A single, repeated question has come to me from people on all sides of me these past months. My parents, my friends, the clerk at the outdoors store. Whenever the topic of my pending RTW is broached, I am asked: What made me decide to quit my life in LA? There’s an implied question about why I decided to leave my friends. A seeking curiosity about my family who I’ll leave Stateside while I wander the world for a year.
My reasons were both complex and personal, and everything that you would assume on the surface too. I’m 24-years-old. I’m having what can only be described as my quarter-life crisis. I have done everything I was supposed to up until this point: I spent four years in college getting my BA, I secured a well-paying job, I paid my bills on time, I dutifully called my parents every few days, and I kept my partying in check.
The gradual feeling that I was no longer living a life hit me slowly, and then all at once. I felt like an actor cast in play: I said and acted correctly, but words were not my own. I was no longer writing the script, but rather plodding along an ill-fitting life. I flung myself at the decision to leave Los Angeles. For months though, I also realized the loss of friends, of the known. In those final months, as I created each new memory with friends, nostalgia crawled through the neural pathways, embedding itself in the memory before I had even left.
Actually making the decision to leave for travel, that was harder, however, than facing that I no longer wanted to live in LA. For days, I agonized about my circumstances. The options gnawed liked a canker sore at my thoughts. In a sudden frenzy of manic panic at the weight of the decision, I purchased a one-way ticket to Australia. Elements of my life were coming to a close in about four-months time, so I bought a ticket for five months from the date of my epiphany. I kissed the tip of my fingers and raised it to the heavens, an open prayer that I could actually plan a RTW trip in that much time.
When I bought my one-way ticket, I was still living in LA. I paid my bills each month with online SEO consulting. I was also working — slowly and methodically — toward a breakthrough in my acting career. And under, around, and alongside all of that, I had family issues that I hadn’t escaped with my move to LA. I had custody of my two nephews for a while, and that gave me perspective on what I wanted out of the new few years of my life. When I returned my nephews to my brother, shadowy travel plans formed in my head. It would take me another nine months, however, to find the courage to book that one-way ticket.
Over those nine months, I experienced highs and lows as I thought about my options. There were so many avenues my life could take. Close friends had just bought a cute home in a cute neighborhood with their cute dog. My best friend had just given birth to twins. Other friends continued going on auditions and working their way into the entertainment industry. And me, I was floating. I had made the decision to move to LA, and now that I was there, I could do no more than coast through this life. None of the paths my friends took seemed quite right. And niggling there in the back was this belief I have always had in myself: I am a traveler. I am a person who finds cultures interesting. I travel.
And yet, my life in LA afforded me no opportunities to travel. My budget was so tight that I walked dogs and nannied every week for the extra cash. I saw this glistening opportunity at a future as a traveler, and all I had to do was leave behind the only type of life I knew existed.
For nine months I gnawed on these choices. I came from a poor family, I had never really thought that a person like me could take a round the world trip. And yet. And yet a confluence of circumstances meant that I might be able to pull off a round the world trip. I had online work, I only needed that initial bit to buy the ticket, otherwise I there was a chance I could afford to both travel and pay off my debt. I had some school debt from the loan I took out when my brother died. And I had some medical/life debt from when I broke my arm four days before I took custody of my nephews.
And all of that was a narrative that I could own up to. I had debt, but I could still be responsible and pay it off. I was the only one of my siblings to have a job, and mine happened to be based from the internet. I thought there was a chance I could pull it off. In fact, I think there is a chance. I’ve made it most of the way through the planning, but there is no telling what this coming year will bring.
I am an attendant in two weddings next month, and then I leave on November 4, 2008. That date repeats in my head every day now as I count down the hours. This should be interesting. :)
Resources for Making the Decision to Travel
I know how hard it is to book that ticket and make the commitment. These resources should help assuage concerns about the various aspects of planning a round the world trip (and the concerns about actually getting out there and traveling!).
- How Do We Make Big Decisions?: This is a close look at how we know if we’re making the right choice on these big life choices, and it includes perspectives from my seven-year travel anniversary.
- World Travel Resources: Eight years of travel advice, this page includes the answer to every single reader question I have received over the years. If there’s one aspect of travel that’s gnawing at you, start here for some additional answers and resources.
- On Fear, Vulnerability, and the Less Sexy Side of Travel: A series on the site looking at everything from traveling as a solo female to how to stay healthy on the road.
- How Much Does it Cost for a RTW Trip?: Hands-down the most popular page on my website, this piece details every single part of the final budget for my one-year round the world trip.
- How to Save for Travel & How Much Does Your Dream Trip Cost?: These two are affordable guides that I wrote to answer two of the most common questions facing many travel dreamers.
- Travel Guides & Stories From Around the World: This is a dense resource of stories and advice for every place I’ve ever visited. If you’re dreaming of visiting a new place, why not start here for some inspiration.