On Bravery, Travel Writing, & Taking My Own Advice

by gigigriffis

Time for another leap off that edge.

For me, vacation is often about clarity. About thinking things through without the mind-clutter that work always brings with it. About having enough space, enough quiet, to ask my heart what it really wants.

Which is why so many of my big life decisions have been solidified on vacation.

Like years ago, after I graduated from college, when I took a weekend trip to New York City and decided that I was going to move there.

Or when I was living in New York and flew across the country to spend a week in San Francisco. I finally decided to quit the job I hated, move from the city that wasn’t a good fit for me, go to Europe for the summer, and then move to wild, mountainous Colorado.

And like this September, when I took a month off from my business (an exciting and frightening decision when your income depends completely on the hours you work) to struggle up cliffside paths, live out of a tent (mostly), and think.

I had several decisions to make.

And so I asked myself: what do you want to do moving forward?

Because right now I really do two or three different things. I’ve got the business, which is content strategy and web/copywriting. I help people fix their sticky content messes. I write headlines and develop brand language and strategize content marketing approaches and so on and so forth. But I also am a travel writer, an inspirational writer. I keep this blog. I write for International Living and Dogster Magazine. I’ve had great success in wedging my foot in the door of the travel writing industry in the last year. I also wrote a book, which brings in a teensy bit of income from time to time.

So, what did I want to do moving forward? Keep splitting my time? Make travel writing 50% of my income? Make travel and inspirational writing my full-time income? Slowly transition or jump in with both feet?

There were pros and cons to every approach, so I did what I so often do when faced with a tough (and scary) decision. I asked my heart to ignore the pros and cons and just tell me exactly what it wanted.

I want to be a full-time travel and inspirational writer. 

I want to have more phone calls like the one the night before I left Pennsylvania, where a friend called to tell me that my writing was instrumental in her decision to finally quit her job, spend three months teaching English to Tibetan refugees in India, and then start her business.

I want to get more emails like the one last week where someone I’ve never met wrote to tell me thank you – because by sharing my history with depression and my struggles (and triumphs) with self-love, I’d made her feel understood, hopeful, and not alone.

These little moments – phone calls, emails – have been some of the best of my life.

I want my work to matter. I’ve always wanted that. And for me, encouraging someone to jump off the edge and into the life of their dreams, encouraging them to do some good for themselves and the world, making them feel loved and understood, even from afar, is the height of mattering.

Still, of course, changing course is always scary. The majority of my income currently comes from my strategy and web writing projects. Travel writing is a much smaller slice.

But if I’ve learned anything in the past couple years it’s that if you want something in life, you have to go for it. You have to take the first step – small or big. The way ahead may be foggy and unclear, but the next step is usually clear and that’s the one you have to take.

Einstein once said that the most important question we’ll ask ourselves is whether the universe is a friendly or a hostile place. The Bible also touches on this idea, asking “who of you, by worrying, can add a single day to his life?” and reminding us that flowers and grass and birds are perfectly taken care of.

If we think the world is against us, it will seem to be. We’ll make decisions that create a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy. That doesn’t mean that every bad thing that happens in life is our fault (dear god, no), but it does mean that we have some power over the larger course of our lives. If we don’t trust those around us, we may miss opportunities. If we don’t have the courage to speak our dreams out loud, we may delay them.

And on the other side of that same coin, if we choose to believe that universe is overwhelmingly a friendly place (albeit sometimes a broken one and sometimes a hard one), overwhelmingly on our side, it will make us a little bit braver, a little more trusting, a little more willing to step into the unknown – be it our new business, a career change, a lifestyle change, a breakup, a new relationship, or something else entirely.

So I side with Einstein and the Bible on this one. I believe that life is tough, but it’s ultimately set up for our success. I believe that most people want to help. And, very importantly, I believe that I’m capable of stepping into the unknown and making my life into something new and beautiful.

Which is why it makes sense that this September, when my heart said that it wanted to write about travel and inspiration full-time, I listened. And I quietly started discussing the possibilities with those closest to me. For the first time possibly ever, there wasn’t a nay-sayer in sight (possibly because I’ve become wiser in who I choose to ask for advice from). Every person I told was thrilled. Some told me they knew that this would be my eventual path. Others told me they believed in my ability to do anything; I’ve already done so much. A handful of wonderful people in a variety of time zones told me they were rooting for me.

I started to believe even more that this is possible; I started to tell more people. Because I believe our words have power. Speaking things out loud makes them real to us and gives others the opportunity to help.

This is how I found my sweet top-floor apartment in the Bernese Oberland for the next three weeks. It’s how I got a petsitting gig in Paris later this month, which means a free trip to Paris. I told people I didn’t know where I was going. I told people I wanted to change my life. I told people I was scared and excited. And suddenly the next month of my life is affordably mapped out in some of the world’s most amazing (and most expensive) places.

And so here I am today, sitting in my new apartment, overlooking my favorite town in the Bernese Oberland, and starting the process of transition. Because by the end of this year it is my goal to be a full-time travel and inspirational writer. To transition out of content strategy and web writing and into a more personal form of storytelling.

Does this mean I’ll never do another content strategy project or that I am done with branding campaigns? I’m not sure. Because that’s the beautiful thing about making changes: you always have an exit. If I change my mind, if I miss websites and spreadsheets and audits, I will come back. But for now my heart is elsewhere and my intentions and actions are going to follow it.

