When I was 19, it seemed like my family was falling apart. My brothers and I saw red when we looked at each other. My father's temper boiled over. After years of optimism, I knew things weren't getting any better. So I boarded an airplane for Europe, Eurailpass in hand.

After arriving in Brussels, I headed north by train. I met Bernd and talked to him all night in the darkness, peering out the window at northern Germany, 4am, in July. I washed my sleepy hair in the ladies room sink in the Copenhagen train station. After 17 hours, I jumped a train, a ferry, and another train to Stockholm.

When I awoke the next day, I put Robyn Hitchcock, Eye, into my Walkman and rode the subway to the university stop, expecting to find students. Instead, there was nobody and really nothing, save for the natural-history museum. My feet kicking along the road, I sang along loudly with "Flesh Cartoons" – "I've got no feelings, I've got no friends/ I've got insurance, but I despise those who pretend/ Life's a movie, life's a dream, things are always what they seem."

I was a million miles from home and I was absolutely untouchable. Nobody could find me. No pain could bite me. Elation filled my chest.

I was alone, the happiest alone I've ever been.