I've officially been unemployed, or funemployed as I like to call it, for a year now. I still pinch myself because I can't believe this is my life. The life that I'm living. The life that I've chosen. First and foremost, I could not have done it without the ongoing support and encouragement (eerily RIGHT when I need it) and the incredible, pure, love that I've received from my friends and my family. Words can't express how thankful I am for you--whether it's checking in on me to see how I'm doing during one of my trips or offering to pick me up from the airport with a burrito when I land to reading my posts to messaging my friends or family asking about my adventures (you're always welcome to message me, I do respond ;-)), to leaving me an encouraging (and sometimes envious, I'm sorry!) comment on one of my photo, every bit counts. I credit you guys with much of what I've done, not just over the past year, but over the years, yet you humble folk always turn it back around and send me more love, which then gets us into a vicious complimentary/love giving circle that leaves both of us feeling energized and uplifted.
Some days it feels like 365 days have flown by and other days it seems like I have all the time in the world. To answer your questions:
1) No, I don't know where I'm going next.
2) No, I'm not sure when I'm going to 'stop' traveling. I don't think I'll ever not travel, but I do miss having a little bit of a routine and a purpose.
3) Yes, the funds are running out. Savings are pretty much tapped. I have no idea what I'm going to do about a job, or if I could return to a corporate job but I do need to give some thought (and take action).
I've learned a lot about myself and a little bit about the world over the past year. I've never really liked the phrase, "No Regrets" because it's not something I personally can subscribe to. Sure, I get the no 'major' regrets bit, but I'm the type of person where I do second-guess myself and weigh options carefully and always wonder, at least for a little while, if I made the right choice. While I'm pretty content with how the past year has gone, there are a few things I would do differently if given the chance again/have learned along the way.
1) Budget Better As soon as I decided to quit my job, I immediately found ways to cut down on expenses such as rent. With that said, I didn't change my lifestyle too drastically until about 8 months into funemployment when my bank account balance started to make me physically feel sick. I'm decent with my money, but I could always be better. A friend of mine does something where he puts aside x dollars, say $400, into a bank account associated with a debit card and that's his food allowance for the month. Whether it's groceries, eating out, etc., it all comes from that debit card. That's just one idea on how to better manage my spends.
2) Invest in the Right Gear Repeat after me: function over fashion. It took me almost 11 months before I found the right luggage for me to travel with. Now that I have it, I wonder how I did without it for so long! I went with an Osprey Wheeled Convertible Bag that cost me a pretty penny (but I also used my REI dividend on and my 20% coupon on). What I love about this bag is that it converts from a rolling suitcase to a backpack so you can take it pretty much everywhere. It also comes with a daypack that attaches to the outside that I use as my everyday bag when I'm traveling. I also got this backpack from eBags to take aboard as my carry-on/use as a weekend getaway bag. I love all the different compartments that is has to make packing a breeze, and it expands if I do some shopping! I also bought some packing cubes (you can get a bunch off of Amazon or even Groupon!) that help with being organized but weren't that great for packing in a backpack, in my experience. If I had a suitcase, I could see how these would be really helpful. More helpful than packing cubes is using a Ranger Rolling method to fit more into your bag! Last, but not least, Crocs! You can now buy, dare I say, semi-cute Crocs so you can walk all day without clutching your feet in pain.
3) Plan but Don't I know, it's a contradiction, but hear me out. I'm a planner, I like to know what's going to happen next, what to do, where to stay, etc. There's a wealth of information out there and I've spent hours poring over blogs and reviews and books planning getaways. But there's a limit. My goal when I quit to travel was to do that: travel, not necessarily vacation. Being flexible
allows you forces you to trust your gut, and go with the flow. (This isn't advised in all destinations, and it's not actually allowed in some places where you have to have an itinerary, but even if you only 'plan' for a few days of 'no plan', you might surprise yourself. I opted to take this approach for Bali and though it's been overwhelming at times, I can see what the hype is all about.) Having an open schedule has also allowed me to be flexible and take advantage of cheap flights when I see them. That's how I managed to book RT flights from the US to India (twice) and Bali for under $1200, total! (If you're not already following The Flight Deal or Secret Flying, what are you waiting for?!) My biggest challenge is to NOT book cheap fares just for the sake of going somewhere new, for cheap, but rather put some thought behind where I'd like to travel to next and keep an eye out for a good deal (going back to the budgeting piece).
4) Not Everyone Gets It I have SO much support, it really moves me whenever I get some encouragement, whether it be from family who have seen me grow (and mature?) over the years or acquaintances who follow along religiously, unbeknownst to me, or strangers who I meet and applaud my journey. It's amazing. But there are also people who don't get it, and won't get it. "Why are you traveling so much? Why would you want to do that? Why don't you just go on a trip for two weeks?" It's fine if you don't support my choices, it really is, but you can do that without raining on my parade. If you're doing something you're passionate about and love, I will support you. I'm not even asking you to do the same in return, I'm just asking you to respect my choice (or say nothing about it) and keep it moving. I will say that I've developed thicker skin over the past year. With that said, there are still some misconceptions about what I'm doing and how I got here. "You're so lucky!" is something that many people tell me, but it's not luck that got me here: it was choice. I chose to take an opportunity, I chose to leap and I continue to make choices every day to keep me here. Maybe tomorrow I'll make a different choice that'll have me follow a different lifestyle, but it's conscious choice towards what I think will serve me in that instance. While many of my posts are of awesome experiences or breath taking views or mouth-watering meals, it's not all rainbows and butterflies. There's a lot of not-so-pleasantness that happens along the way as well. "Get it out of your system" is another common phrase I hear. While I think they mean go big now, while I don't have many responsibilities, I don't see this as my one and only chance to go do something like this. I've met families who travel with their kids for extended periods, homeowners who have rented out their property so they could go and do this and people of all different backgrounds and ages who have just started, or have been traveling, for years. I don't ever see myself not traveling so there's nothing to 'get out of my system'. "It's time to get back to reality" also gets thrown around often. What is reality? It's something that actually exists or happens. This exists and this is happening. My sense of reality is different today than it was a year ago; it's not the norm, but maybe the norm is no longer for me. Or maybe I'm on a long detour. I have no clue and question what I'm doing with my life constantly, but for the moment, I'm taking things as they come and following my gut, wherever it may take me. Ask me again tomorrow and I might have a different answer. Or better yet, ask me in a year and we'll see where I'm at then.