I wish I could tell you I had an epiphany one day…
sitting on a tropical beach or eating Pho Ba in Hanoi.
But it wasn´t like that.
I was 12 when I first traveled outside of the United States with my father and brother to Israel. I still remember the smells and sounds of a place where even the air felt completely different from everything I had ever known. What is a falafel? Why are those men all dressed in black in this heat? Why do I have to take my shoes off to enter this mosque? There´s a sea that has so much salt that you can float effortlessly? Really???
When I returned home, I won a writing contest for an essay I submitted about the Holocaust museum I had visited while in Israel.
This is where my love of travel and writing collided.
Years later I celebrated my high school graduation by taking my first solo vacation as an ´´adult´´: a road trip from New Jersey to Florida. There was a certain freedom in letting the warm air whip through the open windows, singing at the top of my lungs, making my own decisions about what to eat, where to go, who to talk to.
And when I finished college I flew to the farthest place I could: Australia.
For three months I slept under the stars in the Outback, swam with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef and watched wallabies (rather than squirrels) sneak into a friend´s backyard for a snack.
The next logical step would have been a life abroad, traveling and working around the world.
I spent the next 17 years working at a desk. Answering to a boss. Missing warm spring days as I raced towards deadlines. Don´t get me wrong. My career as a financial news producer for the biggest names and talent in the industry was an unforgettable experience and helped shape the detail and goal-oriented person I am today. And in between jobs I was able to take longer jaunts to India and Southeast Asia.
But mostly I lived within the constraints of corporate America´s limited vacation policy, thinking: Why am I not traveling more? Why am I not living abroad? Why are my toes not free to wiggle and breathe?
The answers were always the same and very convincing. Not enough money. Too much debt. Too many responsibilities at home. No longer 21 years old and carefree. Who will take care of Hamlet? What will I do with my apartment? All of my stuff? How will I fight off the Negative Nellies that didn´t want me to stray far from home?
Then one day I just changed my mind. Just like that.
There was no great epiphany. I didn´t have a near-death experience. No life-alterting vision. I didn´t win the lottery.
One day I simply started siphoning a VERY small portion of my paycheck to a separate account… and the next I was quitting my job and moving to Brazil. I didn´t save a fortune. Just enough to enjoy moving about in places that were a bit cheaper to live and eat than New York City. And I changed my mind about what I NEEDED versus what I WANTED.
In between, I took a CELTA certification course at Teaching House that was challenging and awakened a part of my brain that had been long since dormant. I spent A LOT of time reading travel blogs for inspiration and courage. And I´m forever grateful to those brave individuals that went before me. It´s because of them that I went from thinking ´´no way´´ to ´´if they can do it…´´
Now that I´m on the other side, I can confirm that what they all said was true:
The hardest part about traveling long term, moving abroad, making a big life-change is making the actual conscious decision to do it.
After that, everything else is easy.