip through India as far as I was concerned at the time.
This was where my desire to see was born. It became a part of my personality and consumed me more and more each day of development into adulthood.
It started when I was 11. I got my first bike for my birthday from my grandparents. A small black two wheeler with flame stickers on the sides. It was my first taste of freedom up to that point. My young mind finally grasping the concept that this gift could show me the answer. It could reveal what lies behind the green if I only pedal hard enough. So I did.
Mom restricted how far I could bike from home, which naturally only made me want to leave even more, so I lied. Tell her I was going to Joey’s house next door or Kevin’s for supper. The second I was out the door I was gone, desperately seeking new exciting monuments in any form possible. My favorite was a middle school nearby called Maple school. It was a public school with a few jungle gyms and swing sets. At the time it was like exploring the jungle. Being in any foreign environment on my own made me feel independant for the very first time. A feeling I found to be totally enthralling, consuming and most of all...addictive.
As I aged I searched for this feeling in new forms. Like any addiction I found I was building a tolerance after each 'high'. Suddenly my bike rides weren't enough to keep my satiated.
By 16 I was feeling it again. The slog of suburban life slithering through the floorboards of my childhood bedroom and draining me entirely. I had no option but to run again. To escape the cycle I watched everyone around me dive into head first. I would drive my car to nowhere and get out. Lay in the grass of some field and prove to myself I wasn't trapped in that room. I could leave anytime and go anywhere I wanted it was just a matter of doing it in the first place. The best places in the world were the small corners. The unseen spaces scattered in forgotten locals decomposing out of sight and mind from all but me.
College came and with it a certain ounce of freedom I could hold onto for a bit. Having my own space, my own house with things I could call mine. It was just enough adventure to keep me happy. But it only lasted so long. Suddenly I found myself back in the same cycle of hopping on my bike and riding for miles until a hidden corner presented itself for me to claim as my one.
I got heavily interested in Urban Exploration. Through my random walks and cycling I managed to find so many amazing things:
- An entire abandoned processing plant with two massive warehouses
- An abandoned bachelor's pad from the 80's with an amazing rooftop where I would take girlfriend to watch the stars
- Empty water tower where I would hitch up my hammock to read and sketch
- Abandoned mansion where we would throw parties
- Mike Tyson's $2 million abandoned mansion (with indoor pool)
- An empty tuberculosis ward from the 70's
- Multiple abandoned churches and military complexes
- An underground tunnel system
- More rooftops than I can count
And it all kept me satisfied. Kept me feeling like my mental map of the world was expanding each month that passed. This constant perception growth gave me purpose, it made the world feel like it had meaning like there was something to strive for. And my addiction grew.
Until I'm 22. I'm embracing what could be called adult life, or at least tempting the idea to embrace it. I rent a house with some friends in a city and tell myself it's time to end the addiction. I contort my limbs into unfamiliar shapes to fit into the box I'd bought myself. It worked for a bit but, slowly, the limbs grew stiff. I was an addict and the withdrawal came quickly.
So I hit the 'purchase' button on an Air Berlin confirmation page. $1,100 is deducted from my bank account and I inject the needle to vein. I get the exact same rush a bike ride through the neighborhood once provided many years ago. But this time the rush doesn't leave. This time, I'm floating in a constant state of adventure, an endless bliss of satisfaction.
I'm lost and found all at once.
For two months I walk streets I never knew existed. I hear languages I don't understand and they're spoken to me and I smile and nod all the while. I drink wine on the street with a friend I just met as he tells me stories of his childhood and personal details of his work life. I jump into a canal in the dead of night with a man that let me sleep on his floor for no reason other than kindness and karma. I count stars with a Danish girl I found myself falling in love with by first word. And the days, each day, has infinite meaning. Each step adds 1,000 pages to my life story as I find my pen depleting of ink.
Then it ends. And somehow the world expects me to quit cold turkey, just like that. I really had no other option but to plan my escape.