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
Our plans for the future
So what comes after one year? It’s a question that Brian and I have been pondering for a while now. We want to keep traveling. I want to keep writing. We feel like we are at the very beginning of a long journey, not at the end of one.
My writing is supporting our travels. We haven’t touched our savings in 2013 and, what’s more, we’ve started saving again, 10 percent of everything I earn. Small bits, nothing like before, but it’s something. I’m paying myself to ensure that I can continue to live like this, to do what I love.
We will be in Nepal until late June and then we’ll fly home to the U.S. for the summer. Brian’s parents, who have been watching our dogs for the past year (thank you Mike and Terry!), are going on their own grand adventure. We’ll be housesitting for them and caring for our pups in Ohio while they travel. When they return in the fall we’ll leave again. We don’t know exactly where we’ll go, only that we will be meeting friends in Vietnam in December for a three-week bicycle tour. We will certainly spend some months in SE Asia, but are also contemplating more time outdoors. Right now walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain is at the top of our list.
Thank you. I really cannot say it enough. Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing what I write. Thank you for your comments and emails and prayers and encouragement. It is because of you that I am able to do what I love.
Live your dreams! Find out how with my book, Life On Fire: A Step-By-Step Guide To Living Your Dreams