Oregon State Bar Bulletin — OCTOBER 2009
Parting Thoughts
Intervention: Confessions of a Travel Addict
By T.P.H

I don’t usually get into television shows. My TV diet is generally limited to news programming and the occasional sitcom. But lately I’ve been fascinated with A&E Network’s “Intervention,” a show about real-life addicts hitting rock bottom and being whisked away to a (usually) plush treatment center far away from temptations and “triggers.”

After a few episodes, I began examining my own addictive tendencies. I certainly have my indulgences, but I could identify only one affinity that wreaks havoc in my social and professional pursuits.

It began in junior high; I was 13. A potato-growing family from Melbourne, Australia invited a long-time family friend to visit. Since the family had children of similar age, I too was invited. My parents consented and off I went.

There, I visited a small, secluded island, inhabited by a mob of wallabies. It was lunch time and I happened to have a bag of potato crisps. The mob became interested. Soon, the crisps were gone, and one particularly impolite wallaby, uninterested in alternative dispute resolution, sat back on his tail and kicked. I didn’t know wallabies had claws; I was only 13.

When I returned to the States, my teacher asked that I relate a story to the class. I told them about the chips, the mob and the uncouth wallaby; I proved it by flashing my unimpressive scratch, still scabby. My audience erupted and that was it. At 13 I was hooked, realizing that diverse, out-of-the-ordinary experiences were what people needed — or at least what I needed — and traveling was the way to get them, fast and easy.

My life became a blur. First it was the U.S.: the Northwest, the Midwest, the Southwest and the Southeast. In college, it was Eurasia: Thanksgiving on Crete, Christmas in Bethlehem, New Year’s Eve in Cairo. I watched Columbine break over satellite TV in Rome.

This life seemed sustainable on an academic schedule. Even during the pressures of law school, trips to Canada and Mexico were manageable. But school ended. Instead of celebrating at Ringside or The Heathman, I convinced a few gullible friends to travel through Bolivia and Peru for six weeks. That was supposed to be the end, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It wasn’t.

After working for a year and saving what should have been a small down payment on a house, I began jonesing again. This time, I could coax only my girlfriend into a trip to Thailand. My other friends made excuses, uninterested in adopting my habit.

Upon returning to America, the symptoms of my addiction flared. The U.S. Customs officer took me aside and interrogated me about my dealings in Israel and Egypt. Employers weren’t sympathetic either. Contract work was sparse and it took an unpleasant period of time to convince an employer I was truly in recovery.

Eventually, I found an associate position and promised myself that I would stay sober and limit my travel to the U.S. — okay, to North America. “I can make it two years,” I told myself. After that, I expected my brain circuitry to readjust; I would forget the anticipation at the gate and the rush of touching down in a foreign land.

I relapsed after 15 months, traveling 9,000 kilometers overland through China, Mongolia and Russia.

I returned, still buzzing, and I wasn’t looking forward to detox. I wondered if Raytheon’s Polar Services might offer a way to come down easy, so I attended its annual job fair in Denver. Similarly diseased people flocked to the fair, offering a sobering snapshot of what my addiction could become. Retired judges, BigLaw partners, professors, Ph.D.s in unpronounceables, all vied for jobs with titles like “General Assistant,” responsible for “janitorial services, grounds cleanup and general construction/maintenance assistance.” Thankfully, Raytheon didn’t need more lawyers in Antarctica.

I eased myself back into legal culture as an associate with another charitable firm. Determined to stay sober and deal with my problem, I sought counseling. The OAAP wasn’t equipped to cure my disease. In fact, the counseling world at-large seemed ill-equipped to deal with my geophilia. You never see public service announcements touting wanderlust counseling or pharmaceutical ads warning about the side effects of a geostasis pill.

Without help, my constitution is weakening again. My credit card miles are accumulating and my “friend” is selling his research vehicle in Botswana. Last week, Lonely Planet’s guide to South Africa mysteriously appeared on my night stand. I need an intervention. Maybe A&E could send me to a serene setting where I can gain control over my disease — somewhere like Cape Town.


T.P.H. is a member of the Oregon State Bar’s Quality of Life Committee and practices appellate law in Salem, Oregon.

© 2009 T.P.H

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