When I was 26 — having had my fill of the "entry level job" part of my career — I applied to business schools and left for my first trip abroad: three months touring Europe alone.

10,000 miles in 90 days

Starting in Sweden, I drove a car through 11 countries, averaging 110 miles a day. It was a great series of tourist glimpses: from Oslo to Rome, Oporto to Amsterdam. I met people, fell in (and out of) love, and ate and drank the world's best food and drink.

The days didn't make sense. Most days, in most countries, were so — well — foreign. I had to learn, every morning how to secure breakfast. Do they eat bread in this place? Do they eat at this time? What are the words that can place a danish in front of me? (Damn. I'm in Denmark. Is "danish" for "a deadly pastry" an insult?)

There was the occasional call home to my parents. Those conversations made sense, but were clouded by the slow arrival of business school rejections at home. "Dear, we so love you," mom and dad would claim from 8,000 miles away. "But Stanford and Harvard apparently don't."

Out Of the Phone Booth,
Back To Weirdness
I loved the trip, but it was a big daily dose of anomie. I remember seeing an English movie (ignoring the French subtitles), grateful to hear familiar words.

Then, out of the cinema, back into the strange.

Of course, the currency didn't make sense. With a weak U.S. dollar, I realized on my third day that I would be sleeping outdoors for nearly the rest of the trip.

One night, in a small restaurant, I sat alone as the only diner who didn't speak Portuguese. The chef-proprietor swung through the kitchen doors in his apron holding a small watering can. He looked around. Everyone looked up. I can't remember if words were spoken.

Everyone in the restaurant pointed at me. (Uh, oh.)

The chef came over and showed me the watering can. I was clueless.

He smiled and threw his head back, showing me what to do. I did it and he grabbed my nose. That opened my mouth (so I could breath) — and he put the long spout over my mouth and began pouring warm, sweet Port wine into my mouth, more, more, not stopping as I furiously gulped the perfect liquid — until I waved him off.

He smiled. I thanked him. He nodded and then worked his way around the restaurant — doing the same for everyone.

Nothing made sense.

Until I went to bed.
(Actually, I "went to car," but this isn't a story about my unfunded wanderlust.)

This is a story about how, at night, I dreamed my entire life. You know how people who narrowly escape death — at least in cartoons — say they saw their entire lives flash before their eyes?

Well, I dreamed slowly, luxuriously, each night, another chapter in my life. Early childhood, summers at camp, school, adolescence, awkward moments in dating.

All night, the scenes were home, the language my own, the experiences familiar.

And then, come the sun, I would wake into a strange, dreamlike reality.

Life was false. Dreams were real.

You Can Experience This
I saw a show in the theatre last night, the opening of a two-week run of The Internationalist by Anne Washburn, directed by Matt Slaybaugh and produced by Available Light.

The evening evoked, from deep within my soul and memory, the emotional anxiety of my summer in  Europe.

And, as I experienced the wonderful acting, I realized something else. Confusion with my surroundings isn't limited to my experiences in faraway lands. It happens, to a lesser degree (thank goodness) most all the time, most everywhere.

Why Subject Yourself To Such Anxiety?
Because there is a lesson in being reminded: we are all strangers in a strange land.

For it wasn't just Europe that was strange. Being 26 is strange. Now, being 48 is strange. And, even though it is the manifestation of normal, Columbus is very, very strange.

There's really no reason not to see this show.
It plays this weekend and next. And tickets are priced at "pay what you want." Available Light means that. Pay what you want. Just go.

All tickets are cash at the door. No reservations. There will be a good seat for you — and all your friends.

Please go.

Here's how.

And, here's a glimpse. (Note: The show is mostly in English.)