So, I’m going to travel again.
I’ve known this before I even got back to the states. The travel bug bit and the only thing I’ve been certain about in the last seven months is that I. must. travel. again.
I’ve realized that the hardest part of planning extended international travel is just deciding that you’re going to do it. From there, you just start putting the pieces into place to make it happen, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past several months.
Let’s back up. I realize that I’ve never really provided much context for this site or for what I’m doing with my life in general (honestly, I’ll have to get back to you on that one).
My name is Austin. I’m from the suburbs of Chicago, IL, USA. I grew up in a typical Catholic family, the eldest of four, the only daughter. I graduated high school with honors, went on to get a Bachelor’s Degree from a reputable university in Chicago, and then got a “real job” in marketing before moving out to Denver, Colorado. I was there for four years and despite having great friends, a good job, and living in one of the best cities in America, I was desperately miserable and unhappy. I would suffer through the work week only to binge-drink my weekends away and melt into a puddle of sadness and anxiety on Sunday. Rinse and repeat.
I finally got to a point where I decided I could not go on this way. Life is too short, I was too young, and I was far too miserable. I said f**k it and sold most of my belongings, packed what was left into my RAV4, drove back to Chicago and got on a plane to India in January 2019.
I completed my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India, and then travelled through Jaipur, Udaipur, Goa, and Bangaluru before spending a month in Sri Lanka. After that, I made my way through Thailand and Vietnam, and then finished my trip in Myanmar with a 10 day Vipassana silent meditation. I am not exaggerating when I say that this experience was completely transformational in every way and that it has changed the trajectory of what I thought my life would be.
Upon my return to the US in May, I knew that if I wanted to have the freedom to travel again, I needed to get my house in order. I had been carrying around (and ignoring) credit card debt since college that had grown to over $10,000. On top of that, I owed a couple thousand dollars on my car and was still chipping away at student loans from that aforementioned reputable university.
Within days of my return, I dropped off resumes at all of the nicer restaurants in my area and was rewarded with the opportunity to start training at a family-owned Italian restaurant nearby. A few weeks later, I got a second job as a daytime manager at another Italian restaurant.
Since then, I have been g r i n d i n g, working 6-7 days a week and spending next to nothing while living at home with my mom (the first time in ten years). It hasn’t been glamorous. It hasn’t been exciting. It hasn’t really been anything worth writing about.
That said, it has been humbling. It has been rewarding. It has been eye-opening. And to my surprise, it’s actually been pretty fun. For the most part I am lucky to have fun coworkers, and I’ve really had an opportunity to brush up on my Spanish in the meantime.
Much to my surprise, I completely paid off my credit cards by September – in just 4 months. I finished paying off my car in October. I still have a way to go with my student loans, but thankfully I have pretty fair interest rates and I’m under $10,000, which is a pretty good position to be in compared to many of my peers.
That brings us today, where I am sipping my second glass of wine, writing this from my bedroom in my mom’s basement, on my first night off in twelve days. I hope that none of this comes off as a humble-brag. because I am all too aware of the privilege that allowed me to accomplish all of the above. But I hope that if you’re reading this, and if you have a dream of traveling, this helps you to see that it’s possible.
Before I went to India, I thought travel was a privilege reserved only for the wealthy or the retired. While it may require some elbow grease, it’s possible and it is SO worth it. I think the world would be a much better place if we all got out of comfort zones and saw more of the world. So if you’ve read this far, and you’re looking for a sign, this is it.
YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU SHOULD DO THIS.
I also thought I might be able to offer a unique perspective to others as I work towards planning my next trip (South America) in real time. Most travel blogs that I’ve come across are either from intimidatingly well seasoned travelers, or from people with budgets I could only dream of. It also seems that many articles are written after the fact, with the entire trip wrapped up into a quick summary and tied up in a bow. If you want to see more than just a highlight reel, stay tuned.
So if you’re interested, I’ll be over here working away for the next few months. Working and planning and dreaming and waiting until the day I can once again throw caution to the wind and see more of this beautiful, dynamic, vast, incredible world.
Until next time…