A long time ago I did an exercise in a journal. If you had to leave right now and choose 10 things to take with you, what would they be? This was years ago, around the time I read On The Road, long before I thought I would actually need to do it. The exercise was interesting because it focused my mind on two questions. ‘What do I need?’ and ‘What is most important to me?’. When I asked myself those questions with a finite construct around them I realised there where a lot of things in my life I didn’t need. Years later when it became a reality, I had even more things in my life I didn’t need. I don’t remember what all ten items were at the time, but it was not too far off from what I actually took with me.
At the heart of my decision to embark on an 8 month solo world trip was one thought. What would it be like to live a different type of life? Step away from all of it and gain some perspective. A big part of this thought was driven by my belief that we are not meant to work our lives away. We seek fulfillment from relationships and possessions outside of ourselves. We believe this will make us happy but actually causes us more pain. It’s a cycle of working to make money to buy things to acquire status while never taking the time to step back and ask… why? It is my belief that we are meant to experience as much this life as possible. This is probably why I have a hard time staying put for more than a year or two. But from where I was sitting— behind a computer for 50-60 hours a week, I was only experiencing a small part of life and the rest I was viewing through another’s lens. This world is too fantastic a place to experience through someone else’s eyes.
I am extremely fortunate to have been placed in a position that allowed me to take this trip. An opportunity of this sort should not be wasted by anyone afforded it. This statement does not solely apply to travel. It can be transposed to any discipline of life. If you have the means and the desire, go for it. A lot of people (I was guilty of it as much as anyone) will ask ‘Well what about X?’ or say ‘I can’t do Y’. The truth is, those are mental road blocks we put between our dreams and passions pushing them far enough out of reach to justify not going after them. One thing that helped me overcome those roadblocks was making a list and crossing each item off one by one. The further down the list I got— the more realistic the goal became.
The idea started in March of 2015 when I had a two week gap between jobs in Los Angeles. I booked a last minute trip to Thailand and went for it. At the time I hadn’t travelled much outside of the states and was scared to death. I had no idea what I was doing. That trip changed everything. There were great times and challenging ones. I did some things right and made some big mistakes. Got to meet so many amazing people from all around the world. Some traveling 4 or 6 or 12 months at a time. This blew my mind. When I arrived back in LA I had two days before I started my new job and I remember thinking “Why am I doing this? Why don’t I just go travel for a while?”. So I started day dreaming about it between meetings, running the numbers, going down the list. The original idea was to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a few months but I expanded that to an around world trip. Eventually I pulled the trigger, booked some flights, sold my car, and quit my job.
As of writing this I’m four months into the trip with another four to go. At the start I had hopes of finding answers to many questions inside myself. More than anything I hoped to come back with an idea of what I wanted to do with the next part of my life. From previous experiences I’ve gathered that the more you search for something the more it eludes you. So I have been working on living in the present— enjoying what’s directly in front of me. To appreciate a comfortable bed, a good meal, a friend to talk with, and to know that’s all your really need in life. That has been the most rewarding part of it all. As for answers, thus far only more questions have arisen. This past four months have been some of the best challenging of my life. More than anything it’s made me want to explore this world more and I’m just fine with that.
The Message of My Story…
Someone very important in my life use to say to me “If you don’t like the way things are, just change them.” By nature a pessimist, I couldn’t see how this was possible. There was something in my head that rejected the concept before I had a chance to internalize it. Her words stayed with me and when I went to Thailand it flipped a switch in my head. I was just shy of 31 years old when I left for this trip. Working for 10 years, I had built a good career, had great friends, and for the most part was happy. There was just something else out there I the needed to do. Maybe I’ll go back to a version of my life as it was before, maybe not. The point is— it’s never too late in life to change course, in any direction you wish for it to go. You don’t have as many things holding you back as you think. Find that goal, remove the roadblocks, and go for it.
If you enjoyed Stephen’s story, follow him on Instagram @middle_of_forever or check out www.middleofforever.com