Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

When I think of my most treasured and vivid memories, I think of that time I slept in a park like a homeless person in Pamplona so I could witness The Running of the Bulls. I think of the lovely “offerings” on doorsteps all throughout Bali with fresh flowers, bamboo and incense. I think of making it to the top of the palatial “Sun Gate” at Machu Picchu after four days of hiking the Inca Trail only to see a thick blanket of fog. I think of missed flights, misunderstandings, language barriers, and the adventures that they lead to. I think of all the wonderful people that I’ve met along the way. I think of traveling.

Now I’m 30 years old and I’ve been married for just over two years to my best friend and favorite travel partner. It’s comforting to be settled and have a home together. It’s great to have an organized closet, a steady job with co-workers you like, and your go-to happy hour down the street. I look forward to getting my ass kicked at Thursday morning spin and watching Henry from the dry cleaners do his Tae Kwon Do in the middle of the street. I’ve become accustomed to hearing the charming sound of the cable car outside of my cute little apartment in Russian Hill, San Francisco. I love being settled, I really do.

However, that familiar travel bug has resurfaced. I can’t help but feel like this is my window to “wander.” My gut is telling me that this is the time in my life to step out of my comfort zone, break my routine, and experience a different way of life. If I don’t do this now, then I don’t think I ever will.

Zack and I have traveled together quite a bit over the past seven years and it’s a shared passion that has only grown with time. We make travel a priority and we work hard to make it happen. We really enjoy our life here in San Francisco. We’re happy. But we get stir crazy. You know that feeling? Where all of a sudden you can’t think of anything else but how much you love those cities you’ve never been to and those friends that you’ve never met? It hits you hard and intense, like a hangover on New Year’s Day. There’s nothing you can do to shake it, except to buy a plane ticket and just go.

Back in May, Zack and I were drinking red wine out of coffee cups overlooking the most majestic landscape I’d ever seen in Sapa, Vietnam. I remember asking each other, “How can we do this for longer than 17 days? How can we make it possible to travel indefinitely, experience beautiful places, eat new foods, and learn new languages without a return ticket home two weeks later?” We thought long and hard.

Sapa, Vietnam — May 2014

Thinking about uprooting your life to travel when you’re no longer a carefree 20-something with no responsibilities is easier said than done. It’s damn scary to just pick up and leave, and there are endless opportunities to talk yourself out of it. But once Zack decided to shut down his tech start-up a few months ago, it felt like the signs from the universe were urging us to go. “DO IT. Just fucking do it. Nothing is holding you back. Pull the trigger.”

I’ve found that before you can come to a decision to leave there are many internal battles that you have to fight and lingering self-doubts that you have to squash before you can finally buy that flight. What about our jobs? Will this be a career setback? What will our families think? Our friends? Are we too old? How can we possibly give up our rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco…WITH A GARAGE???

Although it took a few months of self-deliberation, I’ve finally squashed those doubts and have embraced the simultaneous excitement and fear of the unknown. It feels wonderfully liberating. Society says at age 30 you should have babies, buy a home, and get more settled into your career. Zack and I just bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Yep. We pulled the trigger. Shit just got real.

I definitely want to have a baby, buy a house adorned with a beautiful Pottery Barn couch, and continue to push myself professionally. And I know that all of those things can still happen. Now is our time to explore. In our wedding vows Zack said to me, “Your passport will be filled with stamps from the most beautiful and exotic countries in the world.” And I’m holding him to it.

On January 16th, we’re off. Ready for the adventure of a lifetime. We’re going to Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Colombia….or wherever the South American wind takes us. I’ve worked for a fantastic company over the past three years and they’re allowing me to work part-time while I’m abroad. My office will be whatever coffee shop or cafe that feels right for the day. I can’t wait to learn Spanish (and maybe a bit of Portuguese), drink copious amounts of Malbec, forget to wash my hair, lay on beautiful beaches, make new friends, and just wander.

But the most important question still remains….what the hell do I pack?