Self-Discovery Through Travel

Months ago I wrote a post about leaving it all behind–packing my life into boxes and putting them into a storage unit; quitting my job; leaving a stable life full of friends and loved ones–and hitting the road. I didn’t know what the next few months would hold for me. I knew that they’d include the freedom to come and go as I pleased, to explore some new regions of the world, and to create some amazing experiences and memories for myself. But I also didn’t know the self-discovery I’d make along the way.

Before I left, I knew one thing: that I was tired of the life that I’d been living. I was tired of my job, the Texas heat, being far away from family, and feeling stuck. I was so excited and nervous to set out on my travels, hoping that I’d learn something about myself. Hoping that I’d find a lifestyle that finally felt “normal” and right for me.

I didn’t find that.

don't rush anything

Instead, I found that being a solo digital nomad, constantly on the move, is not for me. Even after recuperating in the comfort of home for a couple of months (and only taking shorter trips), I feel overwhelmed at the thought of setting back out for a long period of time, hopping from place to place. I wanted so desperately to find comfort in the unknown. To enjoy the spontaneity of choosing a new place to go every couple of days. But, I found it exhausting and stressful. I found myself dreading moving again and settling into another city for a few days and spending those days wandering around, tired, but trying to see everything I could. And part of the problem was the speed at which I traveled, but the other part of it was that I just don’t enjoy travel like that. I have always preferred to spend weeks in one place, exploring its ins and outs, seeking out the more local experiences to see what a city is really like. You can’t really do that when you’re only spending (at max) five days in one place.

I also realized that, as a severe type-A personality, I thrive in a situation where I have structure. I seriously missed a place to put my things; having a core group of friends to hang out with when I was feeling social; sleeping in the same bed every night; and having some sort of schedule. I really wish I was more laidback and easy-going with regards to these things, but I’m just not. I tried. I really did. But at the end of the day, I can’t trick myself into enjoying something that I am just not.

it's your road
I have loads of respect for people who are able to live this lifestyle. In fact, in some regards, I feel like a failure that I couldn’t. But, I tried it on for size and it didn’t fit. (Though, I think perhaps if I had someone to travel with, it might be a different story–at least then I’d have a bit of “home” with me all of the time.)

So where does that leave someone who has an almost panic attack at the thought of owning a home and having a permanent full-time position and who also isn’t designed for a life lived constantly on the move?

I’ve been struggling with finding that answer for myself, and I think I’ve found a compromise for now. I know that, for right now, I can’t lock myself into a permanent full-time job. It still doesn’t feel right. But I also need money (because I haven’t really wanted to monetize my blog, and freelance writing isn’t exactly pulling six figures). Which brings me to the compromise: I have accepted a contract job, which will keep me in Pennsylvania (close to my family and friends) for the next nine months to a year.

don't worry you'll make it
The idea of contracting feels like the right choice for me: it’s pretty good money and it’s not permanent–this means I’ll get to save a decent amount and when the contract ends, I can set off for a couple months of (slower) travel before finding another contract. This compromise means that, not only do I get to have a life of structure, but I can still have those longer periods of travel in between–enough to satiate the urge, but not so much to exhaust and overwhelm me. I also plan to travel as much as I possibly can while still working–taking advantage of some holidays and vacation days here or there.

move on to the next chapter
I am hoping that striking this balance will be healthy and good for me, but only time will tell if it feels right. (If not, I’m almost out of ideas!) I may be returning to the cubicle for now, but knowing there’s a reward waiting for me at the other side of it actually makes me feel optimistic about stepping back into the corporate world.

All photos found on Pinterest.

26 thoughts on “Self-Discovery Through Travel

  1. Who am I to offer advice? I am married, mortgage, kid, 45-minute commute to a job. But, I have a job that is fun in a laidback atmosphere. I enjoy my city and my son is creating his own place as far as his sports and activities. I have a groove, if you will. We also travel a lot. I think sometimes maybe we don’t travel enough, but then we’ll have a period where we travel too much. So it balances out. I think sometimes the “corporate job” becomes the problem for so many. I work for a small newspaper so I don’t deal with that corporate stuff. I think if I did I’d feel stifled like so many travel bloggers seem to express why they left the world and hit the road. My only advice is to find something you can enjoy and have a bit of a passion about that maybe also helps fund travel while having enough vacation time to do so. I think it sounds like you’ve made a great decision for this time in your life as far as where you’re living and the contract situation.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Five Experiences: American Conference TournamentMy Profile

    • Thanks, Lance! I think it’s all about balance and finding what’s best for you. It sounds like you have it pretty well figured out for your life. And I think I could probably handle working at a smaller publication like yours, rather than a major corporation.

