Yes, it is true. I am embarking on a new adventure. A journey, if you will. You have questions; I have answers, so here we go! First, the basics:
I am going to stop working and travel the world.
Starting May 1, 2013. Ending – TBD
First, I will be driving across the US from San Francisco to Albany, New York to visit my mom. I plan on spending some time on the east coast visiting friends and family. Then, my first stop out of the US will be South America….specifically, Colombia. After that, probably Asia.
My primary goal of the trip is to learn Spanish. I have wanted to become fluent in Spanish since I was a small child. My grandmother (who was Puerto Rican), my mom, and my aunts would speak Spanish when I was little, but I never learned it. I took Spanish in high school, and I even won some award for it. But, it didn’t stick. Over my adult life I have done the Rosetta Stone, taken live classes, online courses, iPhone aps, etc. but it still hasn’t stuck. I was so sad when my grandmother passed away last year, and I was never able to have a full conversation with her in her native tongue. It really gave me motivation to finally fulfill a lifelong goal. I have traveled to Argentina, Mexico, Honduras and Cuba, and I am able to get by with my current level of Spanish. I want to do more than get by. I want to be able to converse with another 500 million people in the world who speak Spanish, including my mom, aunts, uncle and cousins.
I am just going to do it.
Now, as I have told more people my plans, I have been getting many reactions and tons of questions, so I thought I would try to answer the most frequently asked questions in this blog.
OMG! Wow! Are you crazy?
Yes, I know, it sounds nuts, but I can assure you that I am perfectly sane.
You are so spontaneous!
No, not really. I initially started thinking about an around the world trip in October of 2007. I met a woman at a business networking event who had just returned with her husband from a two-year-long journey around the world on a sailboat. I peppered her with questions about travelling, staying in touch, selling everything, how she did it, why she did it, and why she returned. I don’t even remember her name, but that 30 minute conversation started me on a mental planning exercise that lasted for 5 years. The decision to actually do an around-the-world trip came on my return trip from New Zealand in December 2012. I was in Auckland airport and my flight was delayed. I started walking around looking at all of the gates and all of the places I have never been….Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, and on and on. Then I just started crying. I did not want to go home. After three weeks travelling by myself in Australia and New Zealand, I just wanted more. So the decision was made in my mind. From that point on, there was no looking back. I started the real plan, which allowed me just about 5 months (until my apartment lease was up) to put the plan into action.
So you have a plan?
If you know me, you know I am a planner. I am a project manager. I am incredibly detail oriented, and I love to read. So I started a written plan with everything I needed to do and buy and sell and prepare for my trip. Luckily, I am not the first person who ever decided to quit their job and just travel. The internet is chock-full of people (my faves: BootsnAll, Angie Away, Living the Dream, yTravelBlog) who have done this before me and they have done most of the leg work. My plan document is currently nine pages long, covering everything from the credit cards I need to vaccines to how much I think I can sell my car for to the type of Swiss army knife I can carry on a plane. (Yes! You can now bring a little knife on a plane. Don’t go trying to sneak on 4 ounces of liquid though). Every day I check off a few more items on the plan. For example, right now, I am working on “Write first blog post”.
What about your business?
Carvill Consulting is a business that I have built from the ground up over the last 10 years. I actually love what I do. I am blessed to be able to work with some of the most intelligent people in the world, making breakthrough discoveries that will help generations to come. I feel like I have reached every goal I set out to hit when I started my business. To me, Carvill Consulting has been a success beyond my wildest imagination. However, it has gotten to the point where I am no longer feeling challenged or energized by what I do. My job is not as hard or stressful or exciting as it was when I was just learning and building. The money is great and the people are great, but the passion is no longer there for me. I suppose I could just continue doing what I do for another 20 or 30 years, but I am just ready to try something new.
Do you think you could have someone run your business for you while you traveled?
Yes, I guess I could, but I really want to make a clean break from it.
Do you plan on returning and picking up your business where you left off?
No. I do not plan on picking up my business when I return. However, never say never. Who knows what could happen in the future? I don’t want to close any doors.
What are your clients going to do without you?
Contrary to what I might tell myself, I am not irreplaceable, and none of my companies will suffer huge long-term losses by my departure. I have given my clients referrals to other capable consultants who will be able to support them.
Ok, enough about the business, what are you doing with your stuff? Putting everything into storage?
No storage. I am selling everything I have. When I leave for South America, I will have one suitcase. Not only am I comfortable with this, I’m actually very excited about it. I have been slowing purging my crap on Craigslist. I am shocked and delighted that people will buy anything from Craigslist. I feel like I am now the opposite of a hoarder. Is there a name for that? A minimalist, maybe? I feel like my stuff is weighing me down. Like an anchor. Every sale I make, everything I give a way, every bag of trash I take out, I feel lighter (and happier!).
