New Year’s Eve, 2012
I’m preparing for an adventure on another continent, having never travelled beyond my own country’s borders. I have my Osprey backpack, my hiking shoes, and my ukulele. I’ve read all the advice about what to pack (lay everything out, then take away 1/3 of it) but is five pairs of underwear really enough? What if I get bored, lonely, or homesick? Visas are squared away, travel insurance purchased, plane ticket to Sydney and the first week’s accommodation are booked. This is really gonna happen.
Only one thing left to do: quit my job. Can I really walk away from 13 years of a steady salary, 401k, health insurance, even a pension? Not to mention the daily interaction with co-workers who were truly good friends. What will future hiring managers think about this gap in my work history? Few people would characterize me up to this point as a risk-taker, but as I get older something compels me to jump into new things with both feet. The following quote gives me inspiration:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
January 18, 2013
Having said goodbye to family, friends, and co-workers, I was now boarding a plane from LAX to Sydney, Australia. Fourteen hours in a metal tube, trading an American winter for an Australian summer. Monday I was skiing in Utah; two days later I was soaking up the sun on a beach in Sydney. The trepidation about quitting my job was starting to fade…
With no set plans for six weeks in Australia I began to settle in to a traveller’s lifestyle, which involves a lot of internet searching on where to go, how to get there, where to stay, and what to do. It can be exhausting when you’re trying to do it on the cheap (use Hostelworld, HelpX, Airbnb, and Rome2rio). An extended HelpX stay with a great Aussie couple convinced me to add another month to my trip, which allowed for five weeks in New Zealand. People often ask which of the two countries I preferred. I loved the unique wildlife in Australia and the jaw-dropping beauty of New Zealand so I say quit your job and do both. 🙂
Fast forward to October— after having a great summer in my home town and a month of exploring Colorado I pondered what to do next. Grow up and get another full-time job? How about Europe? How about yeah?! Of course the latter choice won out and I’ve recently returned from two awesome months of impressive sightseeing, beautiful landscapes, and wonderful new friends.
New Year’s Eve, 2013
So now we’ve come full circle. Looking back on the past year, did I make the right decision to quit my job, with all of its perks, and step into the unknown? Without a doubt!
I’ve made friends from all over the world, explored deserts in Utah, hiked rain forests in Australia, learned Scottish dancing in (wait for it…) Scotland, drank Guinness in Dublin, sang Christmas songs in England, gazed at the most beautiful mountains in Switzerland, rode bikes all over the place, skied/boarded in the Rockies, reconnected with friends, read books, played music…
Many people have said to me: “Oh I could never travel by myself.” My response is always “Well I couldn’t either a few years ago.” Some people are raised with the travel bug, others get it after college, and some of us do our gap year 20 years later. What’s important is to continually challenge your comfort zone, even if only incrementally.
My decision to get off the corporate hamster wheel for a while and travel has paid off in immeasurable ways, so I say bring on 2014!