Stepping out of my comfort zone in 2012

One day in 2011, stuck somewhere between broke and unhappy, I decided, actually resolved to change my life.  I promised to redefine what a rich life would mean for me. I absolutely and outright rejected that happiness came from a large pay check, slinging papers for the man in a cubicle.

I came up with several realizations, not all of them easy conclusions. I cried and felt frustrated at times, cheated by the promises of post-college life. I felt taken advantage of and used by a crumbling economy and shitty internships. But most surprisingly, I couldn’t believe how EASY it was to change my mindset and live a life I was proud of.

First I resolved to define what SUCCESS meant to me. One day, while trying to make it to an interview on time for an administrative assistant job, I realized that the job wasn’t what I wanted at all. Interview after interview on the 20th floor at some big wig company in Center City didn’t make me feel valid. It made me feel fake. I felt like a blown up balloon, all dolled up in a skirt and tights: I so badly wanted to deflate and take my tights off and strangle all the miserable people in their cubicles. It was sometime around failed interview number 3 or 4 when I downright decided to make my life rich with experience rather than money or status.  I decided that what would make me happy was not a job that paid me a lot, but one that gave me enough to explore the world and live a relatively free life.

There's freedom in flight

Second I reached out to people that had the same goals in mind. I reconnected with old friends. I made new friends at the restaurant I was working at that were artists, writers, students, thinkers. They’ve seen the world. They worked service jobs their whole lives to live around the world. I exchanged stories with friends who’d studied abroad, done a semester at sea, had couchsurfed in Egypt, were going to backpack through Thailand, had travelled South America for 2 years. I started a travel blog. I signed up for travel writing classes. I became addicted, and still am, to the free spirits in the travel community, those who make it their life’s goal to experience life.

One day I'm in Philly, the next I'm sitting in Redwood Tree!

Deciding to live a nomadic life comes with its connotations. I rejected and still continue to reject the negative ones. When my aunt described a girl who traveled with a family to be their Au Pair as a gypsy, I had to imagine it as a compliment. I’ve learned to tune out people’s disastisfaction with a traveling lifestyle. Some may call people with itchy feet hippies. I think they are right, in a sense. But I don’t listen to people who say traveling means you have no goals. In fact, I think those that travel and seek to experience have very specific goals, most of them very personal. Just because we reject a “traditional” life doesn’t make us bad. What makes traditional good is the same thing that makes a nomadic lifestyle bad: There’s sometimes uncertainly, financial woes and missing friends and loved ones. What makes a traveling lifestyle great is what a traditional lifestyle sometimes lacks: Spontaneity, adventure, freedom, beauty. I’ve learned to love all sorts of lifestyles, whether or not it’s for me.

I’ve accepted that travel is a lifestyle choice. Either you take the time to do it or you don’t. I will. I always will. I’ll almost always say yes, whether I can take that trip right away or not. Now that I’ve developed a whole new mindset about the way to live my life, striving to fill it with meaningful experience and adopt an non-traditional attitude to “vacationing”  has been my first priority.

2012 is a year for me to step out of my comfort zone. So far, this is what I have planned:

1. Solo Travel: Starting at the end of this month, I’m taking my first solo trip. I quit my job without the prospect of another. Some call it foolish, but I’m certain I’ll be able to make money again. I’m packing my bag and hitting the road for about 5 weeks, maybe longer if things go well. I’m flying out of California after staying with some friends and into Sydney. I will be alone to the (almost) furthest place I can think of. I’m scared, but of what? I’m actually excited. Think of who I’ll meet. Think of what I’ll see. Think of what I’ll learn!

2. My ‘first’ International travel: Okay, so I went to Canada in 2011. That’s international. But it was so close to my USA roots. I’m going to Australia. Like, seriously. I don’t think that’s sunk in yet.

 

3. Stop being my own worst enemy: My friend Marjie said it best, “We are our own worst enemies. I am the only person I know of who has ever called me ugly, stupid, worthless, or not good enough. I’ve never met anyone else who’s said those things to me, and if I did, I’d be like ‘screw you!’” I need to give up my self-defeating attitude and believe that I can get out there and DO IT.

