“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately [….] and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I’ve read stories about people who have left home and career in an effort to escape the remains of a failed relationship or a lifestyle that has grown stale. But most of the traveling nomads I’m familiar with have simply chosen to pursue a dream – to finally take action instead of continuing to just talk about journeying beyond the borders of their everyday lives. The latter describes me.
Originally a Midwestern girl, I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona for 10 delicious years, thoroughly enjoying the breathtaking desert landscapes, active social scene, fantastic local restaurants and packed event calendars. I have numerous close and inspiring friendships and job in corporate marketing that I enjoy. Life truly is good… there is nothing I desire to escape.
But for as long as I remember, I have wanted to travel. I’m fascinated by history and unfamiliar cultures. But I could always find some reason (usually related to time and/or money) why travel wasn’t possible. My freshman year in college, I participated in a “Literary London” class, which consisted of three weeks touring England along with a weekend in Paris, and returned home dreaming of the English countryside.
Eighteen years later, I hadn’t been back to Europe. Aside from short visits to Mexico and The Bahamas, I hadn’t left the country.
A convergence of several factors that included the arrival of my 35th birthday, getting a job that allowed me to pay off debt and build my savings, and having an inspiring conversation with a cab driver in Savannah, Georgia, finally changed my mindset about travel. In August 2014, I joined Matt Kepnes (aka. Nomadic Matt) and 11 other travelers on a two-week trip through Central Europe. We slept in hostels, traveled by train, participated in free walking tours and “splurged” on delicious meals in Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. At the end of the tour, I spent a weekend in Paris on my own.
While on that trip, I saw first-hand how feasible and comfortable budget travel can be. And each day while traveling, I had moments when I thought: “I can’t believe I’m here. I can’t believe I’m seeing this.” Whether biking through the Austrian countryside on a wine tour or gazing into the bright blue sky on a morning cruise on the Danube River, I was in awe. And, as I soon realized, I was hooked.
Shortly after returning to Phoenix, my mind began to formulate how I could travel again for a longer time period. I’m typically a very responsible, rule-following first-born, and it took a few months for me to decide that this crazy dream of mine was possible…that long-term travel wasn’t reserved only for college students and retirees, but something I could really do, too. I was renting an apartment that could be given up. I’m childless and single, so my responsibilities were minimal. And when I cautiously shared my thoughts with them, my friends and family were supportive and encouraging.
I began devouring travel blogs, books and podcasts. I went to a coffee shop and spent an entire morning navigating a map of Europe on my iPad and listing all of the cities that I considered to be at the top of my list. There were 27 of them. I started mapping out a plan for saving, selling and handling all the little details that would make it possible for me to travel for a year. And baby step by baby step, I’m making it happen.
In two days, I will begin my final week as an employed marketing professional. In less than two weeks, I will board a plane to Iceland.
I came to a place where I had to ask myself, “If not now, then when?” Like Thoreau, I don’t want to come to the end of my life and find that I have not lived, that I didn’t choose the life I truly wanted. What I truly want right now is to see the world…and I will.
In our lives, there will always be reasons to believe we can’t do something we long to do. Choose to see excuses for what they are, and find a way around them. If a dream has taken up residence in your head and your heart, look for ways to believe you can.
Let me know…what is your dream?