It's time for change: why I've quit my life to travel

I’ll never forget the first moment that I realised something in my life needed to change.

I was in New York City with my childhood best friend. It was a whirlwind of sight-seeing, basketball game-watching, fried food-eating, fancy dress-partying, swanky restaurant-dining, leafy park-strolling, and so-bad-they’re-good Halloween decoration-viewing.

One evening, as we sat sipping on our elaborately named and overpriced cocktails in a dimly-lit basement bar, I found myself admitting loudly over the thump-thwack of the music: “When I’m home, I’m not ever really living.”

I was 23, and working a job that I hated just so I could have enough money to pay for things that would help me to forget how much I hated it. My weeks were a blur of sleepless nights and anxiety-ridden days, and my weekends a barely memorable haze of misery-fuelled Netflix binging and desperate drunken hookups.

But as I sat there on that crisp October evening in a city so magical and vibrant it felt as if the walls were alive, I finally realised what it meant to live. Not just to breathe, not just to exist, not just to survive - to really live.

That trip sparked a fire within me that never burnt out. Then I went home, and reality set in again. It took another four years, three jobs, and two heartbreaks for me to finally pay attention to what that fire was trying to show me.

Last year, I decided to go to Thailand (which I wrote about here). Bare-footed, brown-skinned, salty-haired, and dirty-clothed, I spent my days wondering at magnificent temples, wandering palm-lined beaches, swinging in hammocks, and slurping freshly-cracked coconuts, and my nights gazing at pink-horizon sunsets, awing at glittering skylines, and chugging on local rice wine (not to be mistaken for normal wine, which I learnt the hard way) with some of the best people I’d ever met.

It sounds like a dream - and it was. The feeling of freedom never left me, but neither did the feeling of exhaustion. I’m not going to tell you that that trip was easy, because it wasn’t.

There were days where I met some amazing people, and days where I met some not-so-amazing people. There were days where I was surrounded by new friends, and days where I was lonely and desperate for company. There were days where I felt on top of the world, and days where I felt restless, overwhelmed, burnt-out, and downright depressed.

But the thing about those bad days was that they were just as rewarding as the good ones. In fact, it's on the bad days that I learnt the most.

People talk about ‘finding themselves’ when travelling, and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a total cliché. But you know what? For me, it was absolutely true.

My trip to Thailand taught me more about myself, the world I live in, and the people that live in it with me than any other experience in my entire 27 years of living.

Sure, I did get sick of living out of a backpack, tired of feeling like my feet had barely touched the ground before I had to move on again, bored of having the same conversation 45738584589 times a day, and fed up with living on Thai time (which is essentially non-existent, as nothing EVER happens when it’s supposed to). But that was all a part of the adventure.

And for someone who’s always been painfully shy, stubbornly sensible, utterly inflexible, overly sensitive, and excruciatingly organised, it’s safe to say that none of it came easy at first. But I was surprised at how quickly I was able to adapt. Turns out, I’m not the weak, meek, dull, cautious, or party-pooping person I thought I was. Once I got to know myself, I realised I’m actually quite good fun. Yay.

Not only am I secretly fun, but I’m also pretty tough. I might have a tendency to shed the odd tear (okay, floods of them), and I may succumb to the occasional panic attack or two (or three), but throughout my travels I was blown away by how quickly I was able to pick myself up and dust myself off when things went wrong. Maybe a ‘sensitive’, ‘anxious’, or ‘introverted’ person like me isn’t destined to live holed away or wrapped in cotton-wool, after all. Huh.

And as I sat in the taxi on the way back to the airport, my tear-stung eyes fixed on the rearview mirror where the buildings of Bangkok were shrinking and fading into the distance, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I was making a big mistake.

Why was I leaving a place where I felt I belonged to return to one where I’d never felt like I did? Why was I ending a growth-inspiring adventure to restart a routine-driven existence? Why was I trading a life that I loved for one that I simply endured?

Well, I was doing it because I had to. Right? I couldn’t just up and leave my job, my family, my friends, and my home. I couldn’t just book a one-way ticket and start afresh somewhere new. I couldn’t just quit my life.

Or could I?

Suddenly, all of the micro-realisations, the light-bulb moments, and the fire-sparking confessions from the last few years seemed to fall perfectly into place and I felt something shift inside of me.

There was no more dodging, side-stepping, or denying it anymore: I needed to make it happen.

There comes a time in all of our lives where everything that we’ve spent so long trying to suppress cannot be suppressed anymore, and either we act on it, or we become bitter and resentful instead. That was that time for me.

So I promised myself then that I would. And I have. In four weeks’ time, I’ll be doing exactly what I've always dreamt of but have been too afraid to admit. What I’ve always wanted but have been too afraid to ask for. What I’ve always longed for but have been too afraid to go after.

When we decide to step into our truth, it’s both the easiest and the hardest decision we’ll ever have to make. It’s the easiest, because we know deep down that if we don’t, we won’t be able to live a day without asking ourselves ‘what if?’. It’s the hardest, because if we do, as we begin to set our plans in motion we’ll also be asking ourselves ‘what if?’.

“Courage is knowing it might hurt, and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same. And that’s why life is hard.” - Jeremy Goldberg 

Will I regret leaving behind the stability, security, and comfort of my everyday life to embark on an open-ended journey to the far corners of the world? Maybe. Will I regret never having listened to or acknowledged the call of my heart and soul? Definitely.

So it's time for me to make the change that I knew I should've made all those years ago. Because my fire's not ready to burn out. Not yet.

Peace and love x

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