One year ago, I was in the most depressive funk of my life.
Those who have been reading this blog will know that travel was never my dream, but rather D’s. A little over a year ago, about 6 months into our dating career, he said “let’s sell all our stuff and see the world!”…. Or something like that.
And….. my life fell apart. (Okay, being dramatic, but it felt like that at the time.)
I stopped talking to my family because they didn’t support it. I was facing a (rightfully deserved) promotion at work, but I felt overly anxious and guilty about it because I knew I was probably going to quit soon after. I felt pressured to find a way to earn some sort of online income quickly so I can justify quitting my job to travel. To add on to everything, D and I started fighting a lot, and some days, breaking up was a very real possibility.
I didn’t want to break up. I wanted to travel. But I didn’t want to not have a job either. I never felt more lost or confused in my life.
All my life, I was raised with distinct goals. I would graduate with over a 4.0 in high school, get into college on a scholarship, and secure a well paying job even before graduation. After that, I would slowly climb up the ranks at my job, deposit a lifetime of solid 401K contributions, and retire on a fat mountain of money (at least, I hoped it’d be fat).
It didn’t particularly sound like a happy, fulfilling life. But it was what I knew.
But all of that would disappear if I chose the other road. And initially, I saw it as a huge sacrifice. I saw it as sacrificing my company retirement accounts, my relationship with my parents, and my financial security.
The stress of the decision was breaking me and collapsing my carefully constructed world. My worst fear was that I’d quit my job to travel with D, we’d break up while on the road, and I’d be left alone and jobless, when I had sacrificed so much to be with him.
D had different things to say about it. “Travel because YOU want to travel and see the world,” he stressed. “Not because you’re following me.”
I didn’t quite understand then. What did he expect?? I would never have come up with this crazy idea if it weren’t for him!
After a lot of heart-to-hearts, tears, and long chats to anyone who would listen, I was finally on board. We bought plane tickets. I quit my job. And his dreams became our dreams.
During the months leading up to our grand departure date, I strangely felt neither excited nor scared. I attributed it to being too busy with moving/selling stuff/packing (on top of still working 12+ hours days) to pay attention to my real emotions. Really, I probably just didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never experienced living abroad and never not had a job, and I was leaving SoCal with a lot of loose ends that I was afraid will never get tied up.
The next 3 months spent in South America were the most thrilling period of my life. After a brief moment of panic upon arrival, I quickly adapted to our new surroundings and our new lives. I learned to love all the new sights, sounds, and smells. I eagerly took it all in.
But more importantly, during those months, I learned to let go and forgave myself for no longer being on the “correct path” in life. It wasn’t too long before I learned that the freedom travel brings and the experiences reaped have no price tag.
I finally understood what D had said all those months ago – that travel has to be a personal decision. And I finally understood what I want from travel: not only to see famous landmarks and eat new foods (though that part is AWESOME), but more importantly, to live simply and freely and to the fullest.
After South America, we spent a little over a week back in the States before moving onto the next leg of our journeys. During those days, I felt restless, like a caged animal just waiting to be set free. D even described it as like being in purgatory. I filled those days with visits to loved ones and my old favorite restaurants, but as much as I enjoyed it all, there was an itch that couldn’t be scratched. I realized what that was: I had been bitten by the travel bug.
A few days later, it was finally time to board a plane again. This time, as I packed my bag, I was positively bubbling over with excitement. I was finally getting back on the road again, to where I now belong.
As I write this now, 5 months into our travels, I have never felt more comfortable with my decision. It’s hard to believe that I was so scared. If only one year ago, I had the insight I have now, this is what I would have told myself:
(geez… sorry for the really long introduction, guys!)
1. Make up your mind and just go for it.
I spent a lot of months debating whether travel is the correct thing to do. In my heart, I knew that I wanted to more than anything. But initially, I was met with a lot of negativity, which caused me to question whether it would really be worth it. As a result, I wasted a lot of time and energy being sad instead of being productive.
On the other hand, D had a clear vision and got started on working towards it right away. He started streamlining his internet business, selling stuff, fixing up the house for rent, etc. In other words, he was actively working towards happiness, while I was wallowing in sadness.
If only I had chosen happiness then as well, I would have saved myself a lot of heartache. Eventually, I started this blog and bought a plane ticket, thus cementing my decision.
2. You don’t have to have the answers to everything.
My parents asked what I was going to do about money while traveling. How I’m going to earn income. How I’m going to find another job once I’m back. If we’re going to get married. I didn’t have the answers then (which further convinced them that this is the wrong move) and I still don’t have the answers today. But it’s okay.
The only question you need to answer is: what does your heart want? Everything else can be figured out along the way. If you wait to have everything figured out before you take action, you’ll just end up doing a whole lot of nothing.
3. You are not that important. Get over yourself.
Saying I was very anxious about quitting my job would be an understatement. As one of the lead managers, I was somehow convinced that my absence would be putting the already hard project in an even harder situation, and that everyone would hate me for it. It didn’t help that my other lead kept on saying that he was going to step back and have me take over. I was afraid that the fragile project couldn’t handle a change in management.
But guess what? The project didn’t collapse after I left. It survived just fine, even through more than a couple of major changes in management due to my departure. I heard it even finished ahead of time. But the most amazing thing of all is that none of my coworkers hated me for leaving them. In fact, some of them are still my good friends and are some of the most supportive people in my life.
I guess it turned out that I wasn’t that important after all.. :P I’ve never been more relieved to learn that!
4. You can’t change the minds of stubborn, rigid people.
There will be people who don’t approve your decision. They’ll say it’s selfish, it’s risky, it’s stupid, it’s being lazy, whatever.
But understand that these are coming from their own fears. They work hard, and therefore you’re lazy if you don’t work. They are unhappy in their jobs, and therefore you’re selfish if you think you deserve to be happy. They are afraid of not finding another job, and therefore you shouldn’t quit yours. Etc. etc.
There’s nothing that casts doubts and kills the spirit more than negativity. It especially hurts when this is coming from our nearest and dearest. But our lives are not their lives. It’s OK to have different opinions. Let them be and let it go. If need be, separate yourself and continue to live your dreams.
5. Hold on to those worth holding on to.
On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to have the support of those who you love, hold on to them. You’re going to need all the support you can get.
6. You will never, ever regret traveling
Back when I was crying to whoever would listen, one of my older, wiser friends asked me this: “Let’s say you quit your job, go all around the world with D, and he proposes on top of the Eiffel tower… would you regret your decision?” Umm… no, of course not. That’ll be wonderful, actually.
But then he changed the question to: “Let’s say you quit your job, go all around the world with D, and then for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out and you two break up… would you regret your decision then?”
Surprisingly, I hardly hesitated before answering. No, I will never regret it. I can never regret seeing the world with someone who I loved at the time.
All of a sudden, the choice seemed simple.
And now, I have never been more sure. 5 months in, we have barely even seen a fraction of the world. And yet, I know that if for whatever reason, I go back home tomorrow jobless and single, I wouldn’t regret it even for a second. This experience is already priceless.
7. And finally, follow your heart.
Simply put , it’s never going to be wrong. :)
Have you ever struggled with a decision? What would you tell your younger self?
P.S. If you liked this article, please share it. I poured my whole heart into it and would really appreciate it!
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