Thoughts on Life 2 Years After Quitting My Job to Travel

Misrian, Dekhistan, Turkmenistan
 

This time last year.

 
It’s been a recurring thought in my head the last few months.

This time last year I was arriving in Armenia.

This time last year I was living in a small village in Tajikistan.

This time last year I was watching the sunset over the Yangykala Canyon in Turkmenistan.

But now, that thought is shifting.

Now, I’m thinking of how it was almost two years ago that I hopped on a one-way flight to Finland.

It was almost two years ago that I ran the Tallinn Marathon.

It was almost two years ago that I first arrived in Russia and pushed myself through a miserable homestay experience.

Sometimes it all feels like just yesterday, but sometimes it feels like it never even happened. Sometimes I struggle to find the memories and I look back through my pictures and I wonder why I didn’t take more to help me remember. I relive a lot of my journey by re-reading my blog posts but there is a lot I never shared here. A lot I never even wrote in my journal. And I’m struggling to remember.

sylvia anita

While two years ago, I was preparing to leave, this time last year the end was in sight. I was exhausted from constant travel and worried about my dwindling bank account and finding a job again. I was longing for the comforts of home, but unsure of how well I would be able to adjust. I was holding out hope that I would land a fabulous new job that perfectly combined my past experience with my passion for travel.
 

I’m not sure that anything about coming home really went as I expected.

 
I have settled back into life in Chicago but it’s not really the life I envisioned. The city has changed or I have changed – probably a little of both.  I have no good group of friends here anymore, no regular social life, no plans on any given Friday night. I seek out interesting events that I attend on my own, hoping to find some like-minded people, and I exchange a few business cards and call it a night.  I look at my typical week and I realize I could be living the exact same life in any major city in the country – or world. I wonder why I was so anxious to return and I think maybe I would be better off in Seattle or Boston or Tbilisi or Yerevan. I think maybe it’s time to really, truly start over even though I’m long past my twenties and approaching my forties, which in my head feels too late to start from scratch.

I think about my career path and the fact that I still can’t let go of the idea that I need a career path. I think about trying to make a living working for myself through writing and social media advising but then I stop and ask myself whether that is sustainable for more than a couple years. What would I do next? Besides, I enjoy having a steady paycheck and good health insurance too much to give that up right now.

So I write on the side and I do some social media advising on the side. It’s ironic because when I decided to turn down what I once thought was my dream job, I told myself it was partially because it paid so little that I would end up spending all my time pursuing freelance work just to make ends meet. And I ended up with a job that pays twice as much and I’m still spending most of my free time on freelance projects. I guess the difference is that I’m doing so by choice, for my personal enjoyment and extra cash, rather than out of necessity. There’s something about doing something because you have to that sucks the fun out of it.

Tatev Monastery, Armenia

I don’t know where I’m goin’

But I sure know where I’ve been…

Though I keep searching for an answer

I never seem to find what I’m lookin’ for…

I was at a street fest last weekend, listening to a band that covers all of the old eighties hair bands. And as I sand along to this Whitesnake song, I felt like I was singing about my life the last couple years.

I don’t know where I am going and I still haven’t found the answers I’ve been seeking. I still haven’t had that ah-ha moment when it all comes together and I realize what my passion is, what my purpose is. I have written about that a lot over the last year because I read about so many others figuring it all out and I’m a bit envious that I haven’t yet.

At the same time, my fears about the future have vanished. I may not know what direction I am headed, but I am increasingly confident that I am moving in the right direction. While last year at this time I was terrified and questioning whether it was all worth it, I now know 100% that it was.

I have enjoyed experiences that most people don’t even dream about. I traveled the length of the Trans-Siberian Railway and took a ferry across the Black Sea. I toured a former Soviet bunker and visited Chernobyl. I watched the sun set from the top of a 9th century minaret and camped aside the ruined walls of an ancient Silk Road city. I took a pilgrimage to an underground mosque in the middle of a Kazakhstan desert and I spent a month living in the mountains in Tajikistan.

