Just Say No: Letting Good Opportunities Go

Buenos Aires, ArgentinaPainting

I just found out about an incredible opportunity: STA Travel’s 2009 World Traveler Internship. STA Travel is the world’s largest student and youth travel company.  For obvious reasons, both commercial and social, they actively encourage young people to travel abroad.  The summer internship program is a two-month, all expenses paid trip around the world.  In return, the interns must document their experience through videos, blogs, and photos.  This year, STA is sending two people to Fiji, Australia, India, Kenya, Russia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Scotland, and Ireland.  Candidates must be between the ages of 18-26, active, and have a strong desire to travel the world and share their experiences with others; excellent creative, written and verbal skills; an outgoing personality, and basic computer skills.  The first thing I thought when I learned of this program was, “Damn.  Now I’m going to have to apply for this.”

Rarely does such a perfect opportunity come along.  I have no plans for summer ’09 (in fact, after March my dance card is wide open).  Not only do I meet the requirements, I had already been hoping that in the future New Zealand would serve as the jumping off point for a trip around the world.   And if I were to globetrot as an STA Intern, I would be able to develop my writing, photography, video, and journalism skills.   This program was clearly meant for me.

Every one who knows me knows that I am annoyingly and inappropriately competitive. (Except when it comes to bowling.  There’s just no point competing at something when you know there’s no chance of winning.)  In college, my friend and I made another girl cry while playing Sorry! (Although, I’m not sure that was entirely our fault.  Seriously, who actually cries over a board game?)   So, if I am generously sharing this information with potential rivals, it can only mean one thing:  I’ve decided not to apply.

The day I learned of the program, I was so distracted that I couldn’t even concentrate during my guided meditation.  Instead, I took advantage of the time to mentally write the script for my application video.   By the end of the day, my roommate, who studied film production, had agreed to help with the concept and editing, and my friends had been recruited as actors.  Driven to insomnia, I stayed up all night picking out music and pictures to include in the video.   In the morning, after having slept on the idea (albeit fitfully), my enthusiasm started to wane.   I tried to motivate myself: “You might as well apply.  You’ve got nothing to lose and nothing better to do.”  But by afternoon, the pep talk had turned into: “I kind of hope they don’t pick me.” And there’s just no point applying for something that you don’t even want.

I already have a plan A: moving to New Zealand, looking for a job in writing, getting my own apartment, meeting new people, and staying in one place long enough to build momentum and move forward.  After three years of perpetual motion, my goal for 2009 is stillness and stability.  And this trip would be the exact opposite.  Maybe I don’t have anything to lose by applying, but I would have a lot to lose if I were selected, like my sanity.

I’m not done traveling yet.  There are too many places to discover, cultures to explore, foods to taste, dances to learn, sights, sounds, and smells to experience, ways of living and points of views to consider, and stories to hear and tell.  I’m just done backpacking, budgeting, and traveling and living light.  I’ve been doing it since I was nine, and I’m exhausted. When I was drafting a fantasy itinerary for my own trip around the world, I was planning on visiting fewer countries in a year than the program has scheduled for two months.  The internship is a great opportunity, but for someone else.

Let’s be honest. I’m just too old to travel like a rock star.  Nothing has made me come to terms with how not young I am like this program.  In June, I will no longer fall into the under 26 category, which means no more free trips, discounts, or health insurance.  Certainly, 26 is not “old,” but it’s not “youth” either.  At 26, society considers you an adult, capable of fending for yourself and/or too grown up for child’s play.  Hypothetically, if I were to get the internship, I would turn 26 four days into the trip.  Not applying for this internship is like asking that there please be no strippers at your bachelor party – you’re astounded and horrified by your own maturity.  I think I know how Wendy must have felt when decided to leave Never Ever Land.

Truthfully, I’ve been waiting for years to turn 26.  The summer after my first year of college I worked at a country club.  One day, one of the other waitresses began to lament her upcoming birthday and getting old.  She was 22.  The youngest member of the club (in his 30s) was eating lunch at the bar after golfing.  To console her, he confessed, “The best years of my life started when I turned 26.”  His thesis was simple: at 26 he finally had the perfect balance between security and freedom, and responsibility and leisure.  He was still young enough to have fun and experiment, but wise enough to do so without compromising his individuality, health, priorities or values.  He was still learning, but he suffered less and he knew himself well enough to avoid uncomfortable and awkward situations (like agreeing to travel to ten countries in two months with a stranger and document the entire trip).  And most importantly, he had the resources to do things his way.

When I was a kid, I was too scared or stupid or stuck-up or self-loathing to act my age.  I knew that actions had consequences, and I knew what those consequences were.  Too afraid and vulnerable to get in the game, I waited on the sidelines for my turn to play.  And now my age has finally caught up with me.  Maybe I am almost an adult.  But that’s great, because now I can finally enjoy my youth.


1 Response to “Just Say No: Letting Good Opportunities Go”

  1. 1 Agustin January 20, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Hi! I’m an argentinian and I’ve just been taking a look at your blog. I like it very much.

    If you are interested in traveling maybe you will like this job that are offering in Australia.


    PS: “Qué bien que hablás!” (just kidding).

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