Recently, I made one of those super big, kind of crazy, ridiculously awesome, life-altering choices. I quit my job, skipped renewing my lease, went freelance full-time as a writer and content strategist to travel the world for year by way of the Remote Year program. To say it was a hecitc process to leap fully off my comfortable little cliff is an understament.
Now though? I’m on the other side of the decision and I’m much more comfortable with my choice,. And of course, thrilled to be living in Croatia, Czech Republic, Portugal, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and many more countries over the next year. Do you hate me yet? Don’t — because as amazing as I’m sure this experience will be, the path to sign on the dotted line wasn’t a smooth-sailing transition.
In fact, it went a lot like this:
Stage One: Freakin’ the F Out
When I got the phone call that I was accepted into the program, I was actually traveling. It felt serendipitous, considering I was doing something I loved to do and was being invited on the opportunity to be nomadic for a whole year. In more ways than I can describe, it was one of those time-stands-still moments when it truly felt like the stars aligned.
Stage Two: Celebration
Considering so many people across the world apply to be part of Remote Year, I was flooded with gratitude when I realized I was one of the 300 invited to take part in this journey. And of course, when I’m stupidly happy and thankful... it’s time to pop some champagne! At first, jumping up and down wasn't just an anaology - it was my reality, every time I told someone about this opportunity.
Stage Three: Reality Sinks In
But once I returned back to my home, New York City, was when the reality of the situation hit me. I was so excited to be welcomed to this program, but suddenly realized just how much I’d have to do — and ahem, how many changes I’d have to make — to really pack up and head out.
Stage Four: Crunching Every Number There Ever Was
My personality type mandates I never make a decision on a whim. As much as I’d love to throw caution to the wind — and hey, I might just do that since I’m considering skydiving in Bali — when I was trying to figure out if I was going to accept Remote Year’s invite, I knew I had to crunch some numbers. And not just financial ones: What about my taxes? Storage units? How much does international health coverage cost? How much of my savings could I blow? What about my student loan? And packing? What else did I need? Was this a wreckless — or incredible — idea?
Stage Five: Obsessing to My Friends (Who Hated Me For It)
OK, so they maybe didn’t hate me, but they did think I was being ridiculous. And they were right, but I had to talk it out to wrap my head around it. I even said to one of my best friends, "I'll miss your birthday!" And she quickly gave me some stellar side-eye paired with a witty response, “Okay, stay here. Meet me at a bar for my birthday. Or travel around the world. You pick.” (Thanks, Jenn.)
Stage Six: The Universe Has My Back
So the taxes thing? My tax accountant reassured me that as a freelancer, I’d actually save money because I’ll be out of the country more than 330 days of 365. My lease? It ends five days before I have to go. International healthcare? Much cheaper than you’d ever expect. Storage units? There are literally thousands in NYC, for reasonable rates. Every issue I thought I had to work through was painless, leading me with only one conclusion: The universe wanted me to go.
Stage Seven: Setting It in Stone
I get why Remote Year needs a deposit just two weeks after your offer. After all, demand is high. But man-oh-man, clicking "submit" on that non-refundable lump sum was an intense split-second. Luckily, I was having brunch with my dearest friend in the world — my mom — when I did it. It's a memory with her that’ll never forget. And booking that one-way ticket abroad? That was quite a moment, too — but the cost of the ticket had double 8's (like the year I was born) and my seat is the age I'll be for most of the year: 29.
Stage Eight: Buh-Bye, Job
While not everyone quits their job to do Remote Year (in fact the program helps people negotiate with their employers to keep their roles and travel) it was important to me to try and do it on my own. After building a writing career for a decade, I was ready for the plunge. Even so, putting in my month’s notice at a job I loved for three years was bittersweet and nerve-wracking. My palms were sweating until my boss congratulated me and gave me a hug, giving me the flood of relief that I made the right decision.
Stage Nine: Feeling All of the Things
As I start to have "see you later" dinners with all of my closest friends and prepare for the "see you abroad" party they're planning for me, I have moments where my heart swells, thinking of how much I'll miss the life I built the people who have become family. My friends are getting great at saying, "Go... but don't go." And they all want to come visit. While I know I'll miss them (and vice versa), it's nice to know that no matter where I roam, FaceTime can keep us connected.
Stage 10: The Freedom
There was nothing quite like that first day of being self-employed, knowing if I didn't want to do anything but hang out in my robe all day writing, I didn't have to. Everyone dreams of being on their own, making their own rules and living however they want to, and for the next year, that gets to be my reality. It's a bit scary, but more so, a feeling of freedom that I didn't anticipate.
Step 11: The Packing
I've already tried to pack my one checked bag and my one carry-on suitcase three times. It, um, hasn't gone well. But each time, it gets a bit better and it's making me realize how many things I have that I probably (read: definitely) don't need. I tell you, when your choices are to pay to store something or bring it with you on a year-long trip around the world, it gets a lot easier to let go of that pair of ripped flats you've had since you were 16. It also helps that the coldest place we'll be over the year is Kyoto, Japan, with a low of 65. A jean jacket should do it!
Stage 12: The Countdown
Once you’ve checked off all of the biggies, it’s really just a waiting game until your takeoff — but in the best way possible. Not only are all of your friends trying to soak up every single moment they can with you before you leave, but you have this big, beautiful adventure awaiting for you, with 60 new pals in the program you’ve yet to meet. Though it’s a constant up-and-down as I sort through my things, it’s also one of the greatest feelings in the world — knowing that this big risk could reap big rewards. And more importantly, that all of the stages of figuring out if I could actually do this led me to realize that yes, I can. I can do anything. And hey if I can, you can, too.
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