Beket Ata

I have been interviewed on TV, radio and online about my trip. I have written for more than a dozen websites and I have become a regular contributor to Viator.com, writing about Chicago, Russia and the Baltics. My blog has appeared on lists of top travel blogs and gets more than 5,000 visitors and more than 10,000 page views each month.  Next week I will be speaking about my travels in the Caucasus and in September I’ll be teaching a class on how to use Twitter.  I could never have imagined any of this two years ago.

While I strained my relationships back home, I learned who my real friends are and stopped wasting my time on those who don’t really care. I built new friendships with people who truly understand and support me, despite being separated by oceans and connecting primarily online. I experienced some heartbreak, but I also opened my heart for the first time in years and realized that I can love again; it’s just a matter of finding the right guy at the right time.

More than anything, I am probably more comfortable with who I am than ever before. After decades of trying to be an extrovert, I have finally accepted my inner introvert. I relish my nights home alone and I don’t care if someone thinks I am weird for staying in on a Friday night. I am no longer intimidated by the idea of attending an event solo and I don’t feel self-conscious sitting at a bar by myself. I’m not religious, but I have a greater faith in the idea that things happen for a reason and that everything will work out in the end.
 

So where am I two years after I first quit my job to travel the world?

 
After everything, I think I’m right where I’m supposed to be. And I’m optimistic about the future, excited to discover what comes next.

 

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28 thoughts on “Thoughts on Life 2 Years After Quitting My Job to Travel”

  1. This was a really great post! I found out quickly in 2011 who my true friends are and that’s really kind of the most fantastic thing for me right now. It’s very cool that you are doing all these talks, especially about Russia.

  2. I loved this post. I’ve noticed that after being away for a year that some of my friendships are strained but that I owe it to myself to keep traveling and live the life I want to- your good friends will always be there.

  3. We are nearing the 2 year mark of quitting and I’m asking myself the same questions. Looking back at what I gave up and all that I have gained. As each memory get’s further away I try to hold on to them, while I am working to create new memories.

    Some days I have to ask “what the heck am I doing?!” While most days I know I am where I am meant to be…

  4. Katie, great post!
    It’s never ever too late to start over. Don’t let a number stop you… I’m 42 and at 40 I chucked it all and started over- best decision of my life! I’d do it again at 50 if I needed to!
    I felt all those same feelings as you did too about coming home. It’s not easy returning to the place you started, even if you miss it. I say do what you have to do to be happy, no matter what!

  5. Two years for me too, and I couldn’t agree more (especially with the relevance of that song)! I think we all eventually realize that to some extent we’re better off not “knowing where we’re going” or “finding the answer(s) we seek,” since all that really does is cement the finality of the journey – but if the journey’s a good one, then the last thing we want to think about is when/where/how it ends!

  6. Great post as it reflects where you were and where you are going. I think most people go through this what’s next stage in life and it does suck. It took me a while but I think i finally got it. Unlike you where you are happy where you are and in the right place, I am in the transition period. Good luck with whats next.

  7. I LOVE THIS POST! I know what you mean about wanting that ah-ha moment and figuring out what your passion and purpose is. I know you and I have talked about it a bunch, and it is a little frustrating to not be there yet and to watch others figure it out. But I love that you feel like you’re right where you should be and you’re headed in the right direction. And you have done some pretty amazing things. Congrats on the awesome new opportunities you have in front of you. And go introverts!

  8. I love this Katie. I think so much of it is just knowing you are on the right path. I don’t know where I’m going either and I don’t know if I’ll ever “arrive” so to speak and think. Okay, this is it. I don’t think it works that way. But I, like you, don’t worry about the future so much anymore. I’m content knowing I’m just moving in the right direction. Your life has changed in the most amazing way. Things will keep working out as they have all along.

    1. Thanks Kim. It’s funny because I look at you as someone who does have it figured out, at least in terms of what you want to do – you’re so passionate about writing and travel and you know that’s what you want to do.

  9. Really enjoyed this post and I’m with you on the eternal quest for finding your purpose! It never gets any easier but maybe that’s all part of the journey. Wising you luck and happiness in your future.

  10. Few things. First, that’s one of my fav songs from the 80s. Those words do have meaning for a lot of us travelers. Second, don’t let age have anything to do with it. I’m late 30s and starting to finally realize that while I enjoy my day job I want one that more closely aligns with my travel passions. I think most travel bloggers are on some sort of personal journey, something more than just checking out some cool places and writing about them. I think we all know what you’re talking about in some way.

