Chapter 1 Leaving Home

I’ve lived in Los Angeles my entire life. Throughout my 24 years of life, I’ve never been away from this city for more than 1 or 2 months at a time. It’s kinda crazy to think about how many experiences I’ve made in this place. I feel like I’ve been here so long, and thus I’ve made such deep connections and roots in this city. Which is why it’s so difficult to leave.
I’ve always envisioned myself traveling the world, meeting new people, and seeing different landscapes. For me, it didn’t matter where, as long as it was a new experience, whether it was a secluded, mountainous region, or a bustling city, it didn’t matter to me as long as it was my first time there. My earliest memories of wanting to leave home were probably in middle school. I had a longing to see different places. The unknown has a way of reeling me in, and that’s why I feel I need to travel now. Growing up in Los Angeles, I was sort of exploring the world while remaining in the same place. I think that’s what I love about this city, its diversity. First in terms of its eclectic population. The cultural diversity is insane. We have people from all over the world. Growing up here, I’ve been spoiled, especially by the food. There are very few places in the world where you can get great quality, authentic food from nearly every corner of the world. And then there’s its landscape. You have densely populated urban areas, suburbs, beaches, mountains, deserts, forests, etc all of which are easily accessible. I love having the ability to spend a Saturday snowboarding in Big Bear and then following it up the next day with a trip to a quiet beach in Malibu. Despite all the positive things I have to say about Los Angeles, there are also reasons for my wanting to leave.
Living in Los Angeles, maybe America in general, I feel like I’m in a rat race. I feel as though everyone is competing to have the most money, fame, or whatever the fuck. And I’m burnt out from participating in it. Maybe this obsessive need for competition is more present in Los Angeles in comparison to other cities in America, but I do believe it’s a result of capitalism. For most people in the US, the finish line is the American dream, but the American dream is a facade. The American dream is dead. Yes, a few people can manage to find a home in a nice neighborhood and eventually, their soulmate whom they could raise a family with. But for the vast majority of people, this concept, it’s not achievable. So why would I continue to participate in this race? Everybody is in a rush to get money, get a partner, fame, etc in our country which makes it nearly impossible to have all of those. I do think most people can obtain those things, but this obsession bothers me
COVID is another reason for me wanting to leave LA. I believe that we’re at the tail end of the pandemic but as a result of it, I feel it has made me create many bad habits. First off, it has made me more complacent and less likely to experiment with new opportunities or adventures. I was pent up in my home for a long period,  it sort of became my lifestyle. Additionally, I’m more focused on the possible consequences of trying new things. Say I wanted to go travel during the pandemic, the first pushback I got from others was “Are you selfish enough to put others at risk?” Growing up in LA and being from a conservative Pakistani household, I already had a high focus on the thoughts and opinions of others. Before the pandemic, I would be more spontaneous and just try and do new things, I would worry about the consequences later. For instance, a trip to a foreign country may be expensive and could set me back, but I used to think that I would eventually figure out a way to pay for it. But now, I feel as if I think too hard about everything action I take and that inevitably that results in stagnation. I think that’s what I fear most in this world, stagnation. And staying in LA would mean staying stagnant. I think embarking on a journey to different countries will help me to become confident even when I’m outside of my comfort zone.
For this trip, I told my parents that I was only leaving for 2 weeks and was traveling with a friend. But to be honest, I don’t have a return ticket to LA. Telling them the truth would have caused mayhem, something I don’t want to deal with. Once I’m out here I’ll just keep telling them that I extended my stay. I felt guilty about lying to them, but lying to them prevents them from stressing out too much. I’m glad that my parents can trust me, but at the same time, I feel some sort of remorse since I’m blatantly lying to them. The day I left for this trip, both my parents accompanied me, along with my brother, to drop me off at 3 a.m. for my flight. I sat extremely still and quiet throughout the whole car ride. My parents kept going on about their desire for me to become a doctor, making dua so that my sister gets married soon, asking why I’m always traveling, when I would take them traveling, and on and on. I felt overwhelmed, I tried to relax by slowing my breath but I felt my body stiffening up more and more. I was upset because I was unhappy with myself, and part of me blames my parents for my unhappiness. I think that’s part of the reason I’m taking on this trip, I WANT TO FIND MY OWN HAPPINESS. I’m tired of being told what to do when to do it, and how to do it. All I want to do is live life, just simply exist. I feel lost in Los Angeles, in the city I’ve spent nearly my entire 24 years of life. I feel as though I’m a result of my environment and immediate circle, not my own person. And finally being by myself, I think I’ll be able to find my true self, and perhaps my passions, and the motivation I’ve lost in the past two years. Traveling in new areas can be dangerous, but that won’t stop me from trying. I’d rather try than not know, it’s scary to make a massive change like this, and abandon the comfort of your own home. But it’s something I feel I need to do. And now more than ever I just want to experience it. I’m now in Bogota, the first part of what could potentially be a long, life-changing journey.