  2. I’m happy you found something that seems like a much better fit for you. If I ever made it back to Canada, I’ll definitely be looking for a contract position – I can’t even begin to think about being tied to something for years and years with only 3 weeks a year of holidays. But long-term travel isn’t right for me either. Contracting is a good balance!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Roatan Rent: What $400/month Gets YouMy Profile

  3. Sounds like a successful experiment to me. You know what doesn’t work and that narrows down want might. I feel very similar to you in that getting to a new city every few days leaves me mentally exhausted. I’d suggest trying travelling without moving. Go somewhere, stay a while, get to know locals and get a job or volunteer. I’ve been amazed how rewarding that kind of travel has been for me.

    Good luck with your current path!
    Anywhereing recently posted..Reflections on a Year of TravelMy Profile

    • I totally agree with you–next time I set out, it will be at a much slower pace. I really want to be able to enjoy my time without feeling so exhausted and burnt out on travel in general.

  4. My favourite inspirational quote, interestingly, relates to failure by Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” It’s easy to see ourselves as a failure when things don’t work out how we thought they might, but the only failure is when you stop trying. In my view, full-time work and full-time travel is the perfect recipe for feelings of failure and there are many people out there who don’t think they are balancing things right. I confess I’m one of them. When I’m static, I long to travel. When I travel, I long to stop. All of the time I long not to work (but that’s just me wishing I could live my life on the beach). Stopping and doing what feels right for you is the most important thing and I’m really pleased that you’ve made the decision to go with what your instincts are telling you. We can all learn something from that. Keep doing what you do because whatever it is, I know you’ll completely rock at it!
    Jo recently posted..Skydiving in Hawaii with a Dysfunctional What…?My Profile

  5. Hey Megan,

    I totally understand it! But another idea, is doing what I am doing right now – an expat year. It is still revelling in the new: a new culture, job, friends, etc… but it is that fixed life that I need. :) Canada has been the best decision for me! Don’t regret a thing x
    Hayley recently posted..A History Lesson at Pearl HarborMy Profile

    • Hey Hayley, I’ve thought about the expat thing. It’s something I’d still consider, but It’s not quite as easy in my situation. It’s not something I’ll rule out forever though.

  6. Sounds like the right decision for you!

    Long-term travel like that isn’t for me, either, and I too am going to stick around the home state for a while. I’m moving in with my boyfriend and going to travel closer to home for a bit while I figure out what the heck I’m gonna do next.

    Seeing as how you will be in PA and I will be in OH… we should totally hang out and talk about our (non)failure as digital nomads!
    Amanda recently posted..There’s Something About Hoi AnMy Profile

  7. Totally fell you. This isn’t a life for everyone. Whenever i’m told I “Live the dream” I want to judo chop someone. lol. Good to offer people a peek behind the curtain.

    • Hahah, exactly, Erick. There are parts of it I really like, and parts of it I really hate. And ultimately, I needed to find something else. Some sort of healthy balance for myself.

  8. If you never tried it you have always wondered if you would have preferred life as a digital nomad. I think half the battle is weeding out the things we do not want to do in order to find the ones we do. I think contracting sounds perfect for the structure / freedom balance that you are looking for. I also know that I could never make it as a digital nomad. Like you, I crave structure and some semblance of a routine. It sounds like you will be getting the best of both worlds right now!
    Bridget @ A Traveling B recently posted..Tips for an Irish Road TripMy Profile

  9. Sounds to me like you’re time travelling has really helped you understand yourself better. I hope my travels later this year will do the same. I can imagine how full-time travel can be really tiring. Hope that contract work turns out to be the right balance for you!
    Charlie recently posted..Travel expectationsMy Profile

  10. I can definitely relate to this, over time I have transitioned from loving the intense travel explorations to now finding I actually enjoy the days I sit and write in a cafe and wander around in a foreign place just as much as a day doing something more typically touristy.

    I’ve been pondering how to make this changing appreciation work in my life. My tendency is to take my four week trip every year to somewhere new and fall into the old high of planning an ‘everything’ trip in the excitement only to slowly burn out as I go (but for some reason stubbornly sticking it out). I’ve been dreaming about convincing my employer to let me take a month twice a year where I work half-time in another place. So my four weeks of annual paid leave doubles; I can work and explore in a foreign city, take my time to soak it up with some structure to my days… Still some factors I need to think through, but I’m interested to try it out and see. What do you think? :-)

    Just discovered your blog and love it, feel like I’ve found a like minded soul!
    Donna recently posted..Coastal Walk #15 Mosman to Taronga ZooMy Profile

  11. Megan, you’ve eloquently explained something we hold dear — travel is like school. If you go beyond the hotel resort spa treatment, you can learn so much about the world and about yourself. Kudos to you for taking on this journey. Look what amazing insights you’ve had because of it!

    Also wanderlusty in Texas,

    • Thank you, Lisa! And yes–I think travel is such a great education, which I wish more people took advantage of. It’s amazing how even just one trip can open your eyes to entirely new things!

  12. Pingback: How to Work Full-Time and Still Travel the World - meganotravels

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