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"Most Underrated Places to Visit"

SFO Airport

8:05 am

I can't believe I sat in this very airport, this very terminal in fact, a year ago already. My life was as uncertain as they come back then. I was pushing 37, just decided to take a break from acting after tirelessly chasing a dream for over a decade, and moved back to Oakland without a clue as to what I was going to do next. So what did I do? I hopped on a plane. My little soul-searching adventure took me to Jordan, a close friend's wedding in Israel, a mentor's play in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia. When I returned I could claim lots of new friends in Eastern Europe, some notable experiences, but was no less confused about the next chapter of my life.

But as I always do, I dug my heels in and worked hard to try and figure it out. Slowly I settled back into Oakland life. I stayed with a close friend for a year, grateful for both his incredible generosity and lack of girlfriend. My parents had offered to let me stay as I tried desperately to sell my place back east, but feeling out of place and a bit lost was something I figured a friend might understand, or at least put up with a little better. No matter how you slice it, a brooding man in his late 30s ain't cute.

This past year was one of the most difficult of my relatively young life. And I suppose for that reason it was also one of the most rewarding. I wrestled with loss of identity, struggled to find teaching work, and for the first time in 10 years had a roommate. Or should I say, forced a roommate upon someone who was humming along rather nicely.

There were times I caught myself daydreaming of New York -- how I'd sit on my couch and gaze out on a Manhattan skyline. I thought about my friends and tried to guess what they were up to. I missed the parks I'd frequent, even the sound of a screeching 2 Train pulling up to Penn Station. It's funny the things you start to miss. I had it all I'd think to myself, Than why were you so unhappy? another voice would counter.

That's the funny thing about hindsight. We tend to gloss over the pain, the loss, the loneliness, the longing for something, anything to just change. But in some perverse way, I loved New York so much there's no where else I'd rather experience those very things, no matter how ugly. Now that's strange.

The year back home was also wonderful in many ways. I spent time with my dearest friends, published a book, delivered a TEDx Talk, started two brands, found teaching work and was really good at it. Most importantly though, I spent time with my family -- the main reason for my return.

Now, a year later I find myself more settled but the sense of wandering in my spirit remains and thankfully so. How lucky I am, I think. Rather than start to feel like it's all old hat my senses have chosen to double-down. I continue to be delightfully overwhelmed by the world -- it's beauty, size, potential. There's so much to see, do, and hear. And maybe, in time, those experiences will help me one day just BE.

My body seems to know when it hasn't been out of the country in a while. Six months I start to get a little antsy, a year and I'm stir crazy. I suppose it's about time to do something about it again. Nicaragua here I come. "Why Central America?" I was asked. Why not I think. There's more to the world than the Pantheon and overpriced gelato.

Of course, I conveniently keep to myself my brilliant way for deciding on Nicaragua: Googling, "Most Underrated Places Worth Visiting." Granada, if you're interested, came up twice.

I was sold.

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