Why I chose to move out of SF and travel solo

Beautiful sunset in Koh Lanta, Thailand

Working and living in San Francisco for seven years, I forgot how to be by myself. I loaded my calendar with plans and kept busy. I spent my days working, and my nights at bars drinking and dancing. I didn’t give myself time and permission to be still — with my own thoughts, emotions and desires. And this made me very sick and very unhappy.

Last October, I decided that I wanted to change my life. I moved out of San Francisco and embarked on my first-ever-solo-trip. Here is the letter I wrote to myself then:


“Letter to Future Self”, October 29, 2015

Hannah,

I am so proud of you for taking time and giving yourself permission to recharge, to look inwards and pursue what you need and want in your life right now, to explore the unknown, to find what it is that sparks joy and delights you, to overcome your fears, to come face-to-face with your anxiety, to grow, and to challenge yourself to new and scary experiences.

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but — well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

I hope you do just that. I want you to remember to open up to the world, to let down your hair, to be seen, to breathe, and to soak it all in. I hope you see things you’ve never imagined, enjoy the company of strangers and hear their stories, and explore the world with all your senses.

There are no expectations of how your trip is supposed to turn out, how you’re supposed to feel after seeing certain things or what you’re supposed to learn about yourself on this trip. Things will happen — some good, some bad, some expected and some unexpected.

You’re allowed to worry from time to time, but just remember not to dwell in your worries — don’t waste any more time and energy than is necessary on “what ifs” and “maybes”.

So what if you didn’t think Machu Picchu was as great as everyone says it is? So what if you have a bad anxiety attack while traveling? So what if you decide to leave South America early and go back to LA to be with your family for the holidays?

All these may happen, but all these may also not happen. You focus on the things you can control. For everything else, just stay curious. You move forward — in the best way you know how. You don’t have to answer to anyone except yourself. You don’t have to fake anything. You don’t have to do anything for other people — unless of course, you want to.

Fear is an opportunity for courage. It is so courageous that you are not letting your fears dictate your life. And if fear gets in the way, listen to that fear and try not to get frustrated or annoyed. Give yourself a break, and know that there’s always next time. In the end, you tried your best to live out your fantasies, desires, and dreams — and that is so much better than fantasizing, desiring, and dreaming.

When you get lonely and start doubting why you’re on this trip by yourself, remember that you are not alone in this world. The life you’ve created for yourself in SF is still there. Your friends will be there. Your family will always have your back. There are people in your life who love you and want to be there for you — these people aren’t going to disappear from your life just because you physically don’t see them. You are well equipped to maintain the relationships that you want to maintain.

This new chapter of your life is about adding to your past chapters, moving forward in the best way you know how — day by day.

You go and experience the world — that is the sole thing I ask of you. Be gentle on yourself. Get to know yourself. And most importantly, love yourself.

Hannah


Flying back home to the states from my travels, I read my letter and smiled. I smiled a smile that radiated from every cell of my entire body.

I traveled alone for eight weeks to five different countries. I experienced things I’d never imagined possible. I had incredibly raw and vulnerable conversations with strangers. I met and enjoyed the company of people who I never thought I’d befriend. I pushed through my discomforts and learned more about my physical and emotional limits.

My world became bigger.

Mr. Fitzgerald, I did it.

Learning how to surf in Nosara, Costa Rica