It was sunny and the trees had just started to sprout leaves the day I quit my job to travel. As a contract administrator for a shipping company, I’d spent 2012 working in a windowless office in Washington DC – and while it was a great job for a 25-year-old, potentially even a good career, it was not what I wanted. I wanted to write stories and see the world.
The seeds of this decision were sown two years earlier, in 2010, when I graduated college and moved to Spain to teach English. I exchanged my university texts for kids' books and spent my spare time travelling around Europe, documenting it all in my blog, Young Adventuress. I had no idea that the blog would eventually turn into a business that sustains me to this day.
After two years, my teaching contracts ended, so I said hasta luego to my life on the Iberian Peninsula and moved back in with my parents to work a nine-to-five desk job in Washington DC, dealing with financial reviews, company deadlines, terrible co-workers and fax machines that never worked.
Writing, on the other hand, continued to make me happy. And during those two years in Spain, my blog had grown a large following of dedicated readers. I faced a tough decision: quit and pursue writing full-time, or play it safe and keep a good job.
While I felt guilty for wanting something different to the norm, I knew that returning to the world of writing and travelling was the right choice, and I began planning my next move straight away. This time, my goal was to move to New Zealand: the Land of the Long White Cloud. For Americans under 30, it’s a relatively easy place to get a yearlong visa. Not to mention, the country’s epic landscapes, pristine wilderness and snowy mountains had captured my imagination since watching the first Lord of the Rings film a decade earlier. This goal kept me sane during a year of work, while I squirreled away as much money as I could and wrote every day.
Every night when I came home from my desk job I would work on my blog. I spent a year building up the content, growing my social media following and setting up freelance writing contracts, so that I would have guaranteed paid work once I quit. Halfway through the year I took a week off and flew to Turkey on my first press trip to see if I would actually like travelling full-time and traipsing around a new destination every day. A few months later I was invited to explore Jordan for a few weeks, and I knew the time had come to make the final leap. I planned out my trips for the rest of the year, booked my flights, set up freelance work and sold my car (my last strong tie to my old life) before setting off. The plan? Fly to Jordan, where I made friends with Bedouins under the stars in the Wadi Rum and ate more hummus and kunefe than I could have ever imagined. Then I road-tripped through some of the most remote parts of Iceland under the midnight summer sun. And finally, I hopped on a one-way flight to New Zealand.
It’s been almost two years since I quit my job, and I’m now based in Wanaka, a tiny town in New Zealand’s South Island. At virtually the end of the world, it was recommended by my readers as somewhere I might like to live. Tucked away next to the towering mountains of Mt Aspiring National Park and next to a pristine crystal blue alpine lake, it is one of the few places in the world where I see myself living long-term.
Since quitting my job, I’ve sailed off the coast of Italy and Greece; dived shipwrecks in Bali and Thailand; ridden horses across the high mountains of western Mongolia; slept under the stars on Australia ‘s Great Barrier Reef; and chased elves in Iceland. Not once have I regretted my decision to leave my job in Washington DC.
My first year abroad was one of trial and error, with my business and work evolving month to month. Now the majority of my income comes from partnering with like-minded brands, helping to share their story on my blog and on social media. In many ways I work harder than I ever have before, but doing it on my terms makes it worth it.
Sometimes I wish for those regular paychecks, for the ease of turning off my computer at 5 pm on a Friday and knowing what will happen the next week, month and year. But then I pinch myself, look out the window at snowcapped mountains and remember where my choices have brought me.
My path has been far from linear, and it has definitely been a rollercoaster of emotions, failures, freak-outs and learning experiences. Two years ago I wanted to see as much of the world as possible, tick items off a bucket list and collect stamps in my passport. Now I prefer to travel slowly, really dig in my heels and get to know a country. I enjoy going back to places I’ve been before and seeing them in a new light.
Through all this, I have achieved my goal of becoming a writer, blogger, Instagrammer, whatever you want to call me; I did it. I gave up a comfortable life to pursue personal happiness – hopefully proving that dreams really do come true, if you work for them.