“I’m going to quit my job and travel the world for an entire year,” I announced to my parents at 25.
What followed was a slew of questions: “What do you mean you’re quitting your job? You’re not going to work? How will you earn money? You’re doing this alone? Why? Do realize how dangerous it is out there?”
It was on a vacation to Thailand in early 2005 that I was first inspired to drop everything and travel. During that trip, I happened to meet a group of young people who completely challenged all the stereotypes I’d internalized about backpacking. Until then, I’d always associated endless travel with greasy, smelly college kids who resorted to hostel hopping because they had no other option—because they were too lost to settle down in one place. What I learned through talking to those impressively worldly backpackers is that traveling opens up unknown worlds and that it can actually help you find yourself.
I wanted in. There, on the beaches, of Thailand, I decided to quit my job and travel the world alone for one straight year.
When I explained my grand plan to my family, colleagues, and friends, however, I was met with blank stares and more prying questions: Won’t you get lonely? How will you make friends on the road? What the hell are you going to do when you get back? How will you account for this on your resume?
No one could fathom why, at 25, I would give up the career I’d been building since graduating college to embark on an adventure that was potentially dangerous and, in their view, a total waste of time.
My parents pleaded with me not to go. For weeks, both my mom and dad would point to various disaster stories on the news and send me heartfelt emails dripping with concern about my future.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t get a lot of encouragement or support in the beginning. Back then, there weren’t any popular blogs chronicling people’s travels. Quitting your job to travel definitely wasn’t an acceptable thing to do, especially for a 25-year-old with a steady job and a career.
On some level, I could understand all the fear, confusion, and speculation surrounding my decision. But it was extremely deflating and saddening to learn that the people whose approval I coveted most were so strongly against my plans. When you crave the support of family and friends and all they give you are reasons why you shouldn’t do what you desperately want to do, it’s tough. It’s hard to stay strong when all the people closest to you dismiss your goals, accomplishments, and dreams.
For a long time leading up to my departure, my trip was like Lord Voldemort in that it was “the thing that can’t be named.” Whenever I did mention it, my friends would do their best to feign support, my co-workers would sigh over the looming death of my career, and my parents would express concern that I’d be kidnapped or end up on the nightly news.
In July of 2006, I finally left for my year-long international adventure. What I learned out in the sprawling world is that I was right to trust my gut. I am a nomad at heart, designed to travel, a vagabond who’s most happy when roaming unknown lands. I loved traveling so much that I ended up extending that first trip an additional six months. And when I returned, I announced that I’d be leaving again as soon as possible.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay home and get a real job?” my father implored.
“No way!” I exclaimed. “There’s still so much to see! I’m going to work a bit to save money and then head back on the road.”
After returning in one piece, no one ever said, “Well, I guess you were right. It’s not like what we thought.” My old co-workers still thought I was nuts. My friends were still indifferent, and my parents were still determined to convince me to stay put, constantly pointing out job postings in the paper.
By that point, though, no one could stop me. The more people told me ‘no,’ in fact, the more I screamed ‘yes!’ How do you constantly scream ‘yes’ when the whole world keeps shouting ‘no’?
First, you transform all the negativity into positive energy—motivation to get out there and to prove them wrong. You say: “I know you’re wrong. I won’t let you get me down. I’ll only let you inspire me to do better.” I’ve learned to enjoy proving people wrong. When someone tells me I can’t do something, it pushes me to show them I can.
Second, look elsewhere for encouragement. I read countless books and guides about travel in the months leading up to my first trip, and now I keep up with all of the information available online too. I also reached out to fellow travelers. I asked a lot of questions. I did my homework.
Third, I made a list of everything I needed to do for my trip and I broke it down step by step. By focusing on each small milestone, I could tune out the noise and stay focused on my main goal. Getting to each next step on my personal plan was all that mattered to me.
The problem is that most other people in your life will not share your dream. They will doubt your objectives because they don’t feel the same burning sensation you’re experiencing deep within. They will be genuinely worried because they honestly can’t fathom why you want to do what you ache to do. They will list all the reasons why you shouldn’t do what you absolutely must.
By reaching out to people who understood my wanderlust—even if it was just people I “knew” online who had traveled and come back fine—I was able to overcome the negativity coming from those around me.
Do the same. Build your own support network, and ignore anyone who brings you down, even if the naysayers are your closest family and friends.
As they say in the movie The Way, “You don’t choose a life, you live it.”
Live yours to the fullest.
Share your #TitoMoment for a chance to be published on Thought Catalog and featured in an upcoming publication From Failure To Fresh Start.