Why I Left…
“Why” was one of the biggest questions I got prior to leaving America.
To be honest, I had been already pretty “well-traveled” and had met a lot of Europeans and Aussies while abroad that were on long adventures. I was always so interested in how they did it. The typical answer was usually “I just went.” It was the coolest thing to me. They risked everything and left home to go experience the world. I loved it and knew I had to do it.
The problem is that it is so uncommon for Americans to do. It’s almost like it’s against our culture. We are bound by our careers and earning money.
It’s scary… quitting your job and just taking a one-way plane to another country. No salary coming in and just trusting the process.
I was doing so well in my career and seeing all of my friends locked down in their jobs, moving in with their boyfriends, getting engaged, etc. made it harder. I felt like maybe I’d “fall behind” in life if I left.
Knowing that I’d leave it all behind to journey across the world was frightening to me.
It wasn’t at first though. I was stoked at first, but as the date came closer reality began to set in. Missing holidays, parties, birthdays, dinners, etc. The closer my departure date got the more lost, confused, and anxious I felt and the more mental breakdowns I had about not knowing what I want to do with my life (romantically, career wise, in general).
I always had really high expectations for myself and always thought I would have everything figured out.
I didn’t expect myself to feel like I didn’t know wtf was going on at 25 years old. As I always say: 25 is half way to 30, I thought I would have had it all figured out by this point. I would know who I’m going to marry, I would have my own company or my dream career, I’d be a morning person and work out every day, I would be settled in life and know where I was going in the next five years.
In college, I NEVER wanted to have any regrets. I said “yes” to everything. I used that same ideology and just said, “whatever, I’m going.” That was really the kicker to why I left. There were several reasons, but the main one that kicked my ass onto the actual flight was that I didn’t want to look back on my life at 45 when I’m married with kids and think “shit, I should have gone”.
THAT is a scary feeling.
Regardless of all doubts I had, I went…obviously. We planned it a year in advance. I made a list of destinations that we wanted to visit and we pulled out a map and started routing. Yes, a physical map…made of paper. I made an excel spreadsheet with a tab for each month to keep everything organized and create our route.
It allowed us to keep track of expenses and know where we were going. If you want the template it’s $5 and you can have a starting place for your trip. Makes it easy.
You may probably be wondering: why didn’t you just go and figure it out when you got there? Lots of people do this. They just go and stay however long they want and then book a flight to the next place and repeat. I’ve done this before and was completely screwed over. Arrived in Berlin on the train at 11pm and EVERYTHING was booked except for a 5-star hotel, which I was forced to book or else I would have been sleeping in the train station. I said I’ll never do this “on-the-fly” thing again. It costs too much money and it stresses me out. We saved SO much money by planning in advance. Free cancellation allowed us to cancel if we wanted to and stay longer in a place as well.
Originally, we decided we’d go for 3 months. Then we realized it wasn’t enough. 3 months turned into 4, 4 months turned into 6, 6 months turned into 7 months total. The only reason we stopped at 7 months is because I am a Christmas FREAK and needed to be home for the holidays…I ain’t no scrooge.
Even with 7 months planned, we still had to cut out South Africa, India, and all of South America from our trip because it wasn’t enough time. (We’ll do that another time…😉)
That week leading up to my departure I think I cried every day freaking out that I was making a mistake by leaving everything/everyone behind. Stupid now that I look back on it…it was the best thing I could have done for myself.
I learned patience, I learned that your life is NOT A PLANNER. Holy shit, I used to have my entire life planned out I thought.
That’s not how it works.
Shit happens, break ups happen, career paths end up taking a different route, flights get cancelled, you get stuck in Japan due to nature disasters, you book the wrong hostel for the wrong date, you crash car into a Tesla the week before you leave and have to pay 3k out of pocket. Shit. Happens.
I learned not to take life too seriously. Quitting your job is not the end of the world…promise lol.
“I’LL NEVER FIND ANOTHER JOB” … please, spare me.
The whole world doesn’t stop just because you quit your job. You can always find another job. Picking up and moving isn’t that hard. The leap of faith is worth it and yes, you can afford it.
I thought leaving was literally the end of the world. WTF was I doing, what will I do when I get home? What if my friends forget about me? Will I still be invited to things when I get home? Where will I live? Where will I work? Will I run out of money? I still want to have savings, what about my savings?
I learned to stop trying to control my future and stop trying to force things to happen my way. I take life as it comes now. Everything happens for a reason. I learned to do what makes me happy and anything that doesn’t has zero place in my life anymore.
I found my independence. Prior to leaving, I was dependent on my career, on my friends to keep me company, my boyfriend, etc. I hated being alone. Now I love being alone. I actually need to be alone sometimes.
I learned is that Americans really do live in a bubble. (don’t @ me). We are money and career-centered unlike any other country in the world.
No one takes advantage of their paid time off because…
1. They’re too scared of asking their boss
2. They think the trip will be too expensive and not worth the money
3. They’re saving their PTO for later in the year because MAYBE something will come up and they want to be sure they have time off for it. (Like some lame wedding in Oklahoma for someone they don’t even know)
I now look back and think, “what the hell was I waiting for, I should have gone sooner.”
After college, we jump immediately into a job that we more than likely know nothing about and probably ultimately won’t like. We egregiously save money throughout our twenties for what? I don’t even have a boyfriend so what am I saving all of this money for? What house? What husband? What family? Why am I planning for something when I don’t even know when it’s going to happen. I’m 25. I want to spend my money on experiences that I’ll remember forever and that will teach me more than any job ever could.
Not only that but we are SO SCARED to ask our bosses for time off. JUST ASK!
“What if they get mad”, “What if I fall behind” “What if they say no?”
Then they say no. That’s literally it.
If you don’t ask then you don’t receive. The least you can do is use your PTO and ask for time off and reward yourself for the hard work that you do every. single. damn. day of your life.
I just learned to ask for things that I want and to stop worrying so much about the future when I don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow.
Travel taught me to ask things: ask for directions, ask for recommendations, ask for upgrades, ask for a different seat, ask for a ride. Ask for EVERYTHING. It taught me to enjoy just being alone and being happy with myself. It taught me that shit happens and not to take life so seriously. The world doesn’t stop for you, so don’t cry and throw a fit about it; figure it out.
But I think that the most important thing that I learned is that I am not doing life wrong. I am not behind because I’m single or because I’m not engaged or because I don’t want a 9-5 job at a desk. Your job is not the most important thing in life. The relationships you build and experiences you have are. I’m just doing it differently. Everyone has their own paths and that’s okay. I used to think I was doing something wrong, but now I realize I’m actually doing it exactly right.
Doing whatever the hell makes me happy…the rest will come.
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