It was 2017 and I was a seasoned SF resident living in one of the most sought after neighborhoods, working in a high-paying job in the tech industry. I had lived in the city for over 6 years and was way past the post-college city life honeymoon stage. I had gone through huge career transitions, fallen in and out of love, experienced different neighborhoods, and bounced around bars and restaurants. I was living in a beautiful apartment in the heart of the Marina, making a great salary and surrounded by all of my best friends. What more could I have asked for?? Exactly… yet I felt like something was missing.
I found myself struggling to get up in the morning, throwing myself together and dragging myself to my stable 9-6 job. I was feeling uninspired in my career, demotivated and lacking direction or growth. I noticed my biggest concerns on a weekly basis were when I could book my next mani/pedi, who my ex was now dating, or what I was going to wear out that night. No joke, first world problems.
I was noticing a pattern with my life in San Francisco, and this wasn’t the first time I had this feeling. It was a feeling of being stagnant, stuck, trapped, and outright bored. I was constantly searching for something to look forward to and filling the gaps with nights out, city events, or weekend getaways with friends. However, I came to learn these were all just temporary fixes.
The feeling started two years back when I was working in a previous role. My company was acquired and I was lucky enough to receive a generous severance package. I was antsy and itching for a change and used the severance as an opportunity to find adventure, booking a one-way ticket to Spain for my first solo trip. It was the most amazing month of new cities, new friends, new experiences, and Spanish immersion. I traveled throughout the country, learning the history of each city and connecting with like-minded travelers. I came back reinvigorated and excited to re-assimilate into SF life with stories to share. I thought I was there to stay.
Fast-forward a year and a half later, there I was again with the all too familiar stuck and stagnant feeling, wasting my weekends recovering from a night out or scrolling my social feeds and comparing myself to what this or that friend was doing. I was consuming myself with the smallest problems and once again craving a change. Luckily, all it took was one conversation at a friend’s birthday to plant the seed for my best plan to date. While chatting with a friend about my situation (unhappy in my job, over SF life, wanting to travel, move cities, etc etc) he put it so simply – “If you’re moving cities, why not just leave your job, pack up your things, travel, and come back and figure it out?” It sounded so obvious, yet so terrifying and exciting. It sounded perfect.
As you can imagine, leaving a stable salaried job, home base, and a comfortable lifestyle was not the easiest decision. My inner critic was at an all-time high. Is this a poor career choice? How will I explain this when I return and look for a new opportunity? Am I letting my team down? What will my family think? As someone who is career-driven and a bit of a perfectionist, these thoughts were cycling through my head. I had to reflect on the root cause of the stagnant feeling. I was in a role with no growth opportunity in my desired career direction and living in a city I knew like the back of my hand. I soon learned that when you follow your passions/dreams, the universe and all others support you.
So after a lot of self-reflection and internal freakouts, I made a plan. The main goal, initially, was to spend time in a Spanish speaking country for an extended period of time. I asked a close friend and avid traveler for advice and, “Lake Atitlán in Guatemala”, he said, “you’ve got to go.”
That was all it took and then the universe did the rest of the work. I saw how it supported me as one after another thing fell into place once the decision was made.
- One-way ticket to Guatemala: booked.
- Notice to work: given.
- Apartment move-out date: confirmed.
- Life in a backpack: packed.
- Bittersweet hugs & goodbyes, an emotional airport drop-off and…I was off.
It’s amazing what happens when you push past the barrier of fear and head into the unknown. Little did I know, this decision would forever change my life. The first step was taking the leap.
If you’re finding yourself in a similar place, dreaming of an adventure but scared to take the leap, here is my advice:
- When you’re feeling stagnant, narrow in on the root cause of the feeling and start working on actionable steps.
- The situation will not change until you make moves to change your circumstances. I wish I had learned this earlier and focused on how I could change my situation instead of focusing on what I disliked about my life in San Francisco.
- Be your own advocate.
- Don’t be afraid to be selfish with big decisions.
- Think of your personal goals, dreams, and aspirations.
- Try not to let others’ judgments cloud your vision or hold you back.
- Follow your intuition – your gut feeling knows best. Trust it.
Lean into fear. We are often afraid of the things we want most. It took leaning into my fears for me to finally take the leap. I was terrified that leaving my stable job would hurt my career and finances. This experience taught me that this was far from true.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”- Jack Canfield
Be honest and transparent about your decision. Working on a close-knit team, I was dreading giving notice. However, I explained that I was taking this adventure to grow and expand my mindset. To my surprise, there was an outpouring of support from my teammates and they even hosted a going away event for me. As I traveled and posted about my adventure, my former manager and teammates were some of my biggest supporters.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Once I had made the decision, I reached out to well-traveled friends, family, and connections for advice. I was amazed at the amount of support I received. This helped with:
- Planning where to start my trip
- Tips for packing up my life in a backpack
- Tips for solo traveling
- Support with move-out, finding storage, etc
General tips/resources for planning a solo backpacking trip:
- Hopper app- tracks flight prices to certain locations within a specific date range. The app also sends notifications when prices drop to book.
- Packing tips- ask around friends and use helpful blog posts from other seasoned solo travelers. You’d be amazed at the number of resources out there. As a notorious over-packer, this was the biggest packing challenge to date. Packing cubes became my best friend.
Here are some related blog posts I found helpful:
While the first leap was challenging and terrifying, it was molding me into a more courageous, daring individual. Yet, so much was still to be discovered and the adventure was just beginning. It was only the first leap.