One year ago I left my job (and income) behind, scared to death but hopeful that following the truth that beat inside my chest was real and meaningful and deserved attention.
“Just grow up,” I said to myself. But I was grown up. And I made my grown-up decision with my grown-up decision making skills, weighted against my grown-up responsibilities. I was going to travel. I was going to write for a living, somehow.
I am writing this on a bus in Nepal. The wheels of the bus are knocking over potholes and my pen jumps on the page. I’m scribbling, really, hunched in a tiny seat over my notebook. Outside of my open window the dust is thick and it blows in warm gusts with the wind, settling on my cheek. Children squat near tiny huts, silos of hay stacked around them. Men in topi hats ride bicycles somewhere. Life is all around me.
In the year since I left my job I have traveled through 9 countries. I have been to the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest and I have hiked through the Andes and the Himalayas. I’ve driven a rickshaw through India. There is so much more. Really, there is too much to tell. A thousand tiny moments: smiles, waves, broken conversations over chai. The small things, too mundane to write home about, but the moments that have changed me over time, eroding my hardness and softening my rough edges, opening me up to the world.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Counting change in India. Thanks to Sarah Somewhere for the photo.
One year of traveling and I don’t feel like a different person. It’s the opposite, actually. I feel more me. That person before was half-me, a version of myself that I tried to cram into the conventions of the life I felt obliged to live. I don’t feel like I’m living someone else’s life anymore. This life is all mine, a life I chose, not a life I fell into. A life I risked a lot to live. A life that isn’t for everyone but is definitely for me.
There is so much pain, poverty and destruction in the world. I struggle with it because I feel that, since I am in the fortunate position to travel and witness it with my own eyes, it is also my obligation to do something about it.
I think now, after one year, I know what to do about. Not how to fix the problems in the world but what I, individually, can do about it. My job is to tell the stories. If I can tell a story that makes you think or look at the world in a different way, to relate to someone you otherwise wouldn’t or to be interested in a place that didn’t interest you before; essentially, if what I write enables you to see how we are all connected, then I have done my job.
One year ago I took a gigantic leap of faith. It wasn’t blind. Brian and I worked hard, saved our money, prepared as much as possible. But still, for the big things, you cannot be completely prepared. There is never a bridge. You have to leap across the gaping space, clutching faith like a rope, believing that your feet will find you on the other side.
I could not have predicted what one year of travel would look like, because you can never know. I thought: Maybe one year will do it? I thought: Maybe I’ll miss the routine and want to go back to my cubicle? It hasn’t and I don’t. I have no idea about anything but I am happy in the pursuit of the things that I love.
Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal