Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

A One-Way Ticket, Destinations Undecided

A one way ticket assumes no way back, only a finality of departure and the edge of uncertainies to come.

“How many one-tickets have you bought in life?,” I asked a fellow traveler.

“None,” they responded. We had been sharing the typical travel dialogue of where have you been and where you are going. After, we had meandered into the profounder meaning of what a true “one-way ticket” meant.

Over beers in a Colombian beachside, we were talking travel logistics. It somehow carried the deeper implications of a life philosophy: roundtrips vs. one-ways.

I have purchased a few one-way tickets in my life. Each was a point of decision. The most significant was the first one-way ticket to Europe.

There have been other one-way tickets for me since. Yet I largely divide my time, travel and life between roundtrips and one-way trips.

When you pick a departure without an obvious return, you have made a decision. You turn your back on your old horizons and stare into the new.

A One-Way Ticket

The details don’t matter but here were mine:

In 2005, I booked a one-way ticket to France. I had just completed my undergraduate studies and a summer job. I was going with no clear sense of when I’d be back.

One way tickets come with the added weight of leaving behind: self, possessions, pretentions. It’s

This trip turned into 3+ years in France, a new language learned, a new home, another degree, and a fresh perspective. Disgarded baggage at departure accumulated into a life lived and self-built-up.

My time in France had reached an end. I returned briefly to the US for a summer of road trippin’ travel across Western America. Wildlands and Cityscapes. I carried back a few clothes but boxes of books and filled notebook pages. Deposited books in basements. I quickly lost the weight I had gained.

In 2008, I booked a ticket to China. A personal challenge in a new continent. One Chinese metropolis and scattered travels inspired me to stay. One city turned into a second city; turned into four years in China, another new language learned, a couple of businesses failed, one successful business and a fresh perspective. One day like most, I reached an endpoint and my “China Burnout” arrived.

I left China via Japan. Two suitcases, dropped one off in the US and ventured out again. A digital nomad for a year and a half. Carpetbagging across Northern and Western Europe, Morocco, Greece and Turkey. Colombia wanderings – startups and self-discovery. Then back to Asia, pulled via Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Finally back to China.

There is something about Mainland China. A harshness, a drive, an immensity that few countries revival. An American needing another big country.

I found. I lost. I found. I lost. I built. I destroyed. I restarted. This was the cycle.

These were the rough details of wanderings and they were mine. Each step brought more stories, more words with new world friends, and less stuff.

My travel pack reduced to the essentials. Less to carry meant more room to roam.

A one-way ticket. Destinations undecided.

What about you? Tell me your one-way story.

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