One year ago today, I hopped on a plane to Phoenix, Arizona, to begin a life of travel. I had just quit my parks and recreation job (3 years, 10 months…new record!), put all my possessions in storage (after selling/donating/trashing over 60% of it) and was jobless, homeless, and ecstatic about the unknown future.
So, what made a 31 year old woman quit her job, vacate her townhouse, and say good bye to her friends and the life she’d known for the last 7 years?
Maybe it was my navy brat childhood and moving every year. I developed a love to travel, to explore new places, meet strangers. Luckily for my addiction, my 20’s were all about traveling...working on cruise ships for two years, backpacking through Western Europe, visiting Central America, taking monthly trips when I settled down at a 9-5 job. I entered my 30’s and was content with a flexible job, recreational soccer/softball, and a good friend base.
Work was great, but wanted more responsibility. So, I applied for various jobs with different cities all over the US. Made it to a second and then a third interview (a few times!), yet nothing panned out. Then in October I tore my ACL/Meniscus…for the second time. Life stood still. I didn’t want to go through surgery again, and rehab, and taking it easy, day in and day out, as my body healed. Last time, healing was so easy, so quick...relatively…but this time? I dreaded it.
I went through a bit of an identity crisis and backed away from people. Became a hermit. If I couldn’t play soccer (and let’s quote everyone in my life at the time: after two ACL surgeries, why would I risk playing again?), if I couldn’t run, what was the point? Who cares about softball or kickball? Not that I could play those either because my knee was unstable. The surgery did not 100% fix it. Even after a year, pain was there. Twinges. Random giving out. Additional numbness that didn’t go away. Advance notice of poor weather. Swelling and stiffness after exercise. Not to mention it felt...like someone else’s limb, not quite attached to my body.
So, with a restlessness (and perhaps a bit of depression) overtaking me (about work, about my knee, about my mental state, about life in general), what was a girl to do? Quit. Her. Job. (duh). I submitted a 3 week notice for the last day of summer (look at me building bridges by waiting until the workload lessened) and said adios and good riddance. No regrets. No qualms. Just relief and joy to escape to the remote areas of the US.
(Side note: I’ve been a saver since I started babysitting at age 11. I don’t buy name brand of anything and always try to find deals. I’ll splurge on monthly travel trips, but even then, I find the deals. Then I moved in with two roommates and started saving even more. All excellent habits for a savings account that allowed me to travel and not work for a year). So,
Initially, everyone’s excited, oh look she quit her job and is traveling. That’s so cool. I wish I could do that. Then it became “old” news. People kept asking, “When are you getting a job?” “When are you done traveling?” I started to feel like an imposition yet the end to my traveling was not yet a formed thought. There were still so many places I wanted to explore before I went back to an 8-5 job with insurance and responsibility and limited time off. So, I kept traveling.
In May, I planned my final drive up the East Coast from Charleston to Maine, but then ... I hesitated. Something inside me was saying stop. No more. Just breathe. I believe wholeheartedly in following instincts / intuition. Whether it’s my subconscious alerting me to information, a heavenly spirit, schizophrenia, or just common sense, mine has always been overactive and very vocal.
So, I stopped. I stopped moving and I pondered what to do next. Should I look for a recreation job within a city? Maybe, but where? I previously held tourism jobs (resort and cruise ship), a recreation job (programs), maybe it was time to utilize the parks side of my “Recreation, Parks & Tourism Sciences” degree. After all my travels, I’d been to 46 of the 59 National Parks. That had to hold some sway over a parks hiring panel, right?
But...nothing fit. Some jobs were in beautiful places, but...too far. Some jobs were in Houston/Dallas, but...something held me back from applying. After almost a year of traveling, what was I still looking for?
Then...one day in June, I knew. What would make me the happiest was controlling my life by working for myself while helping others. So, I started a home organizing business (read more about that here). I registered for the national organization (NAPO), took a few classes, became certified, and am continuing to learn as I take oh so many more classes. I’m happy to report that it seems to come naturally. But more importantly, it suits me and I genuinely enjoy doing it. I always said that if I wanted to stay in shape and remain healthy, I needed an active job (especially as traveling caused me to quickly gain 20 pounds…which is a whole new article regarding packaged foods, lack of good sleep, and sedentary driving). Organizing fit the active bill as I’m constantly moving. After the first few jobs, I was SORE. Who knew sitting on a hard floor for a few hours organizing baby clothes could cause such pain/soreness in the hips? Unpacking boxes upon boxes upon boxes of books. Excellent workout! Standing on my feet for 6 or 7 hours? Yes, please.
So, I set up a website, talked to a few friends about the details, researched and read article after article on what I needed to do to start and run a business. Then came the question of “where”. Where do I set it up? One friend suggested I become a traveling organizer, but at this brainstorming point, I was tired. Down to my soul, tired of the travel. Tired of not having a home base. Tired of always feeling tired, never rested. I craved a place where I could escape by myself and not have to speak to another person, or worry about leaving dirty clothes on the floor, or if I was intruding on someone else’s life. So, the question became Houston or Dallas? Family or friends?
It’s...strange for me. Growing up, we moved every year and I became adept at making superficial best friends (SBFF). It wasn’t until high school and then again when I settled in Dallas that I formed deeper connections (outside of family). If this year taught me anything, it was that I have amazing friends. Sure, some friends were lost during this time, but many friendships were made stronger. A few even became lifers. On the other city, Houston puts me near parents, a brother/SIL, adorable twin nephews, aunts, high school besties, and so many cousins.
It’s a no brainer, right? The family connection. Staying with my parents in between trips made me feel that connection again (since age 20, I hadn’t lived closer than 5 hours to any family member). To be surrounded by people that genuinely care about you. Your well-being, your mental health, the words you speak. They take care of you. Love you. For the last 12 years, I’ve been without that. Friends…friends are great, but most of the time, with most of the people, it’s superficial, everyone focused on their own struggles, their own needs. Parents? Family? They care. I felt cherished and spoiled and loved, and I wanted more of it and I want to give it to my nieces (maybe one day) and nephews.
[Now, if I can just convince 1 (or 2) people to move south…!]
So, the pressure is on: I signed a 12 month lease (slight panic attack, butterflies, anxiety, yet so much joy) in Houston, walking distance to trails and restaurants and a twenty minute drive to family. It’s on me to find clients, to succeed. But I love it. I enjoy working. I love helping people (when I first meet a client, they are stressed. They’ve essentially avoided a space and have no idea where to start. Then I come in and bring organization to the chaos and suddenly, they can breathe. A physical weight has been removed from their shoulders. Love that.).
I don’t know what the future will bring, if when my travel bug returns (because I know it will), I’ll be drawn to another 60 days of traveling while living out of a backpack or truck. Or if I’ll be content to have a roof over my head, surrounded by family and friends, taking monthly (or annual) trips.
I know I am committed to building my business and determined to design a life around what’s important (the people) and who’s important (me and my physical and mental health).
I know that life is short. People die every day, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes with painful advance notice. And accepting a content life is not only boring, it’s sad. Life shouldn’t depress you or leave you uninspired. Reach for more. Find joy and peace. Call the friends and family that uplift you and make plans with them. Today. Then discover what makes your soul smile and spread that energy to make others’ souls smile.
I asked for a sign before quitting my job. It was given to me. I asked for a sign when I started my business. It was shown to me. I ask myself if I’m where I need to be and everything within me shouts YES. YES. YES.
I hope that when your inner self shouts at you to take action, you listen.