Wandering is Wonderful

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been dying to see the world.

My father used to go on regular business trips to faraway places. He’d go to Japan, India, Israel, Turkey, and all over Europe. He’d always bring me back a small gift from his trips, and I’d cherish them like sacramental trinkets. Little gold earrings embellished with colorful Indian silk, a doll with black thread hair wearing a beautiful red kimono, a palm-sized brass replica of the Eiffel Tower. I’d study every detail of these exotic gifts, hoping to discover some insight into where they came from.

I’d beg him to take me with him so I could see these places for myself. I would perch my little brass Eiffel Tower atop my dresser and indulge my Polly Pockets with picnics in the Champ de Mars. I requested to redecorate my bedroom in a Parisian theme and to take French lessons. I insisted that one day, I would move to Paris and become one of those people who told stories about life chapters spent living abroad in various countries.

As I’ve grown older, my desire to travel has developed into an all-encompassing desire for flexibility in life. Rigid schedules suffocate me. Mundane routines exhaust and deplete me. I’ve felt trapped by every job I have had, knee-deep in 9–5 quicksand. I began to think there was something wrong with me — “you’re so scattered”, “you need to focus”, “everyone hates their job”, “you need a steady job with benefits”, “get a real job”, “you’re being unrealistic.” I heard these things over and over again as I inched away from the mentality that I needed to follow a traditional career path, and there were many moments where I let them get to me.

I had always been a good student, worked hard, got good grades, orchestrated every group project. I knew I was smart, that I could carry myself in a professional environment, I connected well with the people I worked with, I cared about the company’s mission — so why did I burn out so quickly in every job? Why was I so distracted at work? Why did I feel physically ill trying to drag myself out of bed in the morning to the office? Why did I never adjust to a routine?

The more I have come to understand myself and to know my own personality, the more I have come to peace with these tendencies and quieted my self-doubts. Knowing what motivates me, and understanding what inherent fears are driving my reactions to the circumstances I put myself in has become my compass for building a career that I can thrive in. One where I feel free to roam around and where I don’t have to uproot everything I’ve built just to explore and engage my curiosities. One that feels comfortable and exciting at the same time, and where I show up fully, engaged and committed, because my hunger has been fed and I can focus on what’s in front of me.

Over the past few years, I have dedicated every step forward in my career to bringing myself closer to a flexible lifestyle. As I’ve developed my brand copywriting business, I’ve made an intentional effort to meet with my clients over video call and work remotely, even the local ones, just to be location-independent. I sought retainer clients I could work with on an ongoing basis so I could plan my finances easier and budget for trips. I’ve developed partnerships and processes that are simple to manage from opposite sides of the country. I’ve flexed my work hours to accommodate time zones from around the globe.

When I was just getting started, jet-setting around the world was not financially viable. Still, I felt motivated to work hard because I now had the option to take spontaneous mid-week road trips to the Coast. I could work in different coffee shops around the city for a change of scenery or take a midday yoga class to relieve stress. I was able to be more mindful and more in control of how and where I spent my time. I felt dedicated and focused on delivering quality work to my clients. I’ve discovered that I am more engaged in my work when I have the flexibility to engage my adventurous side. Sort of like how an itch would completely monopolize your attention if you were wearing a straightjacket. However, if you have the freedom to scratch when you need to, an itch is not such a big distraction — in fact, you’d hardly notice it at all. With my straightjacket off, I can do work that I am proud of and think more clearly than ever about the next steps in my career, while simultaneously traveling and enjoying my life. All of a sudden, work feels like the key to a better life, not a padlock on my time and freedom.

While it has been anything but smooth sailing, it has been the most fulfilling experience to navigate how to create this life I’ve always craved. I have made mistakes, explored pathways that led me to burnout, had moments of feeling completely lost in a sea of options, and had moments of feeling stuck at an option-less dead end. I’ve felt trapped under the weight of my own decisions, terrified of failure, and have been humbled — and privileged — to ask for help. I moved through doubts and worries and forced my fear to push me instead of hold me back. I’m still getting my sea legs, but finally, at least for now, I can see across clear skies that I’ve began to move in the right direction to where I’m trying to go.

This year is the first I have been able to travel abroad with my work in tow, and it has already been a complete whirlwind. It is surreal to reflect on this lifelong travel bug as I am just returning from my 3rd trip in 3 months, and preparing for the next one already. In the ebbs and flows of life, I am basking in a moment where it feels as though all of my dreams are coming true. In those moments when you feel your hard work is paying off, I hope you pause and appreciate that feeling, send some gratitude to yourself, to everyone who supported you, and to the ones who pushed you forward with their doubts. 

If you’re feeling stuck or lost, get to know your most fundamental fears and motivators. You can build a life and a career that you thrive in once you know how to steer your ship.