Jessica decides to backpack Europe. A decision born after years of self-doubt. Countless nights of tireless inner-debate. Mustering up the strength to not follow Josh to Seattle. Ignoring her friend’s and family’s sincere yet hallow words of wisdom. Not settling for the mundane job offer she got on Cinco De Mayo. Maybe that was the final sign. Regardless, she’s proud she finally made the decision.
She’s finally independent.
Weeks of meticulous planning land her in London. Easiest flight. Same language. The obvious first stop. Walking around the city, her options seem both endless and limited. Each day that passes is filled with over-planning, over-thinking, yet with a boundless opportunity to be whoever Jess wants to be.
To be herself.
She trains to Brussels, then to Paris, down to Madrid, Lisbon, Barcelona. New food. New cultures. New experiences. The beauty of the adventure is not lost on her, yet, with each passing stop, a linger of doubt returns. Rain in Paris, missed a festival in Munich, train delays in Lisbon. She contemplates each decision she makes. The itinerary. Wondering if there is a better path for herself.
They meet on the train from Barcelona to Florence. Spanish born, but currently living in DC. He too, backpacking Europe. He too escaping. Their spontaneous energies connect instantly. Two spirits paving their own path.
They share a hostel in Florence, again in Rome, same with Naples. Itineraries merging one city at a time. Thoughts of longevity are absent. Simply appreciating the shared company creating a level of comfort previously missing.
They hop on the train to Venice. Onboard Theo shows Jess his phone. A Spanish news article he translates; “Rail Malfunctions Causing Massive Station Closures”. They get to Rome and transfer trains.
A decision that will haunt Jess forever.
The Rail Malfunction escalates faster than anticipated. From local news to now a global event plastered on both their social medias. They are in the middle of worldwide crisis.
Their train passes Venice without stopping. Continues into Croatia, passing Split, Dubrovnik, into Albania.
Jess’ self-doubt has taken hold of her. No longer contemplating her decisions, instead, regretting every major choice she has ever made in her young life that led her to this moment. The free-spirit energy that linked Theo and Jess has dissipated and been replaced with an unspoken tension.
Her original itinerary ended in the Greek Islands before flying out of Athens. So when the train passes Albania, into Greece, she holds a sliver of confidence her regretful past will soon be just that. The past.
But the rail malfunction is paving her path for her.
It’s in control.
It travels down, around Greece, and up into Bulgaria. Into Romania.
Theo and Jess’ unspoken tension has morphed into a loud animosity. His positivity bothering the overly-practical Jessica. Her anxieties bothering the naively-optimistic Theo. Character flaws they had subconsciously known have risen to the forefront in both their minds. Each passing city, they become more distant.
The path they paved, built on a scripted impulsiveness, has been written in stone. The decisions they made, cemented in place. Their lives seemingly frozen, while time continues to tic.
Traveling on a train to an unknown destination with no signs of stopping...
It’s our nature in 2020 to over-analyze our lives. Stressed about the past. Anxious about the future. Constantly unsure if the path we’re on is the right one. Constantly insecure with our decisions. Never living in the present.
Well… then a pandemic hit.
It took control of our path, seemingly freezing our lives, while time continues to tic. Cementing whatever decisions we had made in place.
We’re traveling on a train to an unknown destination with no signs of stopping.
Everyone talks about the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Rightfully so. They are disastrous. But a hidden problem, bubbling under the surface, is losing our ability to make new decisions. To pave our path.
Billions of people around the globe have been stuck living the lives their former selves created for them without being able to freely make any changes. Stuck at home with limited to no options to change our lives.
But that's where we are wrong. We can use this time of stagnation, time of global sameness, to continue to grow. Continue to be productive by living in the present.
We should all use this time to understand who we are as human beings. Not anxious about our future plans, not stressed about our past mistakes. But a full comprehension of who we, the human being, are.
What we like, don’t like. What really matters to us. Use this time where everyone is uniquely equal, to appreciate ourselves. So when the train eventually stops, and we get the choice to make our own itinerary, we’re ready.
No lingering stress.
No lingering anxiety.