Instead of a literal journey, in this post I share a little about my personal journey. Many people think they can’t have adventure or travel in their lives, or let it go for some reason. I used to be one of them. Perhaps my story will inspire at least one person. I’ve skipped most of the details on how I achieved my shift back to living, but I’m happy to discuss it via the comments section, so don’t afraid to ask. ~
I hit pause on living. Years before I began blogging, I worked seven days a week, nights, and on vacation. TGIF had no meaning because I worked every weekend. There were no boundaries between my work and personal life. When I traveled, my plans revolved around cell service, internet access and a business center. I went so far as to hide the fact I was on vacation. I even quit backpacking because I was afraid of being out of touch. I was existing, not living.
I don’t know the date, but sometime in 2008, I cracked. Before opening my business, I’d been a traveler, adventurer, and generally upbeat spirit, but that person was gone. I vowed to find her.
A year later, I shut the doors to my office, merged by company with another business, and set a date to backpack a section of the Appalachian Trail. I knew the real me was out there somewhere; I just needed to meet up with her. I also started blogging about this time.
There is never a perfect time to make a life change, and that first backpacking trip was no exception. My son was getting into trouble, business was still whacky in spite of the merger, and my marriage was on the rocks. Still, I had promised myself I would go. Frankly, my health depended on that journey.
It took a few days for me to calm down on the trail. I forgot my hiking poles and trashed my knee, but the pain only helped me feel more present in my hike (yes, I’m a little weird). Nearing the Nantahala Outdoor Center, I posed for this poor quality photo. It might not be pretty, but it was a moment of I-don’t-care-how-stupid-I-look joy.
In spite of my fears, nothing dreadful happened. In retrospect, I realize I had overestimated my importance. An organized business should be stronger than one person. My kid stepped in it a bit, but it would have been the same if I were home. No one died or lost a bunch of money, so I’d say it worked out.
Since then, travel, backpacking, photography and caving have become a regular part of my life. Although I’m not exactly where I want to be, I’m in a better place. I reopened my own business, but I’ve set boundaries. I still work some while traveling, primarily because I travel so much now it’s a necessity. Most importantly, I’ve accepted that I can’t control everything (almost).
So how can you make similar changes? That is the subject of entire books, but here are my top three suggestions:
1) Read The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. There are practical tips for changing your mental outlook on work/life balance, a critical first step to change.
2) Schedule personal commitments before anything else and then call them “appointments”. No one needs to know you have a date or a doctor’s visit. Practice saying, “Sorry, I have a commitment at that time.”
3) Invest in systems that free you from your desk like E-Fax, a smart phone and DropBox. This way a small task doesn’t require a trip to the office. Now, don’t get me wrong, just because you can work remotely, doesn’t mean you should stay plugged in more. Use the “OFF” button too. This is a tool to free, not leash, you. This makes more sense for some people than others. Because I’m self-employed, a virtual office has allowed me to increase my travel schedule dramatically. (I just returned from three weeks in Lake Tahoe and Chicago but most of my clients never noticed I was gone.)
I’m just scratching the surface here, the point is, you can make a change. The purpose of this post is to inspire those who have given up adventure to seek balance in their lives. It might require tough decisions, but more likely, it will require conquering fear and goal setting. Life is too short to give up living until you retire.
Have you given up travel or adventure due to work? On the flip side, have you succeeded at reclaiming balance in your life? Share your story in the comments to help inspire others.