Each trip I take has a different excitement leading up to it. Some trips, I’m excited for the people I’m going with, others for the places I’m going, and some for a particular activity I have planned. As I think about this trip to Portugal, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Moscow, and London I have to admit it’s a true combination of all three.
If I’m being honest, at first, I was mostly excited about the people. When I touch down in Lisbon I’ll be meeting up with 11 of my good friends (most of who don’t know each other) from across the world (USA, Australia, Greece, England, Egypt, Iraq will all be represented). Each of them trusts me enough that when I messaged them to meet in Lisbon and share an Airbnb with a bunch of “my friends” none of them hesitated. Last year’s Asia trip was the same way. After our weekend in Lisbon, eight of us will travel on to Russia and then England. By the end of this trip, people who had never met will be lifelong friends, which is pretty neat.
While I enjoy traveling and exploring new places I love connecting people and (humble brag) it’s something I’m good at. I know really quickly if I have a connection with someone and as soon as I do I can’t help but bring them into my life and connect them with everyone I know. Two of the people coming on this trip I barely knew (had met in person once) before I invited them to come with. If you’re wondering, we haven’t even left yet and they’ve already great additions.
What can I say, when I know, I know.
Few things beat introducing two of my friends a few hours later they are inseparable. It’s a double validation of sorts. It’s them both saying “hey you’ve got good taste.” I love the number of group chats I’m in with people who met through me and now spend most of the group chat teaming up to make fun of me. My need to bring people together is the main reason why I’ll never be able to stop saying “oh man, you should come with” whenever I travel even when it makes the trip planning and logistics more difficult. It’s why if I had one magic wish it wouldn’t be for gold or immortality; it’d be for all the people I love to live in one place. For the last few months, it was the thought of bringing everyone together that really got me excited.
While I’m still excited for the people, I’m fascinated by the locations (minus London). I’ve wanted to go to Portugal for years. I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s all the things I’ve read and heard about it. It reminds me of when I became obsessed with Prague and knew my life wouldn’t be complete until I went there. Now, in this case, I have no intentions of moving there for half a year like I did with Prague, but Portugal has been a place that’s been on my mind to visit for far too long. When I got the opportunity for a, granted short, trip to Lisbon I took it. I actually had to spin the situation and manipulate the group a bit to make this dream a reality.
I’ve had countless people scoff and say “why would you ever want to go to Russia?” I don’t know Carol, because it’s fucking huge? It’s a world power? It’s full of history? It’s completely different than where I’m from and that is usually good for perspective. Since when did learning about people and places different from your own become a bad thing? We as a society have become so fearful of what’s different that we’ve stopped looking at how differences can help us change and grow.
I’ve always said I’ll go anywhere so when the opportunity to go to Russia fell into my lap I had to pick it up and run with it. I knew next to nothing about Russia before deciding to come and honestly, I still don’t. But I’m excited to learn, to eat caviar in St. Petersburg, jump in the Dead Sea near Sochi, and drink a vodka shot (or two) in Moscow. Eight months ago I had no intention of going to Russia ever and now I’m on my way. In my experience, those types of trips are the most memorable.
I’m not going to even pretend to be a big soccer fan. Sure I played when I was a kid, but I’ve always preferred football and basketball. In college, when all my friends were obsessed with playing FIFA it just never really captured my attention. So when my buddy Seif asked me if I wanted to go to the World Cup I almost said no based off the fact that the US didn’t qualify and how little soccer I’ve watched/played in my life.
Then the World Cup started and I noticed something. The more games I watched and articles I read I began to realize that the World Cup isn’t just about soccer. It’s about the atmosphere and national pride. It’s about coming together to experience something that only happens every four years with people from all over the world.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve become more and more interested in soccer. I’ve actually watched more matches in the last two weeks than the 27 years beforehand. I know the different groups, who’s favored to win, and the scores of each match. My excitement to actually go to three matches in different Russia cities has grown so much in such a short time. Each match I watch I see the crowd going insane, chanting, signing, and just think “that’s going to be me soon” which is a little hard to comprehend right now. As of today, I don’t really care who wins the World Cup (which will probably change once I get there), but I’m still excited to go because it’s an experience about so much more than soccer.
I’m curious 5 years from now when I look back on this trip if I remember the people, the places, or the World Cup experience more or if they will all be too intertwined to separate. Over the next 17 days, I’m going to do my best to document different parts of my trip through photos, videos, and blogs without sacrificing truly experiencing what’s going on around me. Hopefully, when I look back on those they’ll remind me about the times I had that were too unexpected and ridiculous to share with the world.
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