Current Date: February 14, 2008 12:00 p.m. (Cancun, Mexico)

Current Itinerary: Leaving here today or tomorrow to meet my friend Paula in Playa del Carmen.

Note: My apologies to everyone…this e-mail was supposed to go out before I left the US two days ago but my friend’s internet connection was down and I couldn’t send it. I wrote most of this during the month of January and early February as I was preparing to leave for this trip.

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Hello out there everybody!!  It’s been a loooooong time since many of you have heard from me…that’s my fault of course.  That’s what happens when you get caught up in the daily grind I guess…but don’t worry, I never forget about all the great people out there that have been a part of this crazy rollercoaster of life I’ve been on for 31 years.  Many of you are new to this e-mail list (especially all you Boston folks) so welcome aboard!  Be careful though, I can be very dangerous with a keyboard and an internet connection but hopefully you’ll enjoy the ride…

So I just looked back and it’s been since April of '05 since I’ve sent out any updates.  Certainly quite a bit has happened since then…not just in my life but I’m sure the same is true for many of you (I’ve seen enough baby pictures the last few years to last a lifetime).  The last few summers have been excellent in Boston…I’ve been doing a lot of running and biking to stay busy…and to keep my 31 year old body in some semblance of shape.  I’ve enjoyed a great life living in the North End…which is the “little Italy” of Boston for those who don’t know (which made it the BEST place outside of Italy to watch the Italians win the world cup in ’06).  I’ve had a carousel of roommates (the last of which ended up being a bitch who stole a bunch of money from me…I’m not bitter or anything though) and a lot of ups and downs.  I’ve been able to spend days in Fenway park, walking in Harvard Square, strolling around the Boston Common, having lunch in Beacon Hill, looking out at the Bunker Hill Monument from my rooftop, and most importantly, having beers and watching football at my favorite watering hole, The Boston Sports Grilll. (yep, all those great things this city has to offer).  It’s pretty lucky actually, and although Boston has never been my favorite place on earth (notice I said excellent SUMMERS and did not mention the winters), it has been my home and I like a lot about what it had to offer.

Despite all that, my number one passion remains the same as it ever was…traveling.  When I got here I thought I’d be here for about 4 months…3.5 years later, here I sit.  That’s how life is though…it throws you a curve ball and things never go as “planned”.  I happen to like that though…I’ve always loved when you don’t know what’s around the next corner.  It keeps life exciting.  After being in Boston for just a few weeks, I ended up landing a great job at a great company and decided to let life steer me where I needed to be.  Despite my long hiatus from being on the road, I still did manage to do a few trips while I was here, which was great.  I remember back in early ’05 that I went to El Salvador for my friend Karina’s wedding. There were many people who thought I wouldn’t come back from that trip after getting a taste of the backpacking world, but surprisingly, I didn’t have too much trouble when it was time to come back.  I guess I just had it set in my mind that it would be a “vacation” so it was okay for me.  Later that year I went down to Colombia for my friend Tony’s wedding and it was a totally different story.  The traveling world got it’s claws into me.  I just had an incredible time down there and even though I only spent a few days in the hostels and on the move, I felt like it was where I belonged.  The highlight of the trip was this awesome hike I did to 15,000 feet (5000m) on a mountain near the city of Manizales.  I’m not going to tell the whole story (see I CAN be succinct…well I shouldn’t say that so early in an e-mail that’s bound to go on for 5 more pages…well, be happy…it could have been 7!)  but it was a crazy and an unbelievable challenge.  I was mentally and physically reduced to almost nothing...but I kept trudging on.  It was probably one of the best days I’ve ever had on the road.  Traveling can push you to limits you never dreamed...and conquering them and getting past that...well that’s why I think we’re here on this planet.  There’s nothing like waking up and thinking that you might endure the biggest challenge of your life…or that there are so many possibilities that you don’t know where the day will take you.  It’s an excitement you can’t exactly get when you’re cramming onto the subway to and from work while everybody around you is either reading or staring at the floor.  Maybe it’s just me.  That Colombia trip made me realize that more than ever that I’d have to do a long trip again sometime in the not so distant future. 

Since then, I’ve held on strongly to how I felt.  During that next year I really started making an effort to save up some money.  The brutal winter was plenty of motivation.  It’s weird…I think of myself as a pretty upbeat guy and I’m not the type that ever gets sad…but these winters are down right depressing.  Of course, I don’t like the cold, but it really goes a lot deeper than that.  The cold mood permeates into everyone’s lives and has a pretty drastic effect on how people treat each other.  It kills your motivation to even leave the house…not to mention pain of getting up at 6:30 a.m. when it’s dark, trudging through the cold and the snow to work, and then leaving at 5:30 when it’s already dark again.  Jesus, it could depress anybody.

