“Work Hard, Travel well”: Four words that you imagine would be made into a “motivational poster” you hang on your dorm room wall (with Bentleys parked in a heated garage and the ocean view). Each night you lay in your bed dreaming about what “life will be like when you make it big”; one day, right? After four years (or the “occasional” five-year program), you apply for a job and enter the workforce. You have officially begun the long marathon that we call life.

Punch in, get coffee, read emails, run errands, get more coffee, instagram something amazing (you’re now a photographer on the side), read emails, etc etc, and finally punch out. That four year degree landed you here. Bless those who are happy repeating the rigmarole each day with no degree of variation. Within the first couple of weeks at your new gig you meet the “retirement package” people. I’ll be honest, that has to be the worst job out there. They sit patiently waiting for you to give them the slightest bit of attention. Once they’ve got that, you’re pretty much screwed. You sign this and sign that. Within ten minutes you officially are on some-kind of “retirement benefit”contract. Suzie Orman would be so proud of you. A portion of your paycheck, that’s right, your money, is untouchable: locked away for years.

I came to the realization of the mess I entered two years ago. A fellow colleague of mine was retiring in June of 2010. The obvious questions arose, including the stereotypical, “What do you plan to do after you retire”. I’ll give you three guesses as to what she said (your first two don’t count). That’s right- “Begin living my life and traveling to new places”. It was as if everything had suddenly came to a sudden halt. You’re telling me that you have been waiting forty-two years to travel? What have you been doing all this time?
What is retirement? What are we retiring from? It can’t be life; heck we are “supposedly” just starting it when we retire. We wait all our lives to begin a new journey? Why do we have to wait? What’s holding us back? Too many questions? Sorry; I’ll move on to my point.

I had the opportunity to travel to Italy two summers ago and it changed my mentality on every aspect of my life. I was naive and inexperienced. I had no idea who Michelangelo was or what importance the Romans had in shaping our world. I could honestly write a ten page memoir on my experiences, what I learned, and what to do while visiting, but this is a magazine, not a book . I love what Anthony Bourdain has down with “No Reservations”, but that’s how he lived through HIS experiences. Every second of your life is unique in its own way. What you see on a day to day basis can not be recreated. It’s one of the true beauties of life through the eyes of the beholder (yes, that’s you). The change in myself came from something that is in-describable. There is no way for me to pinpoint exactly where it came from. What I do know, however, is that if it wasn’t for the experience I had while in Italy, I would not be sitting here writing to you now. No two humans will ever share the exact feeling cultivated through life;  I’ve never wanted to be the one in the room to say, “I wish I would have traveled to _______” or “experienced ________”. I want to be the one who can share with others my life and all it has been over the past 25 years and counting. Mae West said that, ““You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

We at A&H Magazine share a common bond that initially brought us all together. Not to be philosophical, but humans yearn to experience. It’s not all about the location, rather what you learn from yourself and the world around you that ultimately matters. Save your money, live responsibly, set goals on where you’re going and how your getting there. Oh, and traveling doesn’t have to be to another continent. Some of my greatest experiences have come from taking out a map and randomly picking out a city within 50 miles of where I live. Drive, take the bus, train, whatever you have to do to get there. Step outside your comfort zone and immerse yourself in the culture, food, and the memories you create with the people you meet. What matters most is the growth and change you create within yourself.

About Christopher Dam

Christopher Dam is a senior writer/photographer with A&H Magazine