by Quincy Godwin

As I found myself barreling down I-95 on the outskirts of Philadelphia at 4 in the morning on the 4th of July, savoring a genuine Philly cheesesteak and mentally preparing myself for the long journey back home, I asked myself, Was the cheesesteak really worth it?

Was it really worth the 10+ hours spent driving?
Was it really worth close to $60 in gas and tolls?
Was it really worth the caffeine-fueled all-nighters?
Was it really worth having to drive through Virginia?

My answers were as follows: absolutely, without dispute, totally, and this cheesesteak is delicious.

I began to draw parallels between my Philly trek and my gap year endeavor. I began to ask myself, will it be worth it?

What did I expect to gain from impulsively driving to Philadelphia? What do I expect to gain from traveling to Tanzania, India, and Thailand?

Some of the things that I expected from the Philly trip did not happen, yet others things did. There was a whole spectrum of circumstance that made the trip substantially better than I could have hoped – the unexpected. The things that weren’t planned really made it all worthwhile. The cheesesteak was not planned; I was supposed to be at the National Mall watching fireworks over the Washington monument, yet I found more satisfaction in a single bite of meat, bread, and cheese than any display of light in the sky could have given me. I surrendered to the moment and was rewarded beautifully.

DC is great. But Philly has cheesesteaks.

DC is great. But Philly has cheesesteaks.

So then, figuratively speaking, in what form will my Tanzanian cheesesteak appear? Indian cheesesteak, anybody? A Thailand cheesesteak actually sounds pretty good. Regardless, I think that my experience taught me to always be on the lookout for an opportunity to squeeze value out of. Always be ready to say yes.

I feel nervous about leaving the country, but it’s not a bad nervous. More like the kind of nervous that you feel while you’re trying to work up the courage to kiss a girl for the first time. Excruciating anticipation. All there is left is to take a deep breath and do it.