Despite that, I had the solace of actually loving my job when I did get there through the snow and right around then a new relationship began to blossom in my life so things were looking up.  By the time summer came we were having such a great time I figured I could stick it out a few more years.  Even things at work got better when I switched to a new group and as an added bonus, my beloved Irish had found their way into the top 10 again (note: in light of what we know now, that might not be worth bringing up…but I’ve decided that the 2007 season never happened).  Things were just going too good for me to leave and I felt like I was on a great track…saving up and looking a couple years down the road at travelling again.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) old man winter had a different plan for me.  Somewhere around that February, my spirit was official broken and I knew it was time for me to go.  I was just too miserable and I felt like that wasn’t the type of person I am and I needed to get out of that situation before it was too late.

I always tell people that the greatest lesson I learned from travelling a few years ago was the value of personal happiness.  Somehow in this country, it tends to fall way too far down on the priority list.  Just look around at how many people hate their jobs, or hate their commute to work, or whatever it is but just aren’t willing to make the change to do something about it.  I don’t get that.  Maybe it’s too scary, maybe it’s too much work…I don’t know, but outside of familial obligations it makes no sense to me.  There’s no sense in me spending the next 3 years (or 30 years) here complaining about the winter for half the year.  It’s not fair to me or to everybody around me that has to hear me bitch about it everyday.  I just don’t like the negativity…so I decided then do something about it.

During the last year, I’ve done nothing but think about getting to this point…realizing a vision that I’ve held on for the past 3.5 years.  It’s time for the adventure to continue on boys and girls.  I’m leaving Boston on February 12th for Cancun and from there the road is WIIIIIIIDE open.  There is an added twist this time though…I will not be doing it alone.  I’ve been dating a girl here in Boston for the last couple years and it seems that she’s decided to hitch her wagon to the AC express and off we are going.  I think it will be awesome to have a travel companion and I’m brimming with excitement about what’s ahead for us.  Before I get into that though, I know a lot of people out there are brimming with questions so let’s see if I can’t mow through some of the FAQ I’ve been hearing over and over again for the past couple months:

WHAT??  TRAVELING AGAIN?? YOU ALREADY HAD YOUR TURN!  AREN'T YOU TOO OLD FOR THIS?

Well, I’ve always believed that you’re only as old as you feel…so I guess I’m about 80 considering all the times I had to go to the doctor this fall:)  Seriously though, I guess that’s part of the reason I’m taking a big chance to do this again now.  I’m certainly not getting any younger.  Maybe 31 isn’t that old, but it is starting to get up there…I can admit that, but I’ve got quite a bit left in my tank.  I really believe you have to seize the moment, as cliché as it sounds and that’s what I’m doing.  Traveling is definitely one of those things that you’ll never find the exact “perfect” moment to do.  You’ll always have to give up something...it all comes down to what it means to you.  Some of you that got all my journals on my last trip might remember when I was in Sao Luis in the north of Brazil and I travelled with Janet, a 39 year old woman from England who was traveling alone and spoke a bare minimum of Spanish/Porteguese.  I remember trying to use her as an example to show everybody that anybody can do this.  Well, as these years have ticked by, I’ve thought of her many times.  It’s stories like hers that kept my fire burning and let me know that even as I entered my fourth decade on this planet that it’s not too late.  So that’s it, I’m 31 and I’m doing it.  It’s the right thing for me.  Take THAT Father Time!!

WHERE ARE YOU GOING THIS TIME?

We fly into Cancun tomorrow and we’ll be spending the next couple weeks in the Yucatan bouncing back and forth between the beach and the different Mayan Ruins that are inland.  From there we’ll go south into Belize and then continue through Central America over the next few months.  After that it’s pretty open, but most likely we’ll be heading down the west coast of South America, going through Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Chile.  It would be cool to get as far as Patagonia but that is a long way from now and there’s no way to predict what will happen.  For now, the first goal is just to get through Central America.

CENTRAL/SOUTH AMERICA???  ISN'T IT DANGEROUS DOWN THERE??

