My Facebook status summed it up quite nicely: Adriatic bliss.
There I was, thousands of miles from home, from work, from the norm… Soaking up the late summer sun in Split and savoring every second. Just listening to the screams of delight as the cool water lapped children’s ankles put a smile on my face. I was beyond content. Everything that afternoon in Split just made me feel right.
It had taken nearly eight years to get back to Europe, but there I was. I didn’t have plans to change my life until that very afternoon, seaside on the Adriatic. Then, a conversation with a 26-year-old Australian changed everything. I am a firm believer in creating your own fate, and when the universe gave me a blaring sign, I chose to listen. My hint from above? A new Aussie friend, who turned to me and said:
“I recon you and I are the lucky ones. There is only a small percentage of people in this world, D, who have the wealth. You and I? We are the lucky ones; we have this wealth. And, as people who have this wealth, we have to do something. When I am an old man, I am not going to sit there and count how much money I had, or look at a wall of all of my achievements. Those things don’t make me happy.”
“When I am an old man,” he continued, “I want to look back on my life and know that I did something to make a difference ,and I was as happy as I could ever possibly be. I don’t need wealth, or a nice home, or a white fence, to get me to that point. When I look back, I want to know only that I did everything in my power to live.”
I want to LIVE!
I could have heard his words and then stashed them into my memory vault, but suddenly I was in need. I listened, and I felt a rush of passion, fervor to start anew. I wanted to live the way he spoke. So I embraced his words, clung to them, and enriched them with my own meaning and desires, which I started to redefine that afternoon in Croatia.
When I returned from my way-too-brief holiday, my mind lagged behind. I kept reliving my days in the country, thinking about what I could do to get back there. During the months following my trip, his words echoed in my brain, instilling a sense of urgency I hadn’t felt before. My job, the one I had moved across the country for, was no longer acceptable to me. The city I lived in no longer held the same captivation that once took my breath away. Now, I had this itch that I couldn’t scratch. When I tried to tell my parents, the best I could do was, “I want to LIVE! The life I have now is just taking me through the motions; it isn’t something I will look back on and say I was truly happy.”
For months, my parents and I went back and forth over what my next best course of action could be. Was it going back to school for social work? Or teaching? I even went to a career counselor to try and figure it out.
But there was really no debating. I was running circles around what I knew was my greatest desire: I wanted to travel. And then write about it.
When the holidays came in December, my mom visited me in Atlanta and announced that she’d come bearing good news – a blessing from both her and my dad to quit my job and travel. There was one condition – when I returned, I could not ask for their help in assimilating back into the working world. In other words, no loans to cover the cost of anything. I would be flying without a safety net.
Putting The Plan in Motion
Within a month, I had quit my job and put my life in storage. I headed home to crash with my parents and prepare.
It’s not easy to plan for something like this. The first thing I did was renew my passport. Mine didn’t expire until April 2011, but some countries won’t let you in if it expires in six months or less. The fact that I planned to be on the road until that point filled me with excitement.
Next, I had to refinance my car. I love my car. It was an uneducated, impulsive purchase during my Las Vegas days, and I couldn’t sell it without being upside down. I did some research (well, my Dad did some research and sent it to me) about refinancing. Pentagon Federal Credit Union was offering a great deal – 3.99 percent for a refi, so I applied. Refinancing the car saves me more than $100 a month.
The third thing I had to do was find a place for all of my belongings. I decided to store everything in Atlanta, so I wouldn’t have to pay movers twice for long-distance moves (I have no clue where I will end up following my return to America). Public Storage was offering a deal — $1 the first month. By signing on for five or more months, I got an additional 10 percent discount
Then, I started looking for travel insurance. I’m pretty active on Twitter, and a new hash tag was started that I always keep up on TweetDeck — #rtwsoon. One such discussion came up regarding this topic. World Nomad was the one I had heard of, and was blessed by other #rtwsoon travelers, so I went ahead and did some research on them. For $260 for six months, I am the proud owner of worldwide travel insurance.
As for planning my actual trip, well, I really suck at that part. I am a big fan of Lonely Planet’s guidebooks. They have never led me astray, and I use them religiously to decide on hostels. I purchased two books, both by Lonely Planet. One is about planning for a Gap Year trip, although I am well beyond my Gap Year, and the second is “Europe on a Shoestring Budget.” That’s it, but there are plenty of recommended travel guides out there. In my previous travels, I have learned that the best information comes from the travelers you meet. That’s how I stumbled into the Church of Bones in Kutna Hora, just outside of Prague. And how I knew to go to the Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia.
What kind of travel do you really want?
You don’t have to travel around the world to live. Travel means different things to different people. One weekend, go on a drive and explore areas around your home. Take a quick trip somewhere. Look at the monthly super specials for great bargains and when you are ready, go on a vacation. Embrace the concept of serendipity travel.
I don’t think RTW (round the world) travel is for everyone. If you have a career, a family, commitments, then extensive travel isn’t a likely fit. The beauty of traveling is it doesn’t ever go away. You can be any age and still journey and learn about yourself. In the meantime, read about the places you would want to visit and create a bucket list. There are no shortage ways to do them here – browse the travel articles by experience, or poke around in the free travel recommendation tool.
As for me, my travels start March 7 with a flight out of Dulles to Heathrow. From there, I am going to visit a friend I met while traveling in Croatia, and then on to Dublin to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and from there … who knows? My return flight is Sept. 20, and like the Aussie whose goal was to miss his flight out of Cairo in December and who so influenced my travels, my goal is the same. I want to make the money last as long as possible, working in hostels and organic farms in exchange for room and board, and documenting my experiences for others who choose to do the same.
I know it’s going to be a crazy ride, and I am also now confident that when I look back on my life, I can be rest-assured that I LIVED.