Deciding to leave something behind to start something new wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.
For some time now I haven’t been leading a life that’s reflective of my passions, interests and values. Despite being more than fortunate in every capacity of my life by most standards, I knew deep down that I needed to make some changes in order to reach true happiness, the kind that can only be achieved by being yourself.
Disclaimer: I totally understand if I lost you because you were expecting monkey photos and Shit my Dad does stories by now. Check out future posts for both. In the meantime, clearly you have this life purpose thing figured out, so pour yourself a drink, open your email, and let me in on your secrets.
I felt a general air of malaise in life, and spent more time questioning who I should be than embracing who I was. This all sounds so cliche, but I’m telling you it was an increasingly debilitating weight on my shoulders and was really fucking with my zen.
Coming to terms with needing to make changes was tough. It took time, self-reflection and some difficult and honest conversations with myself. From those came doubt, insecurity and the scary realization that once I knew I needed to make a change I couldn’t turn back.
The good news? Deciding to do something was the hardest part.
I was (and still am at some capacity) all dressed up with nowhere to go! On the personal front, I’ve never felt more whole and alive. I have the most wonderful, supportive, hilarious friends in the world, and a partner who loves me deeply for who I am, despite my idiosyncrasies and the fact I was put on this earth with the sole purpose of annoying him (#cantstopwontstop).
On the professional front however, I’ve never felt most exposed or excited. (That sounded inadvertently dirty, sorry for those of you with fragile constitutions.) I have loads of passion around many causes and ideas, but need to take a step back and focus on designing a career that satisfies my need for purpose and growth. This won’t happen overnight, although I am confident that with time and commitment I will unearth a fantastic solution to this problem.
Do you know the solution? Save me the legwork and leave it in the comment section!
With the realization that I needed to make some changes, being the natural overachiever I am, I made lists, read books and came up with a daily knee-jerk plans. I’ll start a firm! I’ll be a vet! I’ll do all the things! But really, what I needed was a little room to breathe, recalibrate and enjoy the time in between chapters. And then it hit me – I would make the in between a chapter of its own.
Get off your ass
A number of months back we had Joey’s best friend Bennett and his wife Eileen over for dinner. Our conversation turned to their love of Italy. Between study abroad semesters and long-term travel, they spent a great deal of time in the country getting to know the language, locals, delicious food and rich culture. It struck me as amazing that they followed their love of adventure, and Italy, with such passion that they left their jobs and became boulevardiers for months. It was one of the best decisions they ever made, so much so that they look forward to doing it again with their wonderful little girl Eileen.
Similarly, my wild, adventurous friends Tyrone and Lydia peaced out of work and spent a year tooling around South America. They came back speaking Spanish, loaded with hilarious and amazing stories, and a renewed sense of themselves as individuals and as a couple. I’ll never forget them calling me from Peru after getting engaged at the top of Machu Picchu as the sun rose.
Many other close friends have also inspired me through their open-minded traveling. They have all, in their unique way, helped me decide to get back on the road. Meghan, Drew, Brian, Amber – you’re badass and I want to grow up to be like you.
Traveling for prolonged periods of time isn’t a new phenomenon, and it’s certainly not foreign to me. I’ve been fortunate to have already had a number of forays across Europe, Central America and Africa. But, as you know, wanderlust sets in and the more of the world you see the more you realize you haven’t experienced. Being reminded of how travel has enhanced the lives of those closest to me was the final push I needed to buy a ticket.
So I bought a ticket!
What exactly is the plan?
Rolf Pott’s book Vagabonding served as a fantastic guide for how to approach leaving the ordered world to budget travel for a while. He positions Vagabonding as a more present alternative to tourism, where the traveler is open to listening to oneself and experiencing the context at hand. It’s also about time being our only true commodity and that we must challenge ourselves to question how we use it. Vagabonding is a rediscovery of reality itself.
For my purposes, it means not knowing where I’m going or what the timeline is, and letting my intuition and instinct guide me. It could be one month or many, but I’m trying to keep an open mind and hope I know when it’s time to go home to Austin.
As you know, Dad joined me for a month which requires some planning in order to ensure he sees some cool stuff and also makes a flight home. He flew into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and will depart a month later from Nairobi, Kenya. After that it’s me and the big wide world. I’m looking forward to reading, writing, and most of all Vagabonding!
Coming out (of the travel closet)
After deciding on traveling and landing on an approach, I shared the news with family and friends. I was nervous about the anticipated responses:
- Mom: “but remember that time you got kidnapped in Ghana!”
- Tyrone: “what about when we got drunk and lost in the African jungle overnight?”
- Shawna-Seah: “we almost died in Vegas and you’re going where?!”
- Friends: “if you leave Joey he will only eat Taco Bell! There will be a global Astroglide shortage!”
- Joey: “Taco Bell for three square meals a day it is!”
To my relief, everyone across the board has been supportive (although my anticipated friends’ concerns may be legitimate.)
It’s worth nothing that I’ve been shocked by how many people have shared their travel dreams with me. I’ve heard the words envious, vicarious, jealous, and I-wish-I-could-but more times than I could count. It makes me sad to think that so many people want to get out and explore the world but feel limited by their circumstances. The general sentiment I’ve heard is that travel is an unattainable dream that requires complete sacrifice and is something to do in the future when the time is right. I don’t know a lot, but I do know that in life the time is seldom right. Not for changing jobs, not for having kids, and certainly not for traveling.
I’ve also been comforted by people coming forward to share stories of their unconventional experiences with me. One turned the devastation of an early-career layoff from a prestigious company into an incredible solo driving and biking adventure across the US with no schedule. He returned home with an open mind and clean approach to his future and wouldn’t change what happened for anything. Another friend who left an unfulfilling role as an industry expert is now fuelling his global travel with part-time consulting in his field. I never know what part of the world he’s writing from when he emails, and by all accounts he is living a life most people dream of.
Perhaps in some small way I may be able to inspire others to take the Vagabond leap, the way many of my friends have inspired me to.
Probably my Mom is the only one still reading. Love you Mom!
BRB just doing stuff k?