As some of you may know, one day I just left my job, and my life, and went to Thailand. Poof. That’s how fast it was. Below is an article I wrote about why I did it, and the benefits that arose. The article is called “I Left Everything Behind to Travel,” but looking back on the article now, I don’t think I left anything behind (other than my dog who I miss terribly every day). I don’t think I left anything, because I’ve gained so much more. There are things I miss, sure, but I think those things will still be there when I go back.
For more information about our travel life, visit A Permanent Vacation. Jay has got some fantastic articles up there under her blog, and mine is just a meandering of the days as I experienced them. I’ve gotten behind on uploading, so that’s another thing I should get working on!
Hope you enjoy!
I Left Everything Behind to Travel
It was a Monday. The same as any other Monday in the blustery winter of Canada. It was another weekend of binge drinking, another fight with the fiancé, another blurred weekend of regrets and wasted time. It was just another Monday in the same cycle that repeats every weekend, every week, every year. It was just another Monday that changed my life forever.
I’ve been a catering driver at an airport for four years, the longest I’ve ever held down a job. Four years of routine. Four years of the same. Four years of wishing something would come along and change everything. I don’t think I was unlike most people in that regard, living day to day, but not actually living a single day.
You know what’s scary? Math. My job was stocking airplanes with all the consumables passengers use, from safety feature cards, to beer, to napkins. Catering twelve planes a day, five days a week, for four years adds up to approximately 12 480 planes. That’s about 12 480 coffees I’ve brewed. It’s 12 480 times I’ve driven a truck to an aircraft, or loaded my truck to begin with. It’s 12 480 times I’ve put napkins on a plane.
That’s 12 480 times I’ve prepared people for a travel experience when I haven’t had the opportunity to do so myself. And that’s what my life came down to. One number. My life was 12 480.
It was that Monday that everything changed. Something had to change or I would lose everything. I would lose myself. I could no longer self medicate with booze to numb the burning regret of my life. I was the problem, but you can’t run away from yourself. I had to get away from the environment that I had created.
A study was conducted with people in their twilight years and it was discovered the common biggest regret in their lives was a lack of travel. The most common excuses being lack of money, and lack of time; meaning, it was always pushed back to when it was more “convenient.” When there was more money, when things calmed down at work, then when the children move out, or when the car payment is paid, or when the mortgage is under control.
I fell into this trap as well. My fiancé and I were trying to save money and travel for a year for our honeymoon. Saving was difficult and our departure date kept getting postponed; as far as six months after the wedding.
We don’t have the money to travel, but then again, not many people think they actually do. You make it work. You rely on yourself. You adapt. If you don’t do it, you won’t do it. You don’t need as much as you think you do to do the things you need to do.
It was that Monday when I realized I couldn’t see 12 481. So I left my job.
My fiancé and I were patching things up while we were both stagnant at our respective jobs that day. Neither of us were ignorant on the role our environment strained the relationship. She worked a regular nine to five, except often times it was nine to seven or eight. My schedule was two to ten thirty. In order for us to see each other for only an hour or two a day, she would sacrifice her night and plans, oftentimes putting off a normal life to nap, just so we could see each other for a groggy hour or so at the end of the night. We knew the system didn’t work, but you can’t change the system. Until you do change it.
I left work that day without catering a single plane. I never reached 12 481, and I don’t know where my life would be if I had. That was my line in the sand; when everything would change or absolutely nothing would change. We were determined to leave on a flight that very same night. In the course of eight hours our lives would be drastically different. Thankfully, our plans didn’t coincide with our level of crazy.
Very few people were told what we were doing. The responses were the same; shock, bewilderment, and “you’re crazy.” Saying goodbye to my parents, my Mom asked me why I was doing this, and I just replied with “because it’s crazy.” Her retort was, “you don’t always have to be the first one.” I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last. Stories abound everywhere of people who have done just this, without anyone actually knowing them. Now, I’m one of those people you read about.
While we didn’t leave that Monday, we did leave the following Sunday for Bangkok, which was a blessing in disguise. As romantic as it sounds to just hop on a plane and go somewhere, anywhere, it is infinitely easier if you can prepare. Some affairs had to be taken care of, such as our apartment, our belongings, and banking. We also needed to get the necessary gear that we would need. You can’t live out of a backpack in Southeast Asia without a backpack.
Staring at a 75 gallon pack and determining what parts of your life will go with you can be a daunting task. This is now everything in the world you own. Unlike most people that travel for vacation, our ticket is open ended. We have no idea when, or even if, we’re coming back.
It’s a scary and exciting prospect, leaving comfort for untold adventures. To live out of a bag, being on the move every few days, but it also makes you feel alive. Gone are the days of monotony and routine, replaced by the knowledge that every day is truly a new adventure of unknown prospects.
What you think you can’t live without becomes something rarely remembered as you learn to adapt to a different life. The big screen TV, concerts, and Friday nights at the bar that you struggled through the week for, are replaced by coffee shops with wifi, accommodations with free breakfast, and experiences never to be duplicated.
Every day you look in the mirror, you look the same, until one day you don’t. At that point, twenty years have gone by and you wonder where the time has gone. Add up those days. 365 days a year multiplied by twenty years, and what do you have to show for it? Math is scary.
So far, we’ve been all over Thailand, gone north to south in Cambodia, ventured through Vietnam, been to Malaysia twice, with plans of visiting many other countries, including Burma, Laos, and Indonesia. We’ve seen and walked through some of the oldest temples in the world, celebrated the Khmer New Year in Cambodia, been attacked by monkeys, swam in oceans, and know first hand what sea lice is.
An age old adage that you often hear is that travel makes you grow. Everyone has heard this so much, it’s nauseating, but that doesn’t make it less true. There’s only so much you can learn about the world from the Discovery Channel without actually being in the thick of it; more importantly, there’s only so much you can learn about yourself.
We gave up all the trappings of first world living to replace them with something much more valuable: experience. That big screen TV will be replaced in a few years and Friday nights at the bar often turn into foggy, regrettable Saturday mornings. What will not be replaced for the rest of your life is the feeling you get stepping into Angkor Wat, or the rush of adrenaline coursing through your veins as a bunch of monkeys charge at you, salivating for your ice cream. Those memories and feelings will stay with you forever. You’ll never regret watching a sunset over the Gulf of Thailand, sitting with the person you love the most in the world. There’s not a TV in the world that can replicate that experience.
With technology today, it’s very easy to stay in touch with loved ones through Skype, texting, and Facebook. The world is very large, but also much smaller now. And if you find yourself in a place without wifi, that’s okay. Breaking the tether that connects you to the rest of the world is imperative to actually living your life.
Like most people, I’d see pictures of friends travel adventures and a twinge of jealousy would crack against the back of my neck. Why are they so lucky? Why can’t that be me? The more important question is, why can’t that be you? Don’t just sit around wishing for something to happen, make it happen. The things in life you regret are the things you don’t do. In twenty years, you won’t look back and regret the time you swam with an elephant.
I couldn’t be happier about that Monday that changed my life forever. I finally look forward to them for once.