We’ve all made big life decisions – what college to attend, what job to take, whether to get married, have children. We all know it can be scary, knowing that decision will be one of many that charts the course of our lives, so we do our research and often follow the path we know or recognize, the path we are most comfortable with.
It’s easy to see what is expected of us in a lifetime, what the societal norm is, how Hollywood portrays the ideal life. Go to college, fall in love, get married, buy a house, have children and live happily ever after. But how do we really live our best life, the life we truly believe in? How do you take that leap to break from the norm?
1. It all starts with an idea.
I was burnt out, surrounded by concrete in the city that never sleeps with what felt like no escape. At the same time, I had a job I loved, an active social life and my best friends by my side. It was time for a change, but I didn’t know what to do or where to go. Sure, after 8 great years in NYC I was ready to move onto something new, but where? The easy answer was Chicago, where I could be close to my family and easily get out of the city. I knew I wasn’t ready to settle down – I needed a bigger change and an opportunity to figure out what would come next, so I came back to an old idea of moving to Europe. I looked into visas and how to get a job abroad and found it wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. I then stumbled across a program that allowed me to live and travel abroad, while working remotely.
2. If the idea comes first, denial comes second.
At first it was exciting, until I started thinking about the risks. What would this mean for my career? What would I miss out on with my family and friends? How would I keep in touch with everyone and support them through their own life changes? I thought I couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. I’ve worked hard to get where I am and shouldn’t give that up.
3. Then the stubbornness kicked in.
Why not? Why can’t I try it? What’s the worst that could happen? People take gap years, sabbaticals, create new careers…there was no good reason why I couldn’t do the same.
4. Organization was key.
So I started organizing and figuring out the logistics. Would I stay at my current job or take a break? Would I find a new remote role or look into freelancing? At the end of the day, what would it take to make this all work?
5. But so was the fear.
The more I got into the details, the scarier it all became. There was a fear of the unknown and what would come next for my life. I was scared of what people would think when I decided to take some time off for a European adventure.
6. I asked for advice.
I spoke with my family, friends and mentors. They asked hard questions, and questioned whether I should risk my career, but at the end of the day were all extremely supportive. The more I spoke with others, the more I came to realize that while I valued their advice and guidance, I was really looking for acceptance. We all care what the people around us think, and weigh the risks of how they will see us.
7. From there, my decision was made.
Regardless of the amazingly positive support I received, I had to make the decision for myself. I need a break, an opportunity to reflect and decide where I want to go from here. I’ve made a lot of decisions in the past because they were “right” or what I thought others expected of me. It’s time to take my life in the direction I want, without conforming to those societal influences.
8. To make this all work, preparation was key – and extremely stressful!
I gave up my apartment and moved back to the Midwest. I am planning my transition away from work and getting ready to live out of a suitcase for 5 months. I had to be organized and built out my project plan for my journey (I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone!). Most importantly, I asked for help, and kept the people in my life close. I could not have gotten to this place without them!
9. Now I am kicking off the adventure of a lifetime!
Over the next four months, I will be living in Split (Croatia), Prague (Czech Republic), Valencia (Spain) and Sofia (Bulgaria) and I could not be more excited! I’ll be finding remote work through freelance and consulting but will also be taking time for myself to self-reflect and figure out what I want to do from here. I am going to explore, immerse myself in new cultures and hopefully make some amazing friends along the way.
I have received overwhelming support from friends, family and colleagues, and cannot count the number of times I have heard from others that they wish they had done something like this.
We’ve all heard the things you regret most in life are those you don’t try. So don’t have those regrets – hold onto those ideas, and take the leap that makes your life the greatest adventure it can be!