My alarm goes off. It takes everything I have to get myself out of bed. I drag myself unwillingly through my morning routine.
I find myself questioning my current path on every single morning walk into the office. This isn’t some goal-driven exercise, it’s actually a question that haunts me. Most days I don’t want to hear it, because it reminds me that I have no idea what I want to be doing otherwise.
I have rough days more often than I’d like to admit. Every once in a while, there’s a day where I will stare at my monitor, willing myself to shake off a pending breakdown. Usually I can hold it together, but there are times that it’s beyond my control.
I crave the weekends, but I find myself so drained that all I can do is recuperate. It was a struggle to eat well, exercise, or handle the weekly chores. I find myself sick more and I start needing mental health days, something that never stood in my way before.
It’s clear that I am not doing what I want to do, but I have no idea how to start uncovering my passions. I spend hours searching for new jobs, but there’s something stopping me from making the jump. And even if I could, a part of me knows that the change in scenery won’t solve my root problems.
I feel stuck. My patience is wearing thin and I don’t have any solutions in sight. I become hungry for solutions, grasping at anything that seems logical enough to work.
Why You Can’t Just ‘Stop Dreaming and Start Doing’
I’ve read a fair number of articles that say this. At first, they inspired me to evaluate my life and find an area where I could make a positive change. Only it wouldn’t work. I found it damn near impossible to complete the checklist of items in order to ‘start doing’. Just save money, just sell your stuff, just quit your job, just travel. As if it’s all much simpler than we realize. I felt like a failure without conviction, and that I wasn’t cut out for the change that seemed simple for so many others.
I will say this – those articles are full of valuable information on the logistical journey that one must take to make this lifestyle a reality. And yes, everyone must do these things in order to avoid unnecessary risk or going bankrupt. But I would argue that this is only half of the battle.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: are you emotionally ready to do this? I had to develop enough self-confidence to trust myself through a major risk. It took a lot of time before I started to really believe that I had the tools needed to figure something out, without a plan in advance. My self-love also needed some major TLC. I needed to accept the challenges that this lifestyle inevitably will throw my way. Sometimes I will succeed, and other times I will fall flat on my face. All I can do is accept the shortcomings and keep moving forward.
These topics are uncomfortable to talk about, particularly in a public forum. It goes against our culture, where social media shows nothing but a life of happy memories for everyone else. Most travel-focused accounts, mine included, focus solely on the good stuff. We need this to inspire us, but we can’t lose sight of reality. Attempting to plan the logistics will not work if we are not emotionally prepared to take a risk.
A Quick Note on First World Problems
Many will argue that this post reeks of ‘first world problems’. That hasn’t been lost on me. I’ve been dealt a damn good hand, with more choices than I realize. I know how fortunate I am that my biggest worries do not involve starvation, clean drinking water, terminal illness, or war. My only run-in with racial profiling involves assumptions that I am a rich tourist (and in the grand scheme of things, they honestly aren’t wrong).
Our society aims to make the world a better place. I owe it to my privilege to take advantage of my choices, so that I may one day be in the position to open doors for others. Travels provide plenty of first-hand experiences to reinforce this mission. I sure as hell won’t be able to improve anything if I remain miserable. Enrichment in my life allows me to give more of myself back to those that need it.
It came to the point where I looked to therapy for guidance. My emotional health had become an unmoving pendulum, stuck between sadness and fulfillment. I refused to let the pendulum swing toward sadness, and it eventually stopped moving towards anything that gave me passion. It got to the point where I believed that I could no longer be truly fulfilled. Turns out, the only way to break this habit was to stop burying the tough stuff beneath the surface.
This process didn’t happen overnight. It felt as if I had lowered the floodgates. I was hyper sensitive and couldn’t keep up with my emotional swings. I couldn’t expect my loved ones to keep up with them either, but recognizing this didn’t prevent me from feeling incredibly isolated. Trudging through these feelings drained my energy, and I had no choice but to focus on myself for several months.
I’m not sure when it happened, but things started to come together. The emotional swings evened out and I transitioned back into my social routine. Only this time, I felt fresh and whole. Taking a risk went from an abstract idea to a tangible possibility. I found energy and inspiration in podcasts, blogs, and articles, all guiding me to my next move. My internal motivation skyrocketed in order to make this change a reality. For the first time since graduating from college, I found myself following a purpose.
On September 19th, I decided that I would leave my job within the next 6 months with two goals in mind: obtaining my scuba Divemaster certification and starting this blog. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do from there, but I trusted that I would find something more sustainable.
That same day, I witnessed one of the most stunning sunsets of my life. I happened to work later than usual, which allowed me to catch it with perfect timing on my walk out of the office. I’m typically not one for signs, but I look back on this sunset as an indication that I’m on the right path, particularly in my deepest moments of doubt.
As for the planning, the logistics fell easily into place. I saved money, I sold several of my things, I rented my house full-time, I moved in with Steve, I arranged the travel plans, and I handed in my letter of resignation.
Why Does This Work?
Why is it that the logistics become easier when you address your emotional health? You have created an incentive: readying yourself emotionally cultivates a high level of motivation, something that was completely absent when you tried planning the logistics first. I found this most apparent when I started saving money. I naturally wanted to eat out less, I opted out of happy hours, I turned down shopping excursions, and I scrutinized my online orders.
Whatever your goal may be, following through with your plan will mean more than anything you can buy. After all, material possessions were a way to fill the void left by your lack of fulfillment. There will be times where saving money can be quite challenging, but you can take on those challenges with a conviction that wouldn’t otherwise be present. Failure before meant not putting your plan into action. Failure now simply means delaying plans due to falling short on your budget timeline. It’s recoverable, and you will still get where you need to go.
I’m not saying that you need to see a therapist. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly, and it happened to work for me. If you take away one piece of advice, let it be this: don’t put the cart in front of the horse. Address your emotional health before you get too far ahead of yourself with the logistics.
The bravery, and the hard work, come in the emotional journey, not the logistical journey. Don’t let any travel article tell you otherwise.
So, what’s your move?
This post relates to my goal of developing a travel lifestyle, but it can apply to any major life change. What risk do you want to take? Let me know about it in the comments. If you’d rather handle things more privately, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to give my perspective.
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