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.