What about your important stuff?
I do have some stuff that I will keep with my mom or with friends, like tax returns, yearbooks, diplomas, and some art. But everything else will be gone.
What about your cats?
This is a very difficult one for me. Actually, my cats were one of the main reasons why I almost decided not to take the trip at all. If you are a pet owner, you can understand how attached you can become to an animal. I have (had) two wonderful cats, Graham and MayMay. I have found an excellent home with loving parents for Graham already. In fact, I think his new home is probably better that the home I provided him. He is now living in a gorgeous four bedroom house in Castro Valley with many windows to look out at trees and flowers and birds instead of my dumpy little apartment in the Lower Haight with one window looking out to a concrete sidewalk. I am still working on finding a great home for MayMay, so if you know anyone who wants a sweet five year old fluff ball girl kitty, please contact me ASAP. UPDATE: As of April 12, 2013 I have found a wonderful home for MayMay. She is going to be well loved by an amazing couple in San Mateo. Thank you to everyone who reached out with suggestions and hopes and prayers for MayMay.
What about your family? How is your mom with this?
I told my family early on about my plan, so I think everyone has had some time to adjust and they are mostly excited for me. My mom has been ill for a while and is not able to travel very much. Seeing her situation reminds me that life is very short and this body that carries me around is not going to last forever and I am not getting any younger. I am doing this now, because I physically can. Someday I might not be able to. My mom understands this, and she is now my biggest supporter.
What about your friends? Aren’t you going to miss them, too?
Yes! This is another very painful part of this process. For many years, my family has lived far away from me, so my friends have filled in the gaps for me. My friends have become my second family. I am going to miss them terribly, but in this day and age, we will never be too far apart. I am looking forward to continuing meeting with my book club over Skype or Facetime and following their lives on Facebook.
Are you scared?
Yes, I am. I am also excited, proud, nervous, worried, thrilled, challenged, sad, and happy. I am such a mixed bag of emotions right now; I don’t even think they have an adjective to describe it. And never in my life have I done something that has produced so many emotions all at once. The one thing that I have not been since I made this decision is uncertain. Once the decision to do this was made, I have not once in my mind wavered that it was the right choice nor have I once considered not going through with it. I am 100% sure that this is what I want to do.
What about money? You must be rich! Did you hit the lottery?
This is kind of a personal question, but that’s ok. I don’t mind when people ask me this. Since college, I have been working for 17 years. During this time I have worked hard at some great jobs and have been successful, in my opinion. I have not gotten married (weddings are expensive!), had children (ok, kids are really expensive!), nor have a purchased a home (in the Bay Area…forget it!). Add this up and I do now have some money in savings. I have also been reading on how to stretch your money when you travel. The US is one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in and the San Francisco Bay area is one of the most expensive places in the US. I can actually save on my expenses by traveling.
Will you work when you travel?
Maybe. Sure why not? I feel like the skills that I have learned in my job over the years are transferrable to just about anything. If I need to or want to I can work. In college I worked at a drug store. I actually really liked that job. Getting to talk to people all of the time, trying to scan the goods as fast as possible, stocking shelves….yes! Even stocking shelves was fun when I could line everything up perfectly with the labels facing out. I would do that again…
Who are you going with? Are you going by yourself!?
Yes, I am going by myself. When I told my mom what I was doing, she said, “Oh, Laurie, wouldn’t it be nice if you had a boyfriend to go with you?” Yes Mom. That would be nice. But I don’t have a boyfriend who can go with me, so should I just wait around until I find one? I feel like I have been waiting around for 2 years to find someone who has the time, money and desire for a trip like this. I am tired of waiting. I started traveling alone two years ago. I took a trip to Italy with a tour group of 50+ strangers. It was great, and I met some amazing people on the trip, but I found myself jumping off the bus and running away from the group every time we stopped. It was so difficult to plan what to do, where to eat, and what to see with a big group of people. I found that when I was alone, I didn’t have to compromise and I was able to spend my time doing exactly what I wanted to do. This was so freeing. Whenever I wanted company, I would join up with someone on the tour, and that was fun, too.
Aren’t you going to be lonely?
I am traveling on planet earth, not the moon. There are people everywhere. The biggest joy for me in traveling is not attractions or the scenery. The biggest joy for me is the people. People all over the world are so different and so much the same. When I traveled alone to Australia and New Zealand, I met people every day. I had meals with strangers, toured historic sites with backpackers, sipped coffee with expats, and drank beers with locals. I was never alone or lonely. Ok, maybe not never. I had occasional moments of loneliness. But I have that here in San Francisco, too. The best cure for loneliness is to get out there and meet new people.
