She probably should have stuck it out, it was only four years after all, but it was just so exhausting. The reading and writing were wonderful, but the classes and the discussion groups and the mindless testing, were just too much. After a year and a half she decided to skip college and do something “else.” Problem was she had no idea what.

It wasn’t a problem for long. She knew a fellow student who was going to Spain for a year abroad. After kicking herself for not thinking of this option before dropping out, she decided to use the next eight months to work her ass off and earn the money to go abroad, too. Only not Spain. She had nothing against Spain, how could you: great food, great people, beaches, a language she already mostly spoke. But it just didn’t call to her. Italy. Italy called to her in a soft and subtle siren song she was eager to obey.

The next eight months were spent mostly waitressing and walking dogs with the occasional bartending shift thrown in. Anytime a job opportunity came her way she said yes, assuming it didn’t conflict with another job she’d already said yes to. She didn’t even check to make sure she was leaving enough time to sleep, she just said yes. And consequently there were days where she went without sleep. She learned to take power naps, which sounded horrible, so she called them ninja naps and felt much cooler. She discovered she could breeze through three full working days and nights with only 6 hours of sleep all garnered via ninja nap between jobs or while on break.

She bought the things she’d need as she saved up the money for them. Purchasing one thing and then saving up to purchase the next. She probably could have saved it all and then made all her purchases at once, but where was the reward in that? Or the excitement? First: an airline ticket, one way departing on exactly the eight month mark. Second: a backpack, one of those ridiculously big hiker packs. Third: hiking clothes that would be easy to wash and dry and wear without looking sloppy. Fourth: a good pair of hiking shoes, not boots. And then she just saved.

She’d take whatever she’d saved to the bank whenever she had some free time and change everything into twenty dollar bills. Then she’d stack the twenties into piles of five, then shove the five into an envelope and seal it. She labeled each envelope with a number 1, 2, 3, 4…she wanted to know exactly how much she had as she knew there’d be expenses for lodging, food, wine, museum entrance fees, and who knew what else.

The week before she was supposed to leave she advertised for a garage sale the coming weekend. She began labeling her meager belongings for sale. Surprisingly, her roommate bought the majority of her things: two-shelf bookcase, her favorite books (the hardest things to part with and the things for which she developed a mantra “replaceable”), the majority of her clothes and dishes. The rest she sold cheap the day before she left: a metal bedframe with mattress and boxspring, the few books and clothes and dishes her roommate hadn’t wanted.

Thanks to a notice she’d put up online she was able to get a free ride to the airport, the only catch being that she’d arrive a good five hours before her flight left. That was fine with her, she’d catch up on some sleep. She spent her last three hours before catching her ride stuffing that ridiculous backpack with the scant belongings she’d be taking with her, including a four-year-old guide to Italy she’d bought for a quarter at her local library book store (how outdated could a guidebook be when it was for a country built about a hundred years after Christ).

She thought about leaving a note for her roommate when the time came to leave, but decided against it. Better to send her a postcard when she arrived. She hoisted the unbelievably heavy pack on her back, set the lock on the door after double checking she’d left her house key on the kitchen table, and headed off.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

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