What Was I Thinking?

This isn’t one of those blogs where I tell you how I quit my “real” job to write and take photographs. I won’t pretend I left my old, secure life in New York City in order to travel, or to figure out what was really important to me. I’m not going to wax poetic about how I plan to spend the rest of the foreseeable future on the road.

The truth is, I left New York in 2011 because I didn’t know what else to do. Then I took off traveling because I had no reason not to. And for the first time in my life, I did both without a plan.

See, I believe that many people — the most interesting ones, in fact — are full of contradictions. I have quite a few, but in recent memory, there’s been one central one: my free-spirited native Californian self vs. my practical, driven, and, OK, pretty neurotic New York self. I’ve always wanted to be impulsive, impractical, decisive. I’ve always craved those adjectives reserved for people who are able to make up their minds, stick to their often questionable decisions, and take in stride whatever brand of chaos or happy circumstance may come their way as a result. And I’ve always thought I had them in me, somewhere.

But I’m traditionally more of the over-think-everything-til-my-frontal-lobe-goes-numb-lest-I-get-it-wrong type. The girl with the lease and the good résumé and the morning routine and a cranium full of unnecessary worries — even if I also have a love of sandalwood incense and folk music.

So in 2011, I surprised even myself by quitting my enviable office job, hugging my friends goodbye, and finally leaving a city that, after six years of trying, I’d never quite understood the world’s unanimous love for. I went home to California and I thought. I wondered what the hell I was doing with my life. I tossed and turned a lot. And then I got myself a work visa and an outlandishly expensive plane ticket for New Zealand, a country I’d never seen on the other side of the world. I spent 14 months living on New Zealand’s south island, traveling through Australia Southeast Asia, and becoming the most hesitant extreme-adventure connoisseur in the world. And I did it all because — well, because why not? I guess you could say I’ve done it all on a whim. An abstractly over-thought, drawn-out whim.

Is that crazy? Entirely possible. But it’s also just as likely that it would have been crazy not to go in the first place. The older I get, the more I realize how rare it is to be tied down by absolutely nothing: when I decided to leave New York, there were no kids, no guy, no mortgage or full-steam-ahead career path keeping me in one place or one frame of mind. And by the time I decided to go to New Zealand, I’d already quit my solid job, extracted myself from the only city and lifestyle I’d known for years, and left every single one of my best friends behind in other time zones. It was time to finally see if that free spirit was really in there — and to send it out on a whim.

So, maybe I’m shopping for new adjectives — trying them on, seeing if they fit. Re-contextualizing myself for a while to see if I can live without a comfortably consistent day-to-day routine. Figuring it out as I go and enjoying whatever comes.

Because this isn’t really about travel — it’s about me learning to go with the flow. And, yes, the pretty incredible places that flow takes me.

19 thoughts on “What Was I Thinking?

  1. June 11, 2012: I have just re-read this entry and thought about the well meaning cashier at TJ’s who couldn’t wrap himself around your upcoming adventure and “why not?” attitude…..keeping rolling along Jess–you are a blooming soul!

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    • What a wonderful thing to say — thank you! It’s so nice sometimes to have reassurance that I might be brave instead of just a little crazy!

  3. Kudos to you for taking off on an amazing adventure! I totally relate to what you’re saying here. I look forward to following your blog and seeing where you go next!!

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  6. Hi Jessica! Love your honesty here about why you left for New Zealand and embraced going with the flow. I’m really enjoying your posts so far. Thanks for sharing!

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