4. Travel vs. Vacation: Instead of staying in a hotel, like I’ve done my whole life growing up, I’m doing a homestay in Australia. I’ll be with a host family, one of which owns their own Beef Jerky company. I’ll get to try biltong! What is that even? Who knows, and who cares, but I’m willing to try it. I’ll be able to save money and experience a place longer and immerse myself into a local culture. Talk about cool.

That’s a bit about my goals and plans for early 2012 and how I arrived to those points. I’m sure I’ll have more adventures this year. But one thing at a time, eh? Happy travels!

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This post was inspired by BootsnAll’s 18 Travel Resolutions to Keep This Year and their 2012 Indie Travel Challenge.

17 thoughts on “Stepping out of my comfort zone in 2012

  1. Gosh you are so brave!! We are travelling Australia, not even thought about going overseas (yet!) Congratulations on getting out of your comfort zone!!

    Cheers
    Lisa

  2. Fantastic! Visiting other English speaking countries for your first international destinations is a very good idea. You can learn how to become a traveler with out being so far outside your comfort zone that you can’t cope.

    Congratulations to you for figuring out that the “traditional” and “normal” lives most Americans live are not the only way! One of the things I’ve learned in the last few years is that there is so much more out there than the 9-5 rat race most people back home live. I’ve already begun my journey toward a well paying non-nine to five career as a ship captain, I’m sure there’s something out there that you’ll enjoy doing also!

    I’ve spent most of the last year in AU with my husband, and we’ve had a pretty good time. To date it is not the best country that we’ve visited – that honor goes to New Zealand! While you’re out in this part of the world, I highly recommend getting yourself down there. The people are super friendly and the country is amazingly gorgeous.

    Good luck to you, I hope you enjoy your homestay!

    ps – where is your homestay at? We’re up in Karumba in Northern Queensland right now until mid-Feb 2012.

    • Your story has breathed new life into my goals and has inspired me already. You are a ship captain?! That is really very cool. I would love to fall into work that was adventurous and different!

      I was thinking since I’ll already be in the South Pacific to head to New Zealand. It would only be an extra couple hundred dollars for the flight. I’ve heard incredible things about that country!

      I have two homestays, one in Manly Beach in North Sydney, and another further up the east coast in Ocean Shores on the Gold Coast.

      You must be enjoying the awesome summer weather there…I can’t wait to escape the cold and trade it in for the beautiful Oz weather!

  3. I love, love , love this post…I’m quite a bit older than you …. but I feel the exact same as you and everything you said! I don’t have plans to go overseas just yet…I’m a little scared to do it alone….so kudos to you! But I will get there eventually! Please let us know how things go!!

    Jena

  4. What wonderful goals!! I had a very similar experience to yours at the end of last year and I’m so glad you’re moving forward in a new direction from it. Can’t wait to read about your adventures in Australia.

    • Thanks! I LOVE Anthony Bourdain. He’s always been and continues to be a huge inspiration to me. I mean, what else can you want in a role model? He travels, he writes, he’s dashing, clever and a bit sexy…and he’s hilarious!

  5. You’re brave to be doing what every human being longs to do. To be free. One of the best images I’ve ever seen- http://marissamarzano.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/birds.jpg

    I think it sums up your life in a nutshell. I wish I had the cajones to do what you’re doing- I’m already tied down with so many things and I feel I always will. You will truly be experiencing life the way it was meant to be experienced! You get one life- you should see all that it has to offer. I hope one day I can do the things you are doing.

    Good luck… it will be something you will never forget.

    • Thanks for the kind comment Bree. You’ve really paid me some of the highest compliments. I love that postsecret card too. I know one day you will be able to get out there and do something similar (if you want!). Soon, though, we need to take a trip together again! We can travel once you graduate if you have some time off! Love you and thanks again!

  6. Can’t wait to read about your adventures in Australia. 2012 is going to be an AMAZING year for you. Be safe in your travels.

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