Ten years ago, I embarked on the trip that would change my life. It was 2004, and I was trying to convince a friend to visit the Galápagos Islands the following January. He wasn’t sold on the idea and suggested Thailand instead. Since I didn’t care where we went so long as we went somewhere, I agreed. I just wanted to escape the winter.
So in January 2005, we set off on our two-week trip.
If you had told before me that trip that I was going to come home, quit my job, and travel the world, I would have thought you were crazy. I was finishing an MBA and looking for a job in renewable energy. Travel was awesome, but me? A world traveler? Never.
Yet here I am 10 years later as exactly that.
Anniversaries have a strange way of making you nostalgic and reflective, and, as this one approached, I couldn’t help but reflect on that trip.
There is a lot I remember from it: getting scammed by a tuk tuk driver, trying street food for the first time, and staying in my first cheap guesthouse. I can recall in vivid detail how Bangkok’s Khao San Road was lined with missing person posters and donation jars related to the Boxing Day tsunami (it had happened two weeks prior to our arrival). The sense of pain in the air was so palpable.
And I remember the conversation with five backpackers in Chiang Mai that led to me turning to my friend a few days later and saying “I’m going to quit my job to travel the world.” I remember walking into Ko Samui’s English-language bookstore to buy Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring right after, pouring over it and taking notes even before I knew what I was doing.
But the one thing I can’t remember: the why.
Time has caused the reason I decided to quit my job to fade from memory. If you ask me now, I’ll say it had to do with being jealous of those backpackers, a sense of restlessness, and an overwhelming desire to travel. But, truthfully, I don’t know exactly. Most of the decisions I make in my life — good or bad — are done on impulse and without thinking.
All I remember was the feeling that I had to do it. Something just snapped.
And I just did.
But, 10 years later, the why is no longer important to me.
When I quit my job, I thought it was going to be temporary, but what I didn’t know then — and what I learned later — was that the travel bug only gets worse, and the more traveling I did, the less likely it was I’d go back to my former life.
It’s not easy to take the leap, quit your job, and travel the world — even for just a few months. There’s a lot of unknowns about a trip and no matter how much of a desire we have, it’s often hard to get past that fear. I had no idea how I was going to afford my trip, if I’d be able to do it, or what to expect.
But I refused to turn back.
I’ve never met someone who regretted their decision to travel. Everyone is appreciative of what travel has taught them, even those who came home early after realizing what they learned was that they didn’t like travel.
While I may never remember my train of thought on that day, I never second-guess my choice. If there’s any lesson I draw from that day 10 years ago, it’s that you never regret doing what makes you happy. Sometimes our gut instinct is right.
There have been mistakes along the way. There always will be. Nothing works out perfectly. But regret nothing.
Whenever I think “Should I do this?” I remember my decision to travel and realize nothing is ever lost by trying. If you fail, you not only end up back where you started — but with the knowledge you tried.
In 2015, don’t worry what others say. Travel more. Start a garden. Quit your job to become an actor. Finally take those Spanish lessons you’ve wanted.
Go with your gut. Take a leap and do what makes you happy.
We each have a finite time on Earth. There’s no sense in wasting it.
On Tuesday, I released the new edition of my book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, with over 100 new pages of content featuring tips and advice I’ve never discussed anywhere on this blog. As a special accompaniment to the release, I’m giving away up to $1,800 in free travel books, flights, accommodation, language courses, guides, shirts, and more!!! I’m super pumped about this book’s release and excited to be able to give away so many cool products with it. You can click here to find out more about the book and get your free extras!