  11. A post straight from the heart – I love it. And I can certainly identify with it. I just accepted a full time job that keeps me sitting in a cubicle for 8 – 10 hours a day. Company sponsored healthcare and a steady check are blessings, but man…so is getting out there and absorbing the world around you. I have grown to love LA and I don’t mind basing myself here, but I am determined to find a way to have my 9-5 be location independent so i can still travel at will.

    Good luck with all of the great opportunities you have coming up!!

    1. Ha, I hear you! I would love to be location independent but based in Chicago but I don’t think I could afford it, it’s so pricey here! (and I’m sure LA is the same).

  12. As always, I’m loving this. I had a similar occurrence after our RTW in 2009. We moved back to DC assuming it would be the same as when we left, but we had changed, our friends had changed. We spent most of the time alone just the two of us because everyone had moved on. 2 years after that, well, you know the story, out on the road again. I will be curious to hear what the future holds for you.

    And, for what it’s worth, I don’t know whether many people have an “a ha” moment. I am currently in a yoga teacher training in Bali, and as much as I think it is the right path for me, and I hear people talk about the “a ha” moment, I have yet to have an “a ha” moment that helps me make a decision. Perhaps that is a Hollywood fantasy, setting expectations way to high for the life of a “normal” person.

    1. Thanks Amber! Yeah, I’ve thought of you when I think about how long I may be able to handle being back before I have the urge to just take off again. And interesting take on the ah-ha moment. I feel like everyone I read about (bloggers) seem to have that moment, but I guess the ones who don’t probably don’t write about it, so you don’t hear about it. But I do still look at people who seem to have it all figured out with envy, wishing I could do it too. 🙂

  13. Great post Katie, thanks for the honesty on what it means to return home. I’m still head over heels with travel but am one of those people who also needs the security of being employed rather than breaking out on my own so it’s really interesting to read your perspective.

    1. Thanks Maddie! I wish I could be someone who didn’t need the security of a regular paycheck, but I really do. At least for now. 🙂

  14. Hi Katie! I really enjoyed your post. I recently relocated to Chicago from Florida, and I’m at the very beginning of my travel adventures. I’d love to take you to coffee sometime and pick your brain about your experiences! I’m also in the process of starting up my own blog (kimberlydevitt. com) and would love your advice on that, also. Like you, I don’t have many girl friends in the area and I’d love to connect with other like-minded adventurers. Growing up, my family traveled quite a bit and I’m fortunate to say that I’ve been to 14 countries. This time around, I’m hitting the road (on a budget) and making my way across the U.S.A. in my Subaru. I’m using Chicago as my home base, mostly because it’s a fairly central location, but also because it’s where my boyfriend lives. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter (@kimdevitt) or e-mail. I’d love to hear from you!

  15. Thanks for a great post, Katie.

    There is a difference between “travel,” which is an itinerary and “journey,” which is life.

    Although I am not widely-traveled, I’ve been on a long journey, and I’m glad to be in the place I am now. It seems right.

    And so it appears, are you.

  16. Hi Katie, love about the honesty and openness expressed in this post. Between your self acknowledgement and struggle to find new heading, I find myself nodding with each paragraphs; Take it from someone who’s a year behind you on his personal journey, I think you have more things figured out than you give yourself credit for.

    I find more than anything else, the experiences from a long journey recalibrate the inner struggles to accept yourself, who you are. If the ‘Aha’ moments are synonymous with ‘certainty’ or direction, then they are not limited to forward, but back as well in recognizing the need for a different path. And I think you’ve been very honest with the choices you are making.

    Love your posts, and best wishes.

  17. Love this. I returned from long term travel 2 and a half years ago now and I still don’t feel 100% settled and I wonder if I ever will. I think that once you’ve lived that kind of life it’s tough to go back. I wouldn’t change anything at the minute but I am waiting to feel as settled as I once did.

  18. I really needed to read this today, Katie, and I’m glad I found it, months after you wrote it. The fear of starting over from scratch, feeling like you have to follow a “career path,” etc. really resonate with me. Thanks for this.

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