Don’t Just Write Your Own Story, Throw a Wrench in the Plot Line
I turned 35 unemployed, uninsured and with a dwindling savings account. I rang in my birthday sitting in a snow covered cabin in Nowhere, Patagonia without heat, electricity or running water, sipping red wine out of a plastic bottle. It was not exactly where I thought I’d be when I was 25 but it was also kinda perfect.
When I first quit my job to travel the world five months ago, I was immediately plagued by all the doubts that prevented me from taking the plunge for years. What if I couldn’t get another job? Would I fall professionally behind my peers? How would I explain that gap in my resume? What if I drained all my savings? I pictured myself shuffling along the streets in a dirty bathrobe muttering to myself.
But there comes a point when you have to stop and ask yourself: What do I want this life to look like? It was a beautifully liberating and wholly terrifying moment when I realized that I was the one writing this story. Not my boss, my parents or my friends. Not fate, timing or chance. And as the author, I was the only one who could throw in a plot twist. Whatever I’d been waiting for all those years, wasn’t coming. In fact, it was waiting for me to stop being a giant pussy.
This is not to say that when I set off to see the world, everything magically fell into place. I do not lead that kind of charmed life. There have been gastro meltdowns, facial rashes and naked dudes. There have been hypoglycemic rants and challenges not met. In five months of wandering, I’ve I learned a lot about myself and some of it I didn’t like. But there have also been family road trips, beautiful cities and kind strangers. I’ve realized that travel doesn’t equal happiness, you have to do that part on your own. But if happiness is truly in the doing, then call me euphoric.
Tomorrow I tackle the Salkantay Trail, a five day trek to Machu Picchu. This has been on my bucket since I was a kid. Anyone who knows me knows that anything from altitude sickness to alien encounters is possible. One thing I do know is it won’t be what I imagined but I’ve found there’s a sort of twisted beauty in the unexpected. It may not always be pretty, immediately evident or even sane but it is honest.
Six months ago, I would’ve done hours of research to eliminate any surprises. I would’ve been a tense mixture of confidence and terror. I’d be laser focused on the accomplishment, the perfect picture at the top. Now I realize that all I can really do is let go and put one foot in front of the other. As Walt Disney said, “The way to get started is to stop talking and start doing.”