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  • Daniel Rangel

Journal Entry #2: Inspirational Crisis

Updated: May 3


PART 1: TAKE OFF.

ENTRY #2. YEAR 2013

I am riding front row, window-seat, in the plane. A glass of red wine offers therapy as I write this. Sitting next to me is a man in conservative, old-man clothes. I get the feeling that he thinks I am a spoiled millennial brat, riding first class, with no worries in the world. Only if he knew what it took to get me here.

The decision to embark on this journey was not an easy one. It didn’t play out like it does in a well-flowing fantasy book. There was no eureka moment, and no angel came in the middle of the night to enlighten me. Quite honestly, I don’t remember exactly what made me tick. I mean sure, there are the reasons why I think I’m doing this, but people have plenty of reasons why they should do a lot of things, yet they never do them.


Something else is motivating me. It spoke to me in the form of feelings. It was something I felt those first waking seconds when that horrible alarm went off to start my day. I felt this need to escape, to break free, to start over—to live more. There was no real logic to it. It was more a rain of emotions and unconstructed thoughts. This thing motivating me has no language or at least not one I can understand, but it feels right.


What I do know, is that this idea of booking it to another country has been with me for a while. For years I had expressed this as a joke with an underlying truth that only I was aware of. Amongst friends and co-workers, if something went slightly wrong, like I was stuck in traffic or I got a parking ticket, off I would go:


“Fuck it, I’m going to Costa Rica.”


I joked about leaving everything behind to live a simple and romantic life of beer, beach, and surf.


This desire to live and experiment in another country was fueled by some solo trips I took recently to Central America and Canada. The world was larger than I had thought. Life extended far beyond what I had been used to seeing. Traveling and the stories of the people I met made me feel like I was living in a bubble, or not living at all.


During a three-week-long trip through Central America, I met two French guys in their early twenties who got me thinking differently about my life. They had just quit their jobs back home, and with hardly any money saved up, they decided to abandon everything and go to the transparent-blue waters of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. They went with no plan, only with the idea that they wanted to be chefs, because, aside from traveling, cooking was the thing they loved the most.


The day I met them in Playa Del Carmen, they had just spent their last dime on the beer they were drinking. They had just arrived from France only two weeks ago. Despite this, they seemed totally composed and without worry. When I asked them what they were going to do, they shrugged and said, “We’ll figure it out.”


The following day they had jobs at the hostel, and they continued their efforts to find work as chefs. I don’t know what happened to them after that. I don’t know if they ended up getting jobs as chefs or if they starved to death, but that didn’t matter to me. The damage was done. What I had heard was enough to get my idealist mind churning.


Anybody else might have heard their story and brushed them off as lost, aimless, and irresponsible kids who needed to get their act together. Not me. I was fascinated. I thought it was ballsy of them to just up and leave. To me, they represented the true essence of power, of having control of your life. They were grabbing it by the balls and saying, “You’re mine!” They didn’t wait for the whole universe to align and the temperature to be right and the clouds and the stars and all that other stuff. They left because they wanted to—easy as that. It was freedom and power, in its purest form.


Then there was the twenty-five-year-old blond Canadian guy I met in Guatemala. I thought I was cool because I was traveling for three weeks. Then, this guy comes along. He tells me he’s been on the road for six months and that he has maybe another nine to go. The worst part about this guy, the part that really made my life seem like canned food waiting to expire, was that he had been traveling on a bicycle, down from Canada to Guatemala, and his goal was to reach Brazil. I was just like, What! How is that even possible? Where are these people coming from? What rock have I been living under?


It blew my mind. I envied them. Me—the Los Angeles, career-driven, yuppie-aspiring kid, who wears pretentious suits and drives a Mercedes with a fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude—yes, me, I was envious of these people, these vagabonds, these transients who seemed to stand for everything I didn’t. I envied their humility, their freedom, and their daringness to live their youth.


In the end, the stories of people like this and everything else about my life—what I had experienced, what I had failed in, what I had read and seen, what had hurt and disappointed me—boiled up and pushed me into a premature mid-life crisis—a quarter-life crisis—or to be real, and call it how it is: depression.


Before this depression, I had been so sure about my future, extremely positive, actually—seminars galore type-positive. I had been positive that my career was in real estate. I was going to be a millionaire before I turned thirty and live in a house by the beach. I was positive about what cars I was going to drive, the color hair my wife was going to have, and the life philosophy I was going to maintain. There had been no doubt in mind that things were going to play out in the real world as they had in my head. After all, “the law of attraction,” right?


But then reality, that little bitch, unfolded itself, and as it did so, my convictions became questions. The seminars now seemed fraudulent. I began questioning everything I had assumed life was supposed to be like, mainly because nothing in my life seemed to be what I had thought it was going to be like. X amount of work didn’t mean X amount of money. The suit and the car didn’t seem to bring respect. Money didn’t do what I thought it could. No one gave a shit about my small-time success. The pale-skinned girl with jet-black hair and a sharp nose, who was supposed to be my wife, was nowhere to be seen. One plus one didn’t always equal two. In this new reality, where nothing seemed to be what it was supposed to be, a thirst was fueled, a thirst for new knowledge, new experiences, and a new life. If I had been wrong about what I thought was right, had I also been wrong about what I thought was wrong?


The questions exceeded the answers, and at twenty-four, I felt that if I didn’t live my curiosities now, I would never do so. Also, having started my career as a real estate agent almost six years ago at eighteen, I was afraid of that being all I would know: door-knocking, cold-calling, contracts, stuff, and more stuff. And with each day that passed, the idea of just booking it and leaving my life became harder and harder. The physical and social baggage became heavier. I got scared that it would eventually become too big to carry anywhere.

And so it was that I found the anger and the courage in an existential crisis—I mean, depression—to dare to do something I had been contemplating for two years but had been too scared to act on.


But of course, this old man next to me, who refuses to make small talk, has no idea what it took for me to be here. I do have worries in the world.


Real estate flyer, Circa 2012. Venice Canals, CA.

ABOUT: This is a memoir, structured as a journal, meant to read like a novel. It’s a free book with new entries published regularly. It’s is the story of how I traveled the American continent, from Mexico to Argentina, starting with two-dollars and a string and a button. Subscribe to be notified of new entries.


This free publication is a small token of my appreciation to the thousands of people I met in the streets who made my journey possible. I might not be the best person to write this story, but here it is. It’s yours. Thank you. From the USA to Argentina, Thank you!

FREE BOOK.

A TRAVELER’S JOURNAL:

CROSSING LATIN AMERICA ON A STRING & BUTTON.

PUBLISHED WEEKLY, CHAPTER BY CHAPTER.

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