Post 8: Why I Left a Comfortable Life to Travel the World

Three months ago, I boarded a ship, and left the United States.  I lived in one of the most beautiful towns in California.  I socialized amongst a wonderful group of friends, worked in the best CPA firm west of the Sierras, interacted with a large family, and dated the most beautiful, supportive woman I’ve ever known in my 27 years.

And yet, I left.  I left the comfort and safety of home, of a successful life, to take a year off, to see the world.

Why?

 

 

There is a dusty painting in my childhood room showcasing a flying character in a small, single engine cartoon-like plane, whose scarf, blowing in the wind, bears the words “Welcome- Nicholas Victor! May 22, 1989.”  My mother, who has a special, unspoken way of understanding the world, says she knew, when I was born, that I would want to travel.

During a 9th grade global studies class, the teacher assigned the project of hand-drawing maps of all the continents and countries of the world.  Most students groaned, but I reveled in the challenge.  Hours I spent, examining maps.  I recall drawing Europe, and thinking, how small!  I recall painstakingly drawing each island of Southeast Asia, fractured and segmented amongst larger, more contiguous landmasses.  I recall drawing Africa, and thinking it looked like a puzzle piece that broke off from the Americas.

During my junior year of college, I spent a year in Italy.  I loved discovering a new culture, new ways of thinking, a new reality.  When not practicing Italian, I spent most of my weekends traveling, exploring Europe.

After graduation, I set to work.  The real world.  I procured a job in a Santa Barbara accounting firm, and spent the first two years studying hard to obtain my CPA license.  I spent the following years dedicating my life to the job.

The work was challenging, but good.  I derived satisfaction from the long hours, from being part of a team, from earning trust and respect of clients and and colleagues.  Steady learning and experience, along with a steady paycheck, breed confidence and comfort.

The life I led was charmed—literally, billions of people dreamed of it.  But, as the years went by, something irked.  Those hand-drawn maps from 9th grade called to me.  I wanted to climb the world’s mountains, navigate the coastlines, and walk beside the great rivers.

A voice in the back of my head kept talking to me, urging me to leave, to go explore.  I kept ignoring it.  One day I thought, with a fright, what if that voice one day stops?

If I decided to execute this plan, this adventure, earlier in life, I would have wanted for money.  During my years working as a CPA, I saved enough to travel for one year—365 days—on 100 dollars per day, with a small cushion for margin of error.

If I decided to execute this plan later on, “later on” might never come.  Some of my close friends were already married, with one or two squirming, screaming children in tow.  One of my Dad’s friends, a CPA, in fact, worked 70 hour weeks all his life, the promise of travel a gleaming prize upon the retirement horizon.  Retire he did at 65, but not for long.  He dropped dead of a heart attack one month later.

And so, even though my conscience invented 100 different excuses, my heart resolved.  I honored the voice in the back of my head.  I decided to travel the the world.

 

 

Fantasies are easy to entertain.  Reality poses more of a challenge.  Not only did I abandon a steady paycheck that supported a sizable mortgage and comfortable lifestyle; I also had to say goodbye.  Goodbye to co-workers, client, friends, and people I loved.

First, I told my girlfriend, Karrmen. She cried, but not in despair.  I think she knew, understood, all along.  She, who had grown up in the bustling city of Hong Kong and moved to California of her own volition—alone and foreign—understood better than most my desire to travel, and knew it didn’t arise from any fault of her own.  And she supported me, against her self-interest, in every step I took.

Next, I told my family.  My mother burst into tears.  My father slammed the table with his fist, and said, “can I come?”  My siblings supported me.

Yet, I still debated, going back and forth in my head.

Why am I not satisfied, when I have all the opportunity in the world, and all the love and support one could ask for?  Am I trying to prove something?  Am I trying to run away?  What the heck, man?!

Of all people, Karrmen, the one with the most to lose, stepped in.

What did she say?

Go for it.

Be true to yourself.

You want to see the world.  If you let this opportunity pass, you will always regret it.

Go for it.

 

 

Initially, I was terrified of breaking the news to clients, to co-workers.  What would they think?  A quitter, a wayward slacker, drawn to dreaming and nonsense.  I built up these Maginot lines, these dark preconceptions that people would begrudge me for my decision, or would just be angry about the whole matter.

But, one by one, my preconceptions proved wrong.  Entirely wrong.  Every phone call I made, every meeting I held to “break the news” to clients was met with universal positivity.  I imagined the first question people would ask was “but, who will take care of my finances??” But, the responses were overwhelmingly “Ahh, good for you!  This is so cool!” and “Where will you go first??”

So, as one of my patient bosses predicted, “everything fell into place.”  I found eager, willing substitutes to uphold my obligations at work.  I collaborated with a property manager to rent out my house.  I created travel spreadsheets and budgets. I packed.

And so, here I am, three months into my adventure.  I spent a month traversing the Pacific Ocean, through Hawaii and Fiji and New Caledonia.  I spent another month in Australia, the ancient, windswept continent.  And yet another, driving 4,000 miles and trekking over ten marathons through New Zealand, the land of wizardry and beauty.

And now I sit, three months into my year-long adventure, poised to enter Indonesia and many more adventures beyond.

Do I sometimes miss home, and friends, and family?