I got this question quite a bit last time…and the answer is pretty simple…not really if you just use some common sense.  When you’re backpacking around you always have a pretty heightened sense of awareness…especially in the bigger cities.  Most of the time we’ll be in smaller towns and those are usually much safer.  There is a bigger threat in those countries of petty theft, but we will do the best we can to stay safe as possible…so don’t worry.  I’ll especially be more careful since Jodi will be by my side.  Which brings is to what has undoubtedly been the most asked question…

WOW, YOU ACTUALLY CONVINCED JODI TO GO WITH YOU?

This might seem surprising to most people out there, but truth is it was really the other way around.  I was the one that needed convincing.  I’ve always known that I’d travel again and that Boston would be a pit stop for me rather than a permanent home and I really never made a secret of that.  In fact, that was one of the reasons I was resistant to starting a relationship in Boston in the first place.  Somewhere in the beginning when Jodi and I were first starting our relationship, she once asked me why I was so hesitant to move things forward and I told her, “because I’ll never stay here, and you’ll never leave.”  I guess I was only half right.  Thank God.

Anyway, I do have mixed feelings about traveling together, but I think it will be pretty awesome.  There is a lot that goes with travelling with someone…and even more if you’re in a relationship with that person.  But the key is, a lot of people say they want to do this, but few people can really back it up.  The fact that she's ready, willing, and able to drop everything and strap on a backpack and venture out into the world speaks volumes to what kind of person she is.  I happen to think its pretty cool...I mean, you can imagine that the odds of finding someone who would even consider something like that are pretty slim.  It doesn’t surprise me about her though.  We’re on the same wavelength for just about everything.  It’s part of what makes us work so well together.  I guess I finally found what I was looking for all these years…MYSELF!!  Haha…that’s a Seinfeld quote…but it really has been an amazing relationship and I am glad I’ll have a travel partner this time around.  I always thought one of the downsides of traveling like I have was that I have this unending desire to share the experience with those I love and wish I could show them the world through my eyes.  I'm excited that someone I care about will get to see/do/feel all the wonderful things and emotions that come along with the experience that’s ahead of us.  As anyone who knows her would tell you, Jodi is one of the easiest going, roll with the punches, ready for adventure types you'll ever meet.  As my buddy Mike would put it, she’s a “playmaker”.  I always knew that, but I guess I wasn’t SURE if I could ever travel with someone until we went down to Panama last year for a couple weeks over New Year's.  We went down there with zero plan and it turned out to be a perfect few weeks (highlighted by ringing in the new year by skinny dipping in the ocean at midnight with about 20 drunk people from all around the world…good times!).  It was her first time staying in hostels and being in a "third world" country where she didn't speak the language, but she adapted right away and enjoyed every single piece of the experience.  It’s funny, because I was so worried about how it would go and if we’d get along and if she would adapt.  In the end, I felt like such a dumbass for even worrying at all.  She has an unbelievable approach to life and is willing to try anything and everything.  We always have such great times together and I think I probably couldn’t find a better travel partner.

WELL, IF ALL THAT'S TRUE, SHE MUST BE ONE IN A MILLION

yep.

WHAT DOES HER FAMILY THINK??

Well, Jodi has 3 brothers, 2 nephews, and 2 nieces.  The Zarycki clan is pretty big and all of them are here in the greater Boston area.  My guess is that it will probably be harder for her than it is for them but it seems like her brothers are pretty excited about the whole thing.  I think her Mom thinks it’s a great thing for her to do and is pretty happy for her but still has those “mother” concerns that any Mom would.  I wouldn’t say I get that same vibe from her Dad…but I guess Dad’s will be Dads.  I think he’s having a tough time wrapping his mind around why anybody would do something like this but in the end I think he’ll see it’s the right thing.

It’s interesting...after we decided we were going to do this, I told Jodi to be prepared for a lot of negativity.  I didn’t think most people would be happy…I thought it would be like when I left last time when I got a lot of the “are you crazy or stupid?” reaction (I still had plenty of support though).  It hasn’t been too much like that for her though...most of her friends think it’s pretty cool and are supportive.  I’ve noticed something this time around by the way.  Maybe it’s because I’m a little older now and the people I know are a little older, but I seem to be getting a LOT more “wow, I’m really jealous and I wish I could do it” type responses.  Maybe b/c at 25, most people around me hadn’t quite settled into life just yet and now that they have they realize that life sucks:) Well, something like that, but some of you are definitely nodding right now.

Anyway, I got off the subject, but I think her family is sad to see her go, but happy that she’ll get to have the experience of a lifetime.  Her Mom is already talking about coming to visit us so that’s cool.  Note to my folks...this is a good idea!

