I quit my job in November 2011 with nothing planned but a one-way ticket to New Zealand. And then I ran a marathon.
But I wasn't always so free-spirited and adventurous.
In January 2010, at the age of 23, I was well on my way to becoming a boxed-wine alcoholic. I ate like crap, never exercised, felt tired all the time and absolutely hated the hour-long bus commute to my 8-to-5 desk job. I lived at my mom's house. I was $9,000 in debt with exactly $0 in savings. Oh, and I had just been dumped.
Then my mom kicked my ass into realizing that I needed to pay off my debt, which also meant actually learning how to manage my money and quit racking up stupid credit-card bills. I focused intensely on that goal, learning all I could about personal finance while diligently budgeting and paying down my balances.
I became debt-free when I repaid the last penny of my student loan in July 2010.
Later that year, I discovered just how much freedom comes with the absence of nagging debt. I realized I could actually save my money and then do awesome things with it.
My family struggled financially as I grew up, so I firmly believed that certain things — like travel — were just never in the cards for me. But I had changed my financial story. I held the cards now, and I decided to shuffle the deck. Travel became a top priority.
In September 2010, my mom came across a blog written by a well-traveled guy named Chris Guillebeau, and she emailed me a link to The Art of Non-Conformity with this note: "Hey D — you might like this site."
Chris helped me realize I didn't have to live my life the way other people expected me to — or the way I expected to. Up to that point, my biggest dream had been to graduate from college and get a good job, and I had already done that.
My dreams started to revolve more around getting my first passport. Using it. Filling it.
At the same time, I began to run. I became more adventurous and went skydiving for the first time. I started saying "yes" to things that scared me. I stopped worrying so much about what other people thought of me.
All of these things helped me tiptoe closer to a goal that, for most of my life, seemed entirely out of reach.
And then I went to the World Domination Summit in June and met a ridiculous number of incredible people. Like me, they were dreamers — but more importantly, they were doers. They helped me see that I could travel the world, easily, if only I could work up the courage to leave my secure, well-paying job and leap wholeheartedly into my dream.
Thirteen months after I decided to make travel a priority, I realized I had enough money saved to travel without working for at least a year. Maybe even longer.
So in November 2011, I leapt.
In February 2012, I took off on a great adventure. I started out in Auckland, New Zealand, and from there? Well, I'll just head wherever I feel like going. I'm in no hurry.
The great thing about Mary Oliver's quote, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" is that the answers are endless. The possibilities are endless. My intention with every answer I come up with is to feel alive, and do the best I can with this life I have.
Feel free to contact me with comments or questions! I'd love to hear from you.
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