I’d been dreaming of taking time off from the corporate world and travelling continuously for years.
But, like with most people, fear stopped me.
Fear of leaving the life I’d built, fear of selling everything and having to start over whenever I came back, fear of stunting career growth, and really, most significantly, fear of the unknown.
And there were so many questions.
How would I even start saving (and budgeting) for a trip with no return date?
What would travelling on my own for so long be like?
How would I manage to fit everything I needed in a backpack?
What if I didn’t like it?
What would family and friends think?
What if I loved it so much I didn’t want to come back?
The above was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As someone who grapples with anxiety, the swirl of ‘what if’s’ felt too overwhelming to seriously consider it as an option.
Plus, I liked working at ad agencies, and living in London. It was a life I’d dreamed of having for so many years.
And yet, I was deeply, unsettlingly unhappy.
Really beyond unhappy to what a psychiatrist and psychologist would diagnose as severe clinical anxiety and depression last September.
It was through starting to see a new therapist and trying different methods of managing anxiety that we finally started to talk about whether this picture of what I thought I had always wanted was actually serving me.
Was it terrifying to leave behind everything I’ve spent the last 10 years of my professional and personal life building to traverse Asia and Oceania?
Was a bit ridiculous, selfish even, to drop everything and travel the world?
But, three and a half months in, it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done.
There’ll be more reflective posts to come on long term travelling realities, and what managing wellness is like while on the road, but if faced with the choice to do it all over again, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes.
When I first started planning this trip, I thought I’d be gone for 2-3 months. I planned a pretty rigid schedule to match that- moving around Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos at what would feel like breakneck pace.
I didn’t plan the back half of the trip- what I imagined being a week or two in Vietnam, a week in the Philippines, and maybe some time in Indonesia and Australia- because I wanted to see how the first 4-6 weeks went.
I’m so glad I didn’t.
Being able to learn from what went well and what I would have done differently in my first few stops allowed me to plan a more relaxed venture around Vietnam, and forced me to reconsider visiting the islands in the Philippines.
They’re breathtaking and somewhere I hope to make it to someday, but not right for this trip at the moment- read: outside of budget and with questionable working WiFi. Instead, I spent more time in Vietnam, made an impulse decision to see Taiwan and South Korea, and then went to Bali, where I decided to stay for a few months.
I always said I’d ‘come back’ when a job opportunity arose that interested me enough to consider it.
Several months in, I’ve been most amazed by how this trip has led me to consider work opportunities I hadn’t even thought to consider prior.
And so, this is a very long winded way of saying, I’m cancelling my return date.
At the latest, I thought I’d fly back to London sometime in the mid-end of summer.
But, these past few months have shown me how rare of an opportunity travelling like this, and working for myself on my terms, is.
At the time of writing this, I do intend to go back to the agency world. In mapping out my five and ten year goals and dreams (an exercise I hadn’t properly done before this trip), it makes sense for me to.
And, I can admit I enjoy a good routine. Sleeping in the same bed each night, a gym to call home, a yoga studio where I’m a regular, and a cafe shop that knows just how I like my cold brew.
What’s changed is that I’m no longer looking at working in the agency world as something I necessarily need to do to make a living. Working as an independent digital consultant has opened doors I never quite imagined possible. Instead, returning to the agency world is something I’m excited to do to grow into and develop the life I see for myself years from now.
That said, I’ll be travelling for a bit longer.
Nothing is fully planned- I’ve gotten into a habit of only planning a week or so out at any given time. That alone should be a strong indicator of how much things inside me have shifted.
Background: I used to be the kind of person to painstakingly map out travel details weeks and months into the future.
If the past few months have taught me anything, it’s that I’m more than capable of handling whatever comes up.
There’s no way of knowing what will happen this afternoon or tomorrow, let alone a few months from now.
This time in my life feels big and transformative.
I’m excited for the potential of it all.
And, looking forward to sharing it with all of you.
Have you ever gone on a trip you found yourself extending for weeks or months? I’d love to hear about your experience.
12 thoughts on “An Update from Life on The Road”
Yale, you’ve always been my mentor and a true inspiration in all areas of life. I am beyond thrilled that you are doing what you love because YOU want to. I look forward to following your journey.
P.S. Also super happy I came to visit you in London because you’re a little harder to track down these days!
Caitlin, thank you so much for reading and these kind words. Both mean so much. <3
I'll be in Pennsylvania for a few weeks in December, I'll DM ya - maybe we can figure out a catch-up then. 🙂 🙂
I admire your decision . . . and your photography 🙂
Thank you Boyd 🙂 🙂
This is amazing and beautifully written. As always you inspire me to grow as a person. I also deal with anxiety. As you know living in NYC is a stressful lifestyle. And having anxiety does not ease the stress. Reading about your growth and learning how strong you are by stepping out of your bubble and doing something you’ve always dreamed of doing is incredibly inspiring to me. If you ever stop by NYC I’d like to catch up.
Elaine! Thank you so much, it makes me so happy you took time to read this and comment. I’ll DM you this fall, I’ll likely be in NYC for a few days in December 🙂 🙂
This is a beautiful self-reflection!!! I luv your writing!!! We are enjoying the journey along with you. We are getting to see the world through your experiences. All my luv.
<3 <3 <3
Wow Nicole, you are amazing. Enjoy and God bless 💕
Thank you so much, Aunt Diane <3
Nicole – I’m cheering you on…this is a wonderfully written excerpt and your honesty about emotion is courageous.
Thank you so much, Patrick 🙂