But first I had to take care of things there. I handed in my two week notice which was a huge relief. Most of the people at work were a bit shocked to say the least but they understood. I think the management was probably as relieved as I was when I handed in my notice since Pressline was in a rut and I knew that they held me responsible. But I still had a good relationship with them and it was an amicable parting. I did everything I could to make sure they would be able to run Pressline in the interim while they looked for my replacement. Those two weeks were actually pretty enjoyable. I didn’t have to make any sales calls so I spent most of my time tying up loose ends and practicing my German. My best friends at the paper, Bob and Mary Gorman were really sad to see me go and threw me a going away party at their house. It was to be the first of four going away parties people had for me. Eric and I took one last trip up to Montreal and I enjoyed it so much more knowing that I didn’t have to go to work when I got back. I forget exactly why Eric was in town at the time but I was really glad he was. He was really my inspiration for this crazy decision and I think he, more than anybody, understood my wanderlust and need to see the world. On the way home we stopped in Claremont, New Hampshire. Claremont is a town on the border with Vermont and is where both of my parents are from. Most of my relatives live there and my mom’s side did a get together so they could all say goodbye. The one thing I remember most is that my Uncle Jerry, a Jehovah Witness, was not happy about me joining the army. I guess Jehovah Witnesses don’t believe in military service and he threw a bunch of bible verses at me that were supposed to explain why but I just kind of chuckled and said goodbye. I always liked Uncle Jerry and didn’t want to offend him. We headed back to Nashua where my dad had planned another going away party for me and had invited his side of the family and his friends who knew me and wanted to say goodbye. It was at that party that I received one of the greatest, most perfect gifts I’ve ever received in my life. As the party was winding down, Eric pulled me aside and handed it to me. I opened it and it was a travel guidebook: Lonely Planet’s Western Europe on a Shoestring. He mentioned that he had used it when he was backpacking around Europe and found it extremely useful and figured it would be perfect for me so he bought me my own copy. On the inside cover was written the following:
18Apr98 Eric Thibodeau
Although I loved it right away, I had no idea how important that gift would be. In the following years that book went with me everywhere and I relied on it so much that I started referring to it as the “travel bible”. Even now, years later I still use it although some of the info is out of date, the corners are frayed, the cover is worn and the pages are marked all up, filled with my notes, highlights, and the occasional phone number or email address from women I’ve met in my European travels. Eric had given me the perfect gift and as I thumbed through it, I couldn’t help but feel that despite the freedom he had and all the places he had been, my brother was just a bit envious of me being able to start over and experience all this for the first time.
There was one last goodbye party to go to and that was one thrown by my friends. All my closest friends, the people I would miss the most, were there. It was a bit sad saying goodbye to everyone and I realized how much I would miss sitting around on Sundays with the guys watching Patriots games, not to mention the annual pilgrimages to Fenway Park for the Red Sox games. But the decision had been made and there was no going back. I went home and packed as much stuff into a duffle bag as I could and prepared to leave. I had seen the movie Braveheart a few months earlier and one line from the movie kept replaying over and over in my head: “Every man dies…not every man really lives.” I was twenty-six years old and I was finally about to start living.