Are you looking for a boyfriend?
Ha! I am not taking this journey to find a boyfriend. I am taking this trip for me. If I meet someone along the way, great. I am totally open to that. But it is certainly not a goal.
Are you having a mid-life crisis?
LOL! Maybe. I don’t think so, though.
Are you running away from something?
This is an interesting question. The first time someone asked me this, my first thought and immediate response was, “No. I am running
toward something.” The question still nagged at me though. I thought more about it, because I needed to be sure that this wasn’t a runaway situation. I have great friends and an amazing career. Why would anyone run away from that? I have no reason to run. I stand by my original answer that I am running toward something. I am not sure what it is, but I will let you know when I find out.
This sounds dangerous! You are so brave! Will you be safe?
I don’t feel exceptionally brave; I am just doing what I want to do. I am not naïve. I am a safety consultant for a living, so I understand risks and safety. I have researched (and will continue to research) the safety of the places I am going to. I will not be foolish. All of that said, thousands of single women travel around the world by themselves each year and are fine. I will be fine. What sounds dangerous to me is living a life not doing what you want because you are scared or because there is risk involved. People get hurt, murdered, and attacked all the time right here in the US. The murder rate in Bogota, Colombia is lower than the murder rate in Washington DC and Chicago. In some cases I might be safer leaving the US.
When are you coming back? Are you coming back to the US? Are you coming back to San Francisco? How long are you travelling for?
The short answer here is I don’t know. I joke and say that I’ll be back when the money runs out. And I don’t know when that will be either. I could/would get a job overseas, and not come back to the US to live for a while. I have always wanted to live abroad and now is my chance. Or, I could realize what I have always suspected, but not confirmed, that San Francisco is the very best city in the world, so there is no reason to live anywhere else. I could be back in a month.
Where else are you going? What places are on your list? Can I suggest….?
Yes! I am definitely taking suggestions of places to visit. I have a list, which is fairly extensive, but I am wide open to suggestions. The world is my oyster, so if it has an address on this planet earth, it is a possibility. (Still not sure I would visit the moon, seems kinda isolated and lonely and cold and dark. No thanks). My general list right now is North America to South America to Asia. (I have never been to Asia!)
I have researched many Central American, Latin American and South American countries, and from everything I have read, the Spanish spoken in Colombia is very “clean”. The speak slower there, without a “strong” accent and less slang than countries like Argentina. Also, everyone I know who has visited has loved it. It is a beautiful country, not yet overrun with tourists.
Can I come meet you?
Yes! Definitely come meet me. My only caveat is that I don’t have a set schedule or set places that I will be. If you are flexible and able to get on a plane last minute, then we have a better chance of meeting up. Or if you know where you will be, send me your plans I will try to meet up with you.
Do you know anyone in South America? My friend from college/aunt/ex-husband’s brother lives in ….?
Nope, I don’t know very many people at all in South America, so yes, I am going to take any suggestions, friend-hook-ups, tour guides that I can. Set me up!
I could never do that! I have kids. I have no money. I have a mortgage. I want to live vicariously through you.
Sometimes when people say that they want to live vicariously through me, it makes me sad. I understand the intent, but why would you ever live through someone else’s life? My hope with this trip is to inspire others to live their own life to the fullest extent they can. Maybe you can’t just quit your job, sell everything and travel. (Or maybe you can if you reeeaaally want it). But everyone can make small changes in their life that can bring happiness and joy. Taking a new route home from work, cruising around a park or museum in your neighborhood, or just walking down the street and looking at the different houses and people. All of these things can be eye-opening and new and exciting. You can learn something new every day. You can meet new people every day. You can step outside of your comfort zone and make a change in your life. You don’t need to go around the world to see things from another angle. Bottom line: don’t live vicariously through my life…live your life every day. Make the best of what you have, and do everything you can to follow your dreams. And don’t wait. Life is very short.
Are you going to blog? Facebook? Tweet? Instagram? Skype? Make phone calls? Send postcards? Email? Send smoke signals? Carrier pigeon?
Nope. I am literally going to drop off the face of the earth, and you will never hear from me again. Just kidding! Of course I am going to stay in touch. I am going to try to blog, but it does take a lot of time and effort to do it. At the very least I am going to Facebook, so if you hate seeing picture of new places, you can hide me from your feed. If you do want to stay in touch, feel free to hook-up. Here are some of the many ways that modern technology will help:
Snail mail: NA
Cell phone: NA
I think that covers it! What have I forgotten? What questions do you still have? Let me know!