Before we begin I'd like to draw attention to the opening sentence of the opening paragraph of the entry below. As I have grown, I have learned that those times that "emerge" for me to take action, I have had to create them myself. When I first struck out on that trip, I was "following the bread crumbs," as I so often said in those days, and sometimes still, in these days. My brother Patrick has a been a source of much inspiration for me in the past year. He has been pursuing a variety of different business related endeavors, and we often talk about constant personal growth. When I was on that trip, I allowed myself to get wrapped up in the moment and had a blast doing so. One thing I want to change for myself from then to now, and have been working diligently to do so, is to create the moments rather than wait for them to emerge through a devotion to a focus. This has been a topic of conversation with Maestro Gioacchino Livigni, my voice teacher & mentor, as well as my brother. I often get discouraged with my musical growth, and speaking with him helps me when it comes to having a road map and blue print. Between my brother & my mentor I have found a certain focus that has been driving my decisions. Every decision must be made with the aforementioned focus in mind, and by extension every act must have intention that is derived from that focus, without it we make careless decisions, and we act without intention, and by extension, get in the way of our own personal growth & opportunities to establish the vision we want for our lives.

Simply put, as the great Steven Crawford says, "What are you thinking? What is your vision?"

I have more of an idea of that vision thanks to my friends, family, & mentors. Although I sometimes stray from that vision, I have found myself returning to it more often.

This post was originally released on my webpage. I have cleaned it up a bit since it's original run, however I wanted to retain most of the writing style I was exhibiting at the time, so there are some funny bits.


I suppose one never really knows where down time will emerge to dictate the sense of reality being perceived over the course of a dynamic period. I have seemingly endless words at my disposal to describe my current state of affairs, yet all I want to say is, I am happy. When I smile, I get a flutter in my chest, somewhere deep reminding me of the days of my childhood, swinging on the monkey bars without a care, exploring everything my body was and was not capable of.

I have suggested I would certainly write, and keep everyone updated city-to-city as I made my way across the European Continent. The reality of the situation is this: I choose not to hold that promise. Not because I wish to break my word, but because my word was given at a time where I understood the world around me slightly different. (I use slightly in jest of course, being that I've traveled all the way to Sicily, Italy in the course of a week & a half) There is no way I would want to stop and pause as I race across country side on a train watching villa after grove, house after house, apartment after apartment, street after street until I arrive in what seems like an endless city stretching as far as the eye can see with chattering folks moving in all directions at every moment in every place all at the same time. I am now at a station with only hope that I will be able to board a bus along with others who have been sleeping on the ground ticketless possibly wondering the same thing. Will we be ok? Some scream it from every pore in their bodies; some are relaxed and at ease knowing deep within there is nothing to fear; the system takes care of us here in France.

I landed in London somewhere around Ten pm after what can only be described as a glorious fiasco. The airplane I boarded- I need to interrupt my train of though with this: Europeans Love; absolutely LOVE my gators. 

When I arrived in Charlotte my plane to London was already late by an hour and a half. I did not mind this fact, because I am on vacation. After much delay we finally left the ground and were headed to Europe! Just as we hit the Atlantic Ocean, the pilot, over the loud speaker, told us in a rather nervous voice that the plane had an issue and we needed to return to the airfield to have it inspected. The air in the plane could be cut with a dull machete it was so hot and thick. After landing we "relaxed" and "took our time" before exiting the plane that was to be repaired after an hour. Two hours later we were given food vouchers shortly after because the plane was going nowhere very quickly. After two more hours, we were given hotel vouchers and a number to call because the plane was really going nowhere at this time. With sincere apologies they helped rebook everyone's flight at the airport kiosk. I, on the other hand, took the number, and booked the 5:30 flight to Washington DC over the phone, which was to have a flight to London at 8 am. I declined the offer for a hotel room, because at 2:30 am, when all of these details were said and done, my plane was leaving in three hours; why would I want a hotel I couldn't sleep in anyways.

After two hours of sleep on the airport floor, paltry at that, I managed to board my connecting flight to D.C. on a United Express Jet. Upon reaching the runway we had to return to the airfield to be jumpstarted by a mechanic on the tarmac because the second engine had a clogged valve preventing it from starting; you can imagine the sounds of the people on the plane who were in on my same flight plan. We landed to D.C with applause from the sarcastic group of people within plenty of time for our connection. After some words at the next airport about my meal tickets, which apparently were far from valid now, although I made them so after a long discourse, I boarded my plane, and ascended into the sky bound for London, set to arrive in the evening.