So when you imagine me in Switzerland this October, imagine me sitting on a balcony that overlooks a waterfall, writing a pitch letter, dreaming up story ideas, and mapping out my book proposal.

Yet again, I’m taking my own advice, facing my fears, and stepping into the unknown.

As of now, I’m a full-time travel and inspirational writer. 

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34 comments

'Nette October 7, 2013 - 4:25 am

Hear hear! Snuggles and encouragement, lovely Gigi — trust me, the transition is far harder in your own head than in practice. I promise. Looking forward to seeing you again out in the wide wild world. x

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gigigriffis October 7, 2013 - 4:36 am

Thanks, lady. And right back atcha! I’m planning on spending lots of time in the valley over the next year, so let me know if you make any return plans yourself!

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Ali October 7, 2013 - 5:48 am

Congrats on the big decision to head off in a different direction, and congrats on the awesome apartment in Switzerland and the gig in Paris! You’re going to do great! You’re one of the bravest people I know, and you definitely inspire me.

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gigigriffis October 7, 2013 - 9:36 am

Thanks, lady!

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Heather B. October 7, 2013 - 6:06 am

Wow. Just wow. You continue to amaze and inspire me. Because I found your blog, I have begun my own baby-steps into the unknown in search of my next big adventure, and you’re right – speaking it out loud holds you accountable! There have been so many times where I thought maybe I should delete a blog post because it was too truthful or open, but then I decided to leave it; I meant those words when I wrote them and they are a part of me now. Good luck with your next step!
Sending you warm and happy vibes,
Heather

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gigigriffis October 7, 2013 - 9:41 am

Congrats on announcing and taking steps toward your own big adventure! And I totally agree – the most vulnerable stuff we write is usually the stuff we most need to publish.

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) October 7, 2013 - 8:30 am

BRAVE AND BOLD AND SEXY!!! you go Gigi!! Take the world by storm. :)

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gigigriffis October 7, 2013 - 9:42 am

Thank you!

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Sean October 7, 2013 - 10:33 am

Good for you! This is super inspiring. I just hope that at some point in your travels you will find your way back to Minneapolis! ;)

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gigigriffis October 7, 2013 - 11:32 am

Thanks! If I don’t make it to Minneapolis, I’m sure I’ll run into you at the BT team somewhere in the world. :)

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Rebecca October 7, 2013 - 11:43 am

Wahooo! That is great to hear was wondering why you werent doing it in the first place but, sometimes we just have to find our “way” no matter how long it takes us. Sooner rather than later but, never really works either.

I am sure that no matter what happens you will be fantastic at it and do a great job.

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gigigriffis October 8, 2013 - 4:00 am

Haha. Several people have given me versions of the “what took you so long?” comment. I guess that means I’m on the right track, yes? :)

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Rhonda October 7, 2013 - 1:50 pm

Good for you!!! I, too, believe that words have power and even though we’re still working hard to pay off debt and leave on our trip to South America, we talk about it often, with everyone we meet, because this gives us the inspiration to continue on when it’s tough or scary. Congratulations on making the leap. I think you’ll do great!

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gigigriffis October 8, 2013 - 4:00 am

Thanks. And good luck on your own leap!

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Kira October 7, 2013 - 2:10 pm

Perfect!! I think the world needs someone like that. :) And I think you’re the gal to do it! I have often wished there were even more resources on your site…even more travel tips, more REAL inspiration for soloprenuers…the world is ready when you are.

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gigigriffis October 8, 2013 - 4:01 am

Thank you!

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Rob October 7, 2013 - 3:22 pm

Excellent!

To steal and abuse a metaphor

“Nobody ever lay on their deathbed wishing they’d followed fewer of their dreams..”

And, should you run into difficulties, remember this great quote from Randy Pausch:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

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gigigriffis October 8, 2013 - 4:01 am

Those are lovely. Thanks.

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Jevolution October 8, 2013 - 12:39 pm

Gigi,

I’ve been following your blog for the past few months and want you to know how much it has helped me to battle through all kinds of crazy fears and negative thinking about starting my own travel journey. It’s taken a lot of work and there have been many moments when I simply couldn’t remember why on earth I was pushing myself to do something (even just the thought of) which was scaring me half to death. But your and other bloggers’ honesty about methods of dealing with depression/anxiety allowed me to keep my eyes on the prize, and a few days ago I bought my ticket to Stockholm as the launch point of my open-ended trek through Europe.

So, consider this another vote of confidence in your abilities to challenge, inspire and motivate others to reach for and touch their dreams despite the hurdles in their way. You’ll probably never know how many people you’ve already helped, but no doubt you’ll continue doing this even more with your new focus.

Thank you.

– Jev

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gigigriffis October 9, 2013 - 1:15 am

Wow. Thank you, Jev. That is exactly what I needed to hear!

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Gina October 12, 2013 - 3:17 am

This is so cool Gigi! I know you’ve written about past struggles and insecurity, but you should take the time to reread this post and realize how much you’ve taken control of those insecurities (even if they are surely still existent). As a young traveler, freelancer and expat I so appreciate your blog! Thank you!

Gina

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gigigriffis October 12, 2013 - 3:43 am

Thanks, Gina!

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