Yes.

Do I sometimes feel alone?

Sure.

But, I’m supported by more than I know, and with a smile on my face I’m very excited for tomorrow.

 

 

 

Map Update:

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(And, here are some pictures from my last weeks in New Zealand.  Couldn’t resist)

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Wharariki Beach
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Mount Doom again on the drive back North.  Quite lovely, really.
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“I have it, you want it!”  -Xena, princess doggie
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“The Selfie Stick”

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Happy in Hobbiton

 

Cheers,

Nick

 

 

 

 

28 thoughts on “Post 8: Why I Left a Comfortable Life to Travel the World

  1. Dude! Your writing is getting masterful by the day. Billy’s back just in time — our starting hooker just got injured. Billy starts on Sat.

    I feel like you got everything out of NZ you hoped to, so that’s great. Best of luck in Asia.

    Lance Mason Email: lmason@silcom.com 1212 Calle Cerrito Santa Barbara, CA 93101 Phone: (805) 910-5491

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You are simply amazing cousin… I can’t say anymore. I love you and hope you are simply getting all of your travel experiences you ever hoped and wanted…

    Love you,

    Jen xoxoxox👍💋💕

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Having no clue as to what brought you to read the blog about Young at Heart, I’m so happy to have met you. You’re following your dream, a piece of your young life. As a woman, almost 86 -how did that happen when I’m so adorable, full of fun, tap dancing with my cane and writing books every day about Survive& Thrive. Enjoy your journey, my new friend.
    Hugs from Charmaine Gordon

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Dearest, Sweet Nick, Crying, not teary eyed, crying, I am so very moved and touched by your kind, sweet words! Si, you are so right in that your desire to travel, conquer, see and experience the world has always been within you. Occasionally I would catch you staring into space and knew you were dreaming of far off places, LOL, not homework. All of you were excellent students, lots of hard work and high grades. Once we took Roxanne out on a week night to celebrate her birthday, she mostly cried as she said she needed to be home studying…ah well, we have smart kids for sure, teehee, and we are very proud of you all.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience with us all. We feel closer and happy to know how well you are doing. Of course, you mentioned days where you feel lonely or miss us, but, stay the course and we know these moments are just that, fleeting. We all know you love us as we love you, and you DO have all our support.

    I have chatted with your Karrmen prior to your trip and of course, after. I am so very proud of her and her amazing confidence and her love of you to support your adventure. Good for her. She is a bright, Bella, sweet girl, and we love her very much, too. Life is precious, but more so when we have the love and support of Family.

    As always Honey, stay safe and healthy….have fun and enjoy. Keep sending your sweet, wise words and take lots of pictures….they have been wonderful!!! You look so handsome and happy!

    Love Always,
    Mom

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Nick, wow, that was a great letter! I am so happy you are following your dreams. Most people don’t have the courage or the incentive to do what you are doing. I am so proud of you. Blake and Carl are on a adventure too. It must be in the blood. Blake is in Death Valley Ca. doing water studies and Carl is in Mexico enjoying the culture and the beautiful weather. I miss the so much but like you I know they are doing what they want. You have a wonderful and safe trip. I think of you often!!! Love you too. Aunty Drea.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love reading your blog, it so good to see your
    living your dream
    Never destroy that voice in your head it’s what keeps passion alive
    Your hobart Tasmanian host
    Rose

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Congratulation yours life is the way to be happiness. May be I would like to try someday starting to write all my life ecperience in Balinese eh eh eh.
    Once again thank you a lot give us a new way to keep the history life to our next geberation..my daughter Bunga and my son Juna.
    Have a safety n happiness journey Nick..
    Best regards,
    Kadek n family Bali

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Kadek, it was wonderful to meet you and your family! And yes, you should write some of your Bali experiences down, I’m sure people would enjoy reading about them. Take care and hope to see you and the family soon (in Bali or in California :-))

      Like

    1. Thank you, and congratulations to you for giving it serious thought. I found it helpful to ask people you trust, and especially some older folks, what they think of the idea. Someone said “Ask people near retirement if they would have regretted doing something like this at your age – they have the added benefit of hindsight.” After talking about it with many many people I was amazed by how many were supportive of the whole affair, and it’s value in the grander scheme of things. Good luck whatever you decide to do!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you very much. I find that many people have dreams and aspiration but few can follow through and pursue their dreams due to various of reasons. I don’t want to become someone asking the dreaded “what if” question or say that “I should are”. Life is now, today as we are not guaranteed another day. So all that money saved for retirement etc. that we might never see….just maybe we should allow ourselves to live a little now.
    Congratulations again on your journey and I can’t wait to read more of your adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Currently re-reading The Hobbit and laughed like a little kid when I saw the first picture on this entry! Reading your posts and thoughts on traveling I can see why you like the Tolkien universe so much, it caters perfectly to your sense of adventure and discovery. Glad you’re having a fun time bud, stay safe and keep on exploring, but steer clear of goblin-infested caves and treasure-hoarding dragons…or don’t! “There and Back Again, a Tale by Nick Elliot”.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Such a wonderful piece. Something I desire as well. For now, I can only take a few days or 2 weeks off. A year? I don’t know about that yet. But I love challenging myself and probably do it someday as well. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

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