I guess it’s that time when it’s officially halfway through summer. Now I know that I’ll probably get a few jabs for saying this, but summer is not my favorite of all seasons. For me, it goes by so quick and everyone seems to disappear. If you need to talk about something serious, summer doesn’t seem to be the time to do it. Nonetheless, I’ve had many memorable summers, but the one that really sticks out is the summer of 2000. In this particular summer, I travelled to many places and it set me down the path that shaped my life today.
I was 18 and living in England at the time. I took a year off high school and went to live with my cousins who lived outside of London, while working for a large supermarket in the area. Getting a work visa was easy at that time and my parents supported the idea (as long as I paid my way of course!). Anyways, in June of 2000 my brother, who was living in Munich at the time, invited me to come stay with him. He had also informed me that we’d be travelling around Eastern Europe for nearly two weeks, so I thought “Hey! That’d be pretty nice!” My brother travelled across Eastern Europe for work and made many connections in various places, and so we’d be going to see some of his friends along the way.
After a few days in Munich, my brother and I travelled to Moscow to attend the wedding of his friend’s daughter. His friend is one of the richest people in Moscow and as such, I got a small glimpse of luxury. From there, we went to Poland for another few days before driving to countries such as the Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and Serbia. Never before had I travelled to so many countries in a space of 13 days. I met some interesting people many whom I still stay in touch with. I also felt being a part of history; I was in Serbia while it was still Yugoslavia and while Slobodan Milosevic was still in power, (I even saw him give a public speech!).
Had I not gone on this trip, I might not be where I am today. Before I saw my brother, the supermarket back in England offered me to work there permanently and I was eager to go forward. This meant that I’d be dropping out of high school and staying in England permanently. Since I had been enjoying my time there and had no desire to go back to Canada, I thought it would be the right move – I was 18 and didn’t know any better. When I told my brother the news, he was like “Wait! Let’s talk about this first!” So during the drive through Eastern Europe, he went over the many cons of dropping out of high school and what life might possibly be like. I denied it for like the first eight days of the trip, but when we were driving one night through the Bulgarian countryside I remembered the conversation.
“You got a lot of talents that need to be shared with the world,” he told me.
“Yeah right,” I quipped.
“No I’m not kiddin’,” he says. “You really do…you got so much potential, in fact you’re smarter than me.”
“You’re losin’ it-” I talk back.
“Frank! YOU’RE SMARTER THAN ME! Don’t throw your life away!”
The conversation carried on, but I was stunned when a man 19 years his brother’s senior would say his little brother was smarter than him. Bet you don’t hear that often? Those words he said still echo in my brain to this very day. Furthermore, he went on emphasizing about all the mistakes he had made in life (too many to list!). By the time we’d reached Albania, I was convinced and so when I returned to England I’d said my ‘thanks but no thanks,’ and moved back home. I went on to finish high school and complete two more degrees. Sadly, my brother and I are no longer close, but I’ll never forget the advice he gave me. If it weren’t for him, I might not have graduated high school and who knows where I’d be right now. I can certainly tell you that I wouldn’t be blogging or writing, that’s for sure!