Remember learning about the “discovery of America” in elementary school? It was easy to be impressed by the valiant explorers setting off across the sea. I was easy to imagine doing the same if only you were born in the right century. How did those brave explorers prepare for a trip from which they might never return? Weapons, tools, blankets and food, how do you pack for a new life? Nowadays it seems that there is no place left to discover, everything has already been “found” and colonized long ago. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still the chance to have a new life. There are countless people across this ever-shrinking globe who silently fantasize about a whole new existence. And, though the contents of their suitcases may differ today from what they would have been long ago, the basic ingredients needed to set off into and survive a new life are still the same.
The first requirement is desire. You must long for some “otherness” beyond what you have. In some cases, this yearning is borne of a deep aversion for what one has: an abusive partner, a rotten job, oppressive debt. But most often, it is melded in that sliver of a chasm that separates “good” from “good enough.” Desire is as common as allergies or fingernails, and does not necessarily make you special. Fantasies have no expiration date and can go unrealized forever. Alone, desire will get you no further than your driveway, spinning wheels and weaving dreams.
The second ingredient is courage. All the longing in the world will go unutilized unless one has the daring to act on it. Courage is rarer and will get you closer to cutting the cord, but still it is not enough. But even the bravest in the world may not leave the comfort of the known if there is not some reason to expect that they will find better out there.
Which brings us to our last and most important ingredient: hope. Hope is the stuff of gold rushes, it is what compels people to enter boldly into marriage, and similarly into divorce. It can come in many forms but always it is the suggestion that what you will find when you depart will exceed what you have left behind. It is not necessary to expect such a result, to merely conceive of its possibility can be enough. Hope may come in many forms: a pretty picture of another place, a memory of risk rewarded, a glimpse of love. It is hope that will catalyze your desire and courage into action. It is hope that will sustain you when things don’t go exactly as planned. And when you venture out only to find that the new world does not come equipped with a pre-fabricated life, waiting especially for you, it is hope that will allow you to build for yourself whatever you most need.
And when you get to where you are going, may you put down your pack, hang a picture on the wall, and fit contentment in a life from which you no longer need to escape from.