Wednesday, November 30th. 2016. I’m sitting here in my demolished room wondering how my life got to this point. It was certainly a long process to get here, and I couldn’t have planned it better if it was an asinine idea on a drunken night.
A year ago I was working three jobs: one at a warehouse, one at a liquor store, and one at a hotel. I was pushing 80 hour weeks just to pay off my credit card and release myself of that financial burden. Mornings were hard to get out of bed because I didn’t want to face my current reality of mindless clocking in and out. I felt like a robot, and not even a cool robot!
Days at the warehouse were the worst – mindless labor for 12 hours wearing an earpiece and talking to the automated system named Jill. She wasn’t a cool robot either. I would tattoo the number of days until my next trip on my arm in sharpie so I could look down and remind myself why I was pushing myself so hard. Even that didn’t always stop the tears during some breaks.
May meandered around, and I no longer worked at the warehouse. I was down to working only two jobs that did nothing to fulfill my life. That is, until a friend of over three years, Marcus, approached me with an offer; to work with him on the road as his helper at a moving company. I would work full-time all while travelling the nation. I immediately accepted the offer and jumped at the chance to quit everything. Within the span of a few days, the path of my life was repaved to go a different direction.
It was spectacular for a while! The first month took me to 13 states, and the list just kept getting longer. The paychecks were hefty, I enjoyed the work, and I got to meet some great people. The kind ex-CEO for Square Enix; a family who gave us beer and a good tip on my birthday; an elderly lady who told her life story with a twist of humor; a mother in Atlanta who dripped the definition of Southern Hospitality.
One of my favorite additions to the job was customers’ surprised expressions when they would initially see me, a short young female, jump out of the 70 foot long semi-truck. It was always entertaining to see the looks on their faces when I would successfully transport their furniture inside.
Four months into the job, I left for my trip to Europe, and when the time came to fly home, the only reason I didn’t skip my flight, was to come back to that job.
A job I didn’t know I wasn’t coming back to.
Due to complications of working under the table, I couldn’t continue, and I couldn’t be legally hired on. I was left devastated and lost with absolutely no direction. The thought of going back to a clock in-clock out job made me nauseous. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t flip that switch to turn off those negative emotions and put myself into the “everything happens for a reason” mindset that I was always so good at. I kept it to myself as long as I could, because it was humiliating to be shot down from the top of the world.
For three weeks in October, I all but confined myself to my room, trying to recover and figure out my next move, but nothing felt right. Then my friend’s birthday was coming up, and he wanted to go somewhere. My friend, Michaelangelo, needed to get away just as much as I did. “Let’s go to Denver!” I blurted out without much thought. Part of me didn’t think he would actually go for it, but he immediately jumped on board. Even though my bank account screamed absolute bloody murder at me to not do it, I ignored every voice of financial reason and went for it. I wasn’t in debt (yet) and I was not about to let money stand in my way of some mental recovery.
So we went.
Michaelangelo and I grabbed the cheapest flights, and arrived with an Airbnb for the first two nights, and no plan for the rest. The first night, we rendezvoused with a few couchsurfers using the hangouts feature. It was there we met Elliott, who heard we needed a place to stay later on and immediately offered to host us.
Our experience in Denver was fantastic, thanks to this friendly and humorous couchsurfer. More importantly, it was through talking to Elliott and hearing of his adventures, he put me in contact with someone who desperately needs helpers teaching English in the Ukraine over the summer. Door #1: opened! This was the spark of hope that gave me something to look forward to when I had previously been dreading returning home to a potentially pathetic future.
The last night in Denver, Elliott, Michaelangelo, and I, all had different plans. Elliott was off to meet a friend in Boulder, Michaelangelo wanted to bar hop, and I had found out via couchsurfing that there was a travel meet up going on. It was part of a series of meet ups that were organized across the country by the travel blogger Nomadic Matt.
It was there that I met Chris and Tristan. Chris, the organizer of the meet-ups, and Tristan who was tagging along. After talking to Tristan for approximately 7 minutes, he made the passing comment that I should join them on their road trip. My initial reaction went something like, “hahahah…wait really?” So I made the snap decision (again with the hasty decisions!) to skip my flight home the next morning and join the two vagabonds. A five day trip turned into twenty-six.
My bank account sobbed louder; I gagged it tighter.
The next travel meet-up of the trip was in Seattle a few days later. For whatever reason that night, I felt somewhat drained and mildly unsociable. Tristan and I eventually agreed to walk back to his host’s house and hang out a bit before calling it a night. He was apparently feeling more personable than I was, because I walked out while he was still making his rounds saying goodbye. I didn’t notice he wasn’t behind me at first, but even when I realized, I decided I would wait outside for him and catch some fresh air. Tristan had other ideas and dragged me back in.
I joined him at a table full of girls (as usual!) who I hadn’t met yet. They were all extremely nice and it was pleasant to chat with them. One of the girls, Elisabeth, was telling me about a family in Italy she was an au pair for. She told me it was one of her favorite travel experiences, and how this family had become like a second home for her. It sounded incredible! We ended up exchanging Facebook info, which is a big deal for me. If my friend count is much higher than 150, I feel like it’s time to clean out. I add selectively and delete often. But, I was more than happy to add another traveler.
The next day – or so it seemed – Elisabeth posted a status about her Italian family looking for someone to au pair for them. Sadly, she couldn’t do it because of school. I messaged her immediately, and in a nutshell, got all lined up.
To go to Italy.
For three months.
Now that I’m back home with more time to reflect, it’s hard to fully process. So many what ifs float around my head. What if I played it safe and didn’t quit my entire life for a new job?
What if I didn’t lose aforementioned job?
What if I had kept my mouth shut about going to Denver (because I almost did)?
What if I played it safe and didn’t join the road trip?
What if I decided to wait outside in Seattle?
It’s easy to fear the unknown, but this snowball of events taught me to relish it. Having no future means you’re granted the ability to be flexible and let great things happen. Even so, that fear can be used as a tool and motivator to kick us back up on our feet and keep running forward. Or quick paced walking, if you prefer! The upcoming year now holds more promise than I ever thought possible one month ago, and I’m excited to dive in.
Wednesday, November 30th. 2016. I’m sitting here in my demolished room that is becoming emptied out as I get rid of stuff in preparation to leave for Italy, wondering how my life got to this point. This amazing, wonderful, unforeseeable, and wild point.