In the past year a lot of people have told me that they wished they could do what I was doing. The thing is, they could. There will always be plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t pick up your life for a year to go explore a different part of the world, the trick is outweighing them with reasons why you should.
The other thing I heard time and time again is that it must have been scary to leave my life in Vancouver behind. Ironically, the people who say this are typically in a job that doesn’t inspire them, a relationship that doesn’t make them happy or a town they no longer love and many of them will never see or do half of the things they want to. You tell me what’s scarier.
That brings me to reason #1 of why I almost didn’t travel.
1. BUT I LIKE MY JOB
I had parlayed an ever-mocked English degree into a budding career and had a new boss telling me he wanted to train me for a successful future with a brand-new, fully customized role.
Taking a quick browse through the 30+ unsuccessful job applications I had sent out after university graduation just a year and a half earlier, this seemed like the very last opportunity I should turn down. But, I figured if I was smart enough to get here once, I would be smart enough to get here again.
Once I chose to trust my gut, I also put a lesson I had learned long ago to good use: it never hurts to ask. I turned the position he was offering into a part-time freelance gig on the side. Suddenly my best career move was actually to leave.
But with the job excuse gone I had plenty of others to fall back on.
2. BUT THIS WILL COST A LOT OF MONEY
Having survived living in Kitsilano for three months on an unpaid internship fresh out of university, I knew a thing or two (okay, or like twenty) about being frugal, which meant that when I started a salaried job I also started saving aggressively.
At times I was downright cheap, as many of my friends and family will attest, but considering my year leading up to “travel” included trips to Chicago, San Francisco, Tofino, the Sunshine Coast, the Calgary Stampede and of course the Okanagan, I never felt my budget was limiting me. (And luckily I’ve always preferred Tim Horton’s to Starbucks.)
The problem arose when I started committing to travel and realized that the money I had put aside could grow into a down payment if it remained untouched.
Once again I had to remind myself that if I could do it once, I could do it again. And besides, would I really regret spending money to go snowboarding in Switzerland?
3. BUT I HAVE NO ONE TO TRAVEL WITH
The lady who sat next to me on the bus home from Auschwitz-Birkenau last August started saying how the best part of travel is getting to share new experiences with someone you love. She then got very awkward and apologetic when she realized that I was travelling alone.
I spent my first night couchsurfing in Siena, Italy chatting with my host about the merits of travelling solo. He argued that when you travel with someone, all emotions and experiences are tied to them, whereas when you travel independently, every memory is yours to cherish, keep and take pride in.
I can count on one hand the number of times I felt lonely last year (and that’s likely less than during any year at home). Travelling alone makes you more outgoing and more approachable. I learned that you can always find conversation if you are craving it and that in seeking it out you just might find adoptive French parents, the little brothers you never had, and a range of great friends from all walks of life.
As a result I shared countless incredible memories with countless people that I love.
4. BUT I AM SO NOT A BACKPACKER
Just five months before I booked my flight I was talking with my mom about a friend’s backpacking trip across Europe. I can clearly recall telling her that I would absolutely never do it. My reasoning? I’d way rather travel in comfort–backpacking wasn’t for me.
Six months later I had purchased a backpack and was spending my last three nights in Canada crying myself to sleep (I’ve never actually admitted to that before) as I worried that I had somehow signed up for something I didn’t want to do. So yes, temporarily terrifying.
I met a lady at the bus stop in St. Andrews, Scotland who told me that I didn’t look as though I had been backpacking for 6 months. I wondered what exactly that meant. I didn’t look as though I’d gone 6 months without a shower and a good night’s sleep? I didn’t have dreadlocks and I wasn’t wearing hiking boots (I, instead, had golf shoes in hand)?
Sometimes I felt like I was backpacking–like when I showed up sweaty and smelly at a hostel in the middle of the night, curled up in an airport for the night, or slept on a train.
But most of the time I didn’t–like when I was snowboarding, golfing, eating mussels, working, or sleeping in one of the forty (!!!) cozy homes opened up to me along the way.
Regardless, I didn’t waste a single sleepless night wondering whether I was doing the right thing once I left Kelowna.
5. BUT I LOVE VANCOUVER
It was a July afternoon in 2014 when I decided that I really was going to quit my job, end my lease and travel. That night I hopped on my bike and cycled down to Kits Beach where I met two friends. We bought Slurpees to mask our white wine and sat watching the Festival of Lights fireworks over English Bay as I thought, man, how am I going to leave this?
The following weekend twenty-five people that I absolutely adore came over for a backyard bbq and as I watched my best friends from high school bond with those from university, I had the same thought. All of these people were living in the same city for the first time–a city that I really love, no less–and I was going to walk away from it? (Okay or fly away, same difference.)
I don’t know how exactly I talked myself out of this one, but it helped that everyone was so supportive of my plan (and a lot promised to meet me overseas). I think most of them probably already knew what I was hoping to be true: this was ultimately best for me. Oh, also… the internet is magic.
The more I travelled, the more I realized how much I love Vancouver (I’ve still yet to find a bridge better than Burrard Street and I’ve crossed a lot of spectacular bridges on my search) and how proud I am to be Canadian, but the less desperate I felt to get back. The city, the country and the people I missed were going to be there for me at 30, 50, 70, or 24, and in the meantime, I had plenty more to see.