On the flight, I met a group of young students who were traveling across Europe to fulfill a plan the young, and very beautiful might I add, Mary Kate Collins had hatched out. We spoke of looking inward to find logical reasoning rather than inward reasoning founded on outward influence. A heart felt decision comes not from a desire to prove to others what you are made of, not to show people how much you can do, not to exhibit a great sense of being by what you have accomplished, but simply to listen to where your heart lies, and where your emotions, not the chatter your mind brings up about those emotions, wish you to set your sails without abandon; full steam ahead with your heart as your only compass. With a respect for life, and an honor for the light a strong heart shines, there can be only success.

Killian met me down at the airport. I can't say I knew either way whether or not he would, but I only had hope! It was great to see a friendly face in a foreign land. His land. The land of tea-time, queens, and jolly good fellows on every corner. Killian, I believe, is like me in that, if he has met a person, there is no time to doddle with the wonder whether or not we're on the same terms when we last departed ways. I met Killian when my friends Tom and Cameron married about 5-6 years ago. We partied, we drank, and pissed off strippers in Houston Texas, it was an exquisite mess. We picked right back up by going down to Leicester Square (pronounced in G.B. as "Lester" about which we quarreled; I'm right in my "laichester" pronunciation, Brits just cain't talk right) to eat fish and chips, for which I have to than Tom for. I finally ate your fish and chips. (Fish and fries, chips are made of thinly sliced potatoes) We proceeded to walk about central London eating and drinking beer till the city began to relax at which time we ended up at some hole into the gateway of hell called "The Zoo;" A two-layer club with everyone openly groping everyone else without reservations. This was the kind of place where if you wanted drugs, all you’d have to do is leave your drink on the counter unattended for 30 seconds. Lesson one in London to which I'm not accustomed to: There is no personal space. I'm not talking about the over aggressive males that wander the streets foaming at the mouth; I'm talking about literal space. Streets are tiny, people hit me with doors without a second thought; beer was nudged out of my hand without reciprocity. There is no space physically, or mentally. Everyone speaks a different language at any given moment. In the bathroom, the man pissing next to me, looked over till I turned to him then asked me where I was from. When I told him Texas, he burst out with “George Bush!” (Not with contempt, but rather candidly as if everyone from Texas was in fact the word fumbling genius himself, or at the very least liked him) We had a good laugh, and I kindly rejoined my friend. After the beer, wine, and shot of something disgusting, the alcohol and Jet lag became a harsh reality. We returned to Killian's, and slept.

Fact, Jet lag and a new country spell dehydration. Pour over every kind of drink clowns in a bar will serve you on top of that and you’ll find yourself dragging into a coffee shop down the way where you’ll be served the most wonderful breakfast of pork and beans, eggs, black pudding (another Tom suggestion), ham, and toast; a quite proper English breakfast. This was accompanied with the best Cup of Joe I’ve ever had. I am going to be unable to work at Starbucks anymore simply because there is no way I'm going to honestly say "this is great coffee!" to another person when they ask. Great coffee is served at Angel's Cafe near Finsbury Park London. You can quote me on that. Killian left for home to sleep the rest of it off, I hit the streets with my new Oyster Card to explore the subway and the city of London.

My first stop was the London Museum of Art. I don't want to post pictures from my museum adventures (I didn't take many for the same reason mentioned below) as well as speak too detailed about them because I feel a museum is a sacred place where one should personally visit to take in the experience of humanity through their own eyes, not vicariously through another's. I'll say this however, the Rosetta Stone is pretty neat, but the Nimrud exhibit brought me to my knees. I don't speak Egyptian, but let me tell ya, two twenty foot stone lion human things covered with Egyptian characters watching vigilantly over stone tablets from floor to ceiling depicting rulers and kings, gods and delivers, will bring anyone to their knees; or at least have the hairs on every appendage standing on end in full salute accompanied by some sort of ancient choral music blasting in the imagination exalting the glory of an Egyptian Pharaoh. No joke man.

I'm writing this in transit, and it is hard to ignore the wondrous countryside of France. No wonder painters like Van Gogh saw such beauty here and were drawn to this land. The rolling hills seem to glow in the distance calling me to its foreign flora and fauna. I have the desire to camp here one day.

After I left the Museum, I wandered in the direction of the National Gallery. On the way I met some young English kids in Leicester square. They were mocking me because I was taking video of the square with my iPad; I was obviously a tourist. Upon hearing the heckling, I turned to them and said, "stupid tourists..." they laughed and I walked to over to join them and ask about a good pub to get food at and have a drink. They told me everywhere, but that they were too young to actually go into bars. They loved my boots and asked me because of my obviously expensive taste in reptile footwear and extensive travel plans, if I was rich. I explained to them, no, I had simply worked my poor soul into the ground at 70 hours a week, and had very little money to actually spend. I was simply here to converse with the natives, and experience a new place, not to be an annoying tourist buying up every little piece of crap I found on a street corner to show how awesome my Euro-trip was.

