Chasing El Nino: Part 1: The Dream

Ten years ago I met a Japanese man named Sashto who changed the course of my life. I was 22 years old and backpacking around Europe for 10 weeks after graduating from college. I met Sashto in a small town in northern Romania. Along with a group of other travelers from our hostel, we spent the night drinking and sharing stories from our lives. Sashto was forty and was traveling the world for three years. He had saved every penny he possibly could for five years straight so he could travel the world for three! This simple, but powerful idea stayed with me when I returned home to the United States.  

In the years after I met Sashto I did many things. I lived in San Francisco and New York City, went to graduate school, tried to start a number of companies and relationships, all of which failed. I traveled here and there for a month or two when I could afford it. However, the dream of long-term travel never really left me.


Fast forward to 2012. I had been living in Boston for about a year and had just begun teaching math in a public school. Each day was crazier than the last, dealing with student behaviors on a daily basis that would have gotten anyone expelled from the school I grew up in. I very quickly realized I needed an escape valve from the stressful environment that had become my daily life. I thought back to Sashto and hatched a plan of my own. I would save as much money as I could to travel around the world for at least one year. And that’s what I’ve done.


It hasn’t been easy. There have been times where I haven’t gone out for over a month straight just to save money. Then there have been times where my will power hasn’t been so strong. Dinners with friends. New ski equipment. Trips to Iceland and British Columbia. There were even the beginnings of romantic relationships that brought the entire idea of the trip into question. Now that I am ten days away from the greatest adventure of my life, I realize I am lucky to be pulling this off in the first place.


As for the trip, I didn’t plan on chasing El Nino, it just kind of happened. I’ve dreamed up so many different incarnations for my travels that I can’t keep track of them anymore. A year ago I thought I’d be hopping on a plane to Southeast Asia so I could backpack there for two years. However, I’ve gained enough wisdom in my travels to realize that planning too far in advance doesn’t work for me. I need to follow my intuition and my intuition told me I’d want to be skiing in North America in February. As luck would have it, it happens to be the strongest El Nino on record.


On January 27 I will pack up my car and head west.   I will have a tank full of gas, a trunk full of skis and a head full of dreams. I can try to imagine where the road will take me; neck deep powder, huge mountains, new friends. But as my friend Sashto taught me years ago, the best things in life are never planned.