Why have I decided to abandon my life as I’ve known it for a life on the road?
It’s a valid question. One that, as I prepare to sell, store or give away everything I own, and creep closer to the end of my safe, familiar existence, I have been been contemplating more and more.
I love my life in San Francisco. It’s full of incredible friends whom I adore. A marketing writing career that I have spent years carefully cultivating. A cozy little studio apartment (with insanely low rent for SF, with rent control) that I have lived in for five years now. It’s my comfy nest, and it makes me so happy.
San Francisco has been my home for nearly eight fantastic years, and it’s the home of my little cat Lucy. It’s going to be really hard not having her around to cuddle with while I’m gone.
And this city.
This amazing, crazy, unpredictable, beautiful and forever young city. San Francisco has made me who I am. I love it and am grateful to it, and will never forget it.
So, why am I giving it all up?
The simple answer is, because I must.
I decided about a year ago, around when I turned 34 that something BIG was going to happen in the year that I turned 35. For a while I didn’t really know what the “big thing” would be. To be honest, I was sorta hoping for a boyfriend to end my multi-year dry spell and continuous online dating bonanza with nothing much to show for it except the ability to say that I met some very nice guys, none of whom were “it.”
San Francisco is a notoriously difficult city to date in if you’re a woman (if you’re not from here, just trust me, it’s a well-known fact amongst most SF ladies). So since the boyfriend option did not look terribly viable, I thought maybe I’d move to a new city, like New York or Seattle. I visited Seattle a couple months ago, loved it, and may still move there eventually.
But after a life-changing trip to Africa in May 2014, it soon became undeniably clear what the thing, my change, would be: I wanted – no, NEEDED – to travel and see the world. And I needed to do it for much longer than the 10 allotted vacation days per year that my workplaces compelled me to squeeze my travel time into each year.
I had to do this. I must see the world. At the rate of 10 vacation days per year, I’d never get to half the places I want to visit, and I sure wouldn’t ever truly get to know any of them. I needed to go for at least six months, or a year, or more.
And it was now or never.
The big bad “What-ifs”
The idea of chucking my current life in favor of a nomadic existence began to make itself at home in my mind, taking root and morphing from a mere notion into a tangible, exhilarating fact. I told two of my best girlfriends in San Francisco first, and after a moment of shock, their consensus was exactly what I was hoping for. They agreed that the idea I had hatched was amazing, they supported me fully, and told me to totally go for it! Thumbs up from them.
My parents, on the other hand, were not quite as enthusiastic.
Upon telling my dad (who lives in Michigan and hasn’t traveled much) of my grand RTW plan, he responded with, “Why can’t you just go to Florida for your vacation like a normal person??” After which he proceeded to list out all the dangerous terrorist activity happening in every country I planned to visit, which he knew about for a fact from watching Fox News.
My mom was more receptive and thought it was a cool concept, though she did ask the requisite “But…?” questions I knew would come up:
Mom: But what about your job?
Me: I’m going to have to quit.
Mom: But what will you do for money?
Me: I’m going to have enough saved to live on for a while, and will also bring my computer and camera and try to find freelance work along the way.
Mom: But what if you get robbed?
Me: Well, my plan is to NOT get robbed. But I’ll be taking a lot of precautions, and if I do get robbed, everything is replaceable and I’ll have backed up all of my documents and photos to a cloud.
Mom: But what if you get hurt?
Me: Travel insurance. It’s a beautiful thing.
And so on. Truthfully, I had been agonizing over these “what if” questions, too. But I had also started to pour through the blogs of experienced RTW travelers, and was picking up loads of great advice on these topics, which I put into a Google doc for trip preparation. Understanding what and where the risks were and how to prevent catastrophe, or deal with it if anything bad did happen in a foreign country, helped ease my uncertainty.
Here are three good reasons for doing this trip now:
1. I have my health (knock wood) and my body won’t ever be this resilient again.
2. I don’t have a mortgage, a kid, or a significant other. This translates to: I have nothing tying me down, and nothing that is so expensive that it prevents me from saving up.
3. Life is short. I could die at any time. I can’t just wait around for the “right time” or “someday” or retirement. If I’m going to see the world, I better make it happen while I can.
Just do it.
Nike got it right. What am I waiting for? There will never be a better time than right now (well, April 1st when I leave, anyway) for this adventure.
YOLO, people. And I mean that in the purest sense (not the way the kids use it to justify doing stupid things). It’s time to give up the safe haven of my current life in San Francisco, and etch a new existence in the world beyond. Everything I own is just stuff. Home is wherever you make it. Experiences and people are what really matter in the end.
LET’S DO THIS.
*Do you think there is an ideal age or situation to embark on a journey like this?