(note to the Zaryckis:  I promise we will stay safe down there and that I’ll be watching out for Jodi and protecting her any way I can.  I won’t let anything happen to her!)

SO YOU’RE JUST QUITTING YOUR JOB?

As I stated earlier, I really have one of the best jobs in the world.  I love what I’m doing and I get to do it with the best boss and coworker a guy could ask for.  The company has a great environment and I have been very lucky to get to be a part of it the last 3.5 years.

We spend a lot of our waking day at work in this country and it always blows my mind how many people you meet that hate their jobs, or their boss, or a lot of the people at work.  None of that was the case for me.  In fact, it scares me to think that I may not ever find myself in such a wonderful position professionally.  That really made it extremely difficult for me to leave, but this my life I’m trying to lead here.  You should never let your job control you.  I always here this saying from other travelers and I’ve probably said it before, but you should work to live, not live to work.  I believe that and take it to heart.  I’m VERY sad to leave and I think everyone I work with understands that this has everything to do about living life, and nothing to do with my feelings for my job.  In fact, if the company moves to California, I’ll be the first one in line for a job.  I think all of you will be hearing of Aveo in the years to come...the company is moving forward at an awesome pace and doing some great work in the oncology field. (ummm...I’m not just saying that because I’m a shareholder.)

My deepest thanks go out to everyone at Aveo for making it incredible experience and fantastic place to work.   I especially have to say thanks to my boss, Britt and my coworker, Joelle...the best teammates I guy could have.  I will miss you guys like crazy.  Also I special shout out to Min for giving my chance at Aveo in the first place.  It changed my life more than I ever thought possible.

WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN/IF YOU COME BACK??

The plan for the moment is to move out to the west coast...probably San Diego or San Fran.  I've made no secret of my disdain for the winter...plus I've always said that I wanted to try out the west coast.  It’s amazing but years ago, I used to always so that I wanted to try living in another country and try out both coasts.  Two out of three down.  I’m not sure where living in Texas was on that list…but I’ll count that as a bonus.  Who knows if I’ll make it out west, but I can only say that’s what I’m thinking at the moment.

AREN'T YOU SCARED?

Well, the bottom line is yes.  As I already said, I’m not quite in my mid-twenties anymore…although I move pretty fast, it’s just not the same (as my MANY doctor visits this past year will attest).  I think I’ve got plenty of stamina in me though.  It might be a bumpy take off and an even tougher landing...but I expect the ride to go smooth as butter.  I’m really scared about getting through the next couple weeks before we leave.  I’ve got to get everything out of this apartment and still have a lot to finish up at work.  I’m deeply entrenched in the “anxiety” stage right now.  It’s always like that for any major life event though.  When you decide you’re going to do it and you do something definitive like buy plane tickets, you’re super excited.  Then as it approaches and you think about all the stuff you have to do to prepare you think, “holy crap!” and you get a little scared...even though you know you’ll make it.  That’s where I am right now...I know we’ll make it and everything will be fine...I just have to keep my eye on that last stage...when you’re finally on the plane and you’re thinking, “oh yeah...I knew I could do it.”

So that’s where we are everybody.  The Quest to see the world will continue on February 12. I can’t believe it.  Personally, I’m excited to get back to doing what I do best...NOTHING!!  I’m looking forward to getting back into my writing groove as well (I guess this was a pretty good warm up).  Things will be the same as they were almost exactly 5 years ago...you’ll all be getting updates as we roll along telling with ridiculous detail what things we find ourselves getting into.  For all of you that are new to this list and think this is a long e-mail, you have no idea what’s in store.  I’m working hard to update the website (www.thecooperchronicles.com) and hopefully it will be completely up to date before we go and a new section will be added to chronicle our adventure as we meander our way down towards the equator.  I’ll be putting up a map that shows where we are and we’ll be posting pictures as often as possible.  I’m excited to bring you all along for the ride...and we will welcome any and all people out there who want to visit us on the way.

I can’t believe I’m getting the once in a lifetime chance TWICE!  AND I get to do it with somebody I love and one of the greatest girls on the planet!?  It really almost seems unfair.  I can’t say enough about how important it is to do everything you can and get the most you can out of life.  We only get to do it once people, so we might as well do it right as far I’m concerned.  As a VERY wise man once said:

“don´t take what you merely will accept out of life...decide what you want and go for it! Don´t you owe it to yourself?”

Strap yourselves in everybody because here we go again.

The Adventure Continues...

AC

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