I made it to the Museum and walked around a bit checking out all sorts of portraits and other paintings. I love Impressionist period artwork. It feels like the world around the paintings themselves are blurring away into some other dimension I can only feel in my soul rather than with my five senses.

I proceeded from the Museum to a “would be” meeting place where my friend Emma was to meet me. The unfortunate part of this story lies in the fact that I read the instructions she gave me the night before when Killian and I were well sauced. After the time had passed when we were supposed to meet, I began to think perhaps something had happened. After checking my e-mail I realized I was at the wrong place. With a sense of urgency I located the meeting place on my map, which was just over a bridge, about a mile away. I began to walk in the direction of the pub. The idea of missing the meeting and therefore being unable to make the evening the success I had hoped for, was enough to have me panic and decide it was a grand idea to run down a cobble stone street in London wearing a pair of cowboy boots. I missed a step and severely rolled my ankle with a loud pop. I had just sprained my foot on the first day of a six-week trip across Europe.

I joined Emma and we drank a few beers and caught up on life before heading to "The Shard." The Shard is the tallest skyscraper in London, and in the entire western part of Europe. After decadent plates of food and wine, exhaustion came over me, and I fell asleep at the table. I took me a lil nap at dinner in the tallest building in the world. When I awoke and rejoined the group, we had a good laugh about it, and continued drinking and going on about our jobs and personal life experiences. After dinner we headed to a club that I did not go to. Instead I went to the ER with Emma to have my foot looked at. They said because I could still move my toes without extreme pain, I'd just twisted it and just needed to take it easy. After talking with Emma a little more, we headed back home to her place.

I awoke in the morning and dragged myself from her couch into the streets of London to rejoin Killlian. After a series of busses and trains, I made it back safely to Killians. After wine, beer, a day of walking in the heat, and my rolled ankle, a sickness began to make itself noticeable. I spent the day at Killian's doing laundry, hydrating and taking it easy to regain strength and health. London taught me something. My desire to have fun and let loose cannot outweigh my capability to stay safe and healthy. There is no vacation if I'm lying in a hotel room trying to heal my broken body from neglect. This is all synonymous with my music. I've had desires to be a great musician, to live life to the fullest, to push myself beyond my own limits. There are consequences though, and the balance of these things is the most important lessons a young man can learn. The best isn't always the one that does every job, sees every sight, greets every person, and participates in every activity, but rather the one who simply knows their own limits and abilities and balances them according to the moment; living right here, right now, without distraction from the past or the future. Simply put, if I am hungry I eat, tired I sleep, afraid, I retreat to a place of solitude within myself. I have a certain level of heart that I cannot deny from which I bring infinite energy and joy to the world around me.

Killian and I drank our final beer before I made my departure to the airport. On the way to the tube I ran into a man who was piss drunk and asked me where I was from. After telling him I was from Texas, he called me a cunt. I ask him why? His response was simply because I was from Texas. I could have sworn I was about to get punched out, but I saw something in his eyes that wanted a friend and focused on that. I told him that "it couldn’t be so, because I’m no cunt. I’m in fact a world traveler and I want to empathize with people I encounter." I turned an otherwise tense situation into a laughable experience. As I have been traveling, and perhaps due to my experience in Houston at the More to Life program, I have been looking at the people I meet. I'm not talking physically; but rather into their souls. For the first time I'm seeing individuals in a way that I never have. I can't explain it beyond some strange empathy that I don't quite understand myself. It is almost as if the bond between me and my fellow man or woman, is more visible to me than anything else. I've been taking the time to look into every individual’s eyes and listen to what they mean, not what they say. Is this dangerous because I’m making assumptions? I think not. It is a sense that I follow rather than a set of assembled syntax to attempt to convey an emotion. I feel you, I am with you, and I want to see you. As we said in the program: I honor and respect the light and the life within you that has always been within you. I saw that light within the drunk man at the train station, and it made an impact I cannot truly comprehend, but have a new found sense that I, until recently, had never known.

I'm here in Palermo Sicily now, poised for the vocal training program, Mediterranean Opera Studio. Wish me luck, and stay tuned for Paris, Barcelona, and Rome. I have had experiences in all of these places, some of which I will not be able to explain, but are burned into my soul forever.


Tai Collins

If you have made it this far, I encourage you to jump on up to the $5 level or more, and become a direct part of my travels!