I’m sitting on the edge of an infinity pool, beer in hand, watching the sunset over the Pacific. Steve taps his beer into mine, we give cheers to the path ahead.
We had just landed in Costa Rica. We would stay there for two months while touring other parts of the country and some parts of Nicaragua, before we headed home. After ten days of regrouping, we opted for some time in Mexico for two months in order to complete our Divemaster certifications.
Is It Everything I Dreamed?
The path set through today isn’t all that long, yet it managed to throw us a few surprises. Despite the short timeline, we have learned a lot. I can safely say that I have started to deepen my perspective through the lens of this new lifestyle.
Did this path look exactly like the travel photos, the Instagram stories, or the travel guides? Hardly. These wonderful snippets are real, but they are not the full story. A lifestyle of travel gives you the extremes, the highest of highs can also bring on the lowest of lows.
The Real Journey
I found myself struggling to adjust. Not because I missed my old path (I think I’m still rejoicing in its end), but because I still had some ways to go in terms of personal growth.
Truthfully, I couldn’t shake a series of breakdowns. The list below highlights the things that I have actually said over the past few months. Steve and I sat down and put this list together to the best of our recollection.
- I feel frustrated that I have to take the “hard path” to fulfillment.
- I am a failure.
- I feel alone and desperately need the validation of those around me.
- My supporters do not truly understand what I’m looking to find.
- I am a reckless idiot. I haven’t prepared myself adequately.
- I can’t shake anxieties about my finances and lack of security.
- Did I waste my education?
- I regret wasting too much time in developing the wrong skills.
- I feel aimless, without a real trajectory to follow.
Ultimately, I was trying to regain control of something that I had purposely let go. I elected to have faith in my abilities, and I was directly contradicting that choice with every single item on this list. It all comes back to self-love. It’s advice I come back to time and time again, but we could all use a healthy dose of treating ourselves with kindness.
Why the sudden struggle?
After all, it seemed like I had just figured a bunch of things out before planning the logistics of this adventure. It didn’t make sense to be getting hit with a fresh wave of doubt and loneliness.
The truth is that I had nothing left to hide behind when it came to facing my insecurities. My previous lifestyle was the definition of success by all societal measures. I had stayed on track and created a career path to follow. I successfully convinced myself that was building something meaningful, all while being cushioned by a safe income. I allowed myself to take comfort in my aim and direction.
Yet how can something have a purpose when it isn’t built on a foundation of passion? That path didn’t compel me to build anything that retained value, at least in my eyes. It just seemed like an exercise of jumping between successes on this high of external validation. At times, my education, job title, and income felt like a mask. As long as I hid behind each mask, I could give myself the illusion that I had everything going the way I wanted.
Keep Moving Forward
Despite this false sense of safety, it didn’t eliminate the fact that these insecurities were always there, just beneath the surface. Exposing them (you know, quitting my job and steering clear of engineering) lead to the initial sting, but I now had to face whatever was disguised behind the filter.
In a way, it’s like jumping before knowing that you can fly. I know, corny metaphor, but I can’t come up with anything better at the moment. In theory, I shouldn’t have to convince myself of my abilities. But experience teaches us better than verbal warnings. We are just able to believe in ourselves more easily with some kind of tangible proof.
At first, I thought I would have to make this giant move without knowing the outcome until months down the road. What I learned is that it wasn’t a free fall, but more like a series of jumps. I was able to regroup and plan ahead after each move.
- I was anxious about how long I could last on my savings. I determined a burn rate calculation based on conservative spending habits in order to give myself a concrete timeline from now until being completely broke.
- I recognized that my taxes were going to be a nightmare. I created a system to categorize and track my expenses, something I had intended to do the year before.
- I wanted to learn how to run my blog more effectively. I started networking and teaching myself the fundamentals of content creation, web design, and social media marketing.
- I recognized that I wasn’t finding what I was looking for in Costa Rica. Steve and I regrouped and developed a new plan for Mexico.
- I loved diving but learned that I didn’t want to make it my primary source of income. I researched different types of online work, and discovered that I would like to turn my career towards UX design. I would keep blogging and diving as hobbies to grow on the side, with UX being the focus for making this lifestyle sustainable.
- I started to really miss my friends, family, and my dog. Steve and I prioritized being home for the summer. We also developed a better understanding of the travel vs roots balance, which will guide us going forward.
The first jumps were small, but each jump grew steadily larger. I started with small bits of tangible proof that I was, in fact, able to take risks without falling flat on my face. The more proof I had, the more likely I felt prepared to take a bigger leap.
Take Your Own Risks
My advice to anyone going forward? Find your own balance in removing the security blanket. I’ve always worked better in the extremes, so I opted for the ‘rip the bandaid off’ method. Just know that this definitely doesn’t work best for everyone. You can always take a leave of absence or transition into part-time work if logistics allow for this (and that’s a big if).
In the end, it’s a big balancing act. Risks aren’t supposed to be comfortable, and you have to be careful that you aren’t giving yourself another mask to hide behind. Even if you choose the best method for you, just know that it won’t likely be a smooth process. An uncomfortable path does not equate to an incorrect path.
My last post highlighted some of the things left unsaid in the travel industry, specifically tied to the self-awareness needed prior to ‘just going for it’. The industry doesn’t go into the self-growth we experience on the road. Sure, we get told that you develop as a person, that it’s incredible and all, but I would argue that few people actually dig into the specifics of what this means. How many writers bring us into their world? How many share their insecurities and failures? If I’m going to create an authentic blog, I want it to reflect the full spectrum of my actual experiences.
- My insecurities have improved, but many are still a work in progress.
- I trust myself to make financial ends meet. Maintaining this confidence is a challenge.
- I’m starting to recognize that my loved ones support me. There are still lonely moments, but they are fewer and farther between.
- I’m so excited by my future aspirations that I’m now afraid of reverting back to my old routine.
- I will only consider myself a failure if I had not tried this all to begin with. I need to remind myself of this when I lack patience (which, surprise, is often).
- True growth is at the boundaries of your comfort zone. I’m embracing the inevitable mistakes along the way.
- I enjoy expanding my network in order to connect with others who are choosing to take risks. It feels awkward to connect with people over the internet, but it is gradually becoming more natural.
- I’m actually starting to care less about what people think. I know, shocker, right? I never thought I’d say that I am making actual progress here!
- I recognize that my education and experiences have given me a truly unique set of skills. With time, I will continue to learn how to make them all work together.
- I’m find myself embracing the overwhelming learning curves that comes with developing new skills. But at times I still need to take a step back to remind myself to trust the process.
- I am not following a pre-conceived trajectory; I am defining my own. And that feels pretty damn good.
What initial risk do you want to take, big or small? What insecurities are standing in your way? Let me know about it in the comments! If you’d rather handle things more privately, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com. I’d be happy to give my perspective.
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