Tuesday, May 19, 2009 by Dave Blum

It’s October of 1987 and I’m waiting anxiously in the poste restante line of the Singapore post office — two months into my worldwide backpacking trip and starving for word from home.

Back then — well before email, texting and twittering — the best way to receive correspondence while on the road was to tell friends and loved ones to write you a letter c/o a particular post office.  Their letter would then be held in “post restante” until you came by to claim it.  In Asia, the organization of “poste restante” varied from city to city.  In Kathmandu, for example, the lackadaisical staff directed you to an open trough of cards and letters, thrown in willy nilly.  It was up to you to sift through the morass of correspondence and locate your own personal items.  Singapore, by contast, boasted one of the better systems around; everything was computerized.  You simply got in line and stated your name; the clerk would then look on his print out, find your name, and bring you your mail.  Slick!

So there I am, nearing the front of the line, and itching with anticipation.  Letters mean so much to you when you’re traveling–especially if you’re going it alone, as I was.  The counter clerk scans the list and says, “Lucky day! You’ve got three letters.”  A few minutes later, he returns with a real bounty: a card from my parents, a letter from my girlfriend in Japan, and an aerogramme (remember those) from an old college roommate, Tim.    Feeling like Charlie Bucket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I clutch my mail to my chest and hurry outside to find a quiet “reading place” in the sun.  Slowly I peel open each letter, expecting — if not a “golden ticket” — at least some warm tidings from my loved ones far away.  Delicious!

Everyone, it seems, is missing me.  Yumiko in Japan is looking forward to our next meeting in California.  Mom and Dad are worried that I’m safe.  And Tim is hoping that I’m having the adventure of my life.  Clearly here are people who care a lot about me — so the question I’m asking myself is, what in the world am I doing in Singapore, Asia…alone…so far from my nearest and dearest!   Should I continue on my journey, or wouldn’t it be better to head on home, back to my loved ones, my long-term relationships?


I think we are often, in life, faced with this kind of dilemma:

  • Should you continue on along a certain path or break it off and turn back?
  • Should you make your choices based on dreams/work/projects, or on relationships?

Back in 1987, I felt like I had a real choice to make:  keep traveling to the places I’ve always wanted to see, or take a hard left turn and return home, where my support group is waiting.

We are never truly alone–our ties bind us to the past and connect us to the future.

I opted to keep going…to Thailand, India, Nepal, and Turkey.  It was not an easy choice.  I “gambled” that my relationships would still be there when I got back.  Loneliness would not be my prime motivator.  Looking back, it was the right decision.  The relationships endured.

The economy is tough; don’t give up on your businesses.  Life is full of stress; don’t give up on your dreams.  Life is lonely, nurture your relationships.  As long as you communicate, you don’t always have to choose between your passions and your loved ones.