I am a dreamer. And most of my dreams, I realize, will never come true. Nor do I really care because I thoroughly believe the fun of dreaming is a justifiable reason to dream. So I have always had a dream of quitting my job, packing up my things, and traveling around the world. I am pretty sure that I share this dream with many people.

Author in Vietnam

Author in Vietnam

So, about a year ago, I had this crazy idea that I might actually be able to fulfull this dream. I had some savings, I had only a few worldly posessions, I had no demanding debts, I had no pending relationships, and I had a job I hated. Perfect combo! So, I quit my job, sold my car, packed up my things, and flew to SE Asia (Bangkok to be exact). This was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I traveled mostly alone, though I found that we are never alone in this planet-full of billions of people (especially in China!). I learned and saw and experienced more than I ever could have dreamed. It was an incredible experience.

Laos

Author in Laos

But as always happens in life, plans change, ideas get altered, and desires shift. Though I really did not leave with a plan for more than three months of travel, I ended up staying in Asia for around 5 months, visiting Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and China. Then I decided to return to the US for some important family and friend events (ah-hum, weddings), as I came to realize just how important loved ones are when you are on the other side of the world from them.  From there I ended up back in Mexico, planning to continue traveling in South America, when suddenly a “third-life crises” hit me. I started to freak out. I had everything – good health, an education, work experience, savings and a tan. And I had no idea where I wanted to live or what I wanted to do or who I might want to be with. And despite all the time and privileges and opportunities, I realized that without internal peace, we have nothing. And it is nearly impossible to enjoy life, even on a year off.

Living on an island

Living on an island

So, instead of continuing on the physical adventure, I ventured inward (which is a whole lot more scary than figuring out any subway in China). I wrote a lot, read a lot, thought a lot, met with a Life Coach, talked to many different kinds of people, and after a few months of stress and confusion, I decided to stay in Mexico, perhaps more as a default due to my inability to make any other decision. And I somehow found my way into an amazing, positive relationship. I started to meet many new interesting people and form new friendships. And now I am starting a new job in the field of strategy and innovation consulting. I cant say that I am any more certain about what to do with my life, but I have made a few decisions and am happy with where I am now. In Mexico, in-love, and excited to get back to work again! Without knowing it, my year-off led to more personal growth than I ever could have imagined.

Author in Laos

Author in Laos

So, what is my big take-away after my year sabbatical? I think everyone should take a year off. I don’t care who you are or what you do or where you live. It is the best thing that you can do for yourself. My only real advice is that it is a good idea to think a bit about what to do after your year off, which of course can change, but to avoid the unnecessary anxiety of uncertainty, it is good to have a tentative plan. I also understand that many people are not in the financial situation to take a year off, but neither was I. It does require a change in habits. I stopped shopping. Yes, that’s right, I just stopped buying new clothes, shoes, beauty products, music, movies, etc. Do you really need all those things you buy? I found out I didn’t. And traveling for 5 months with one small bag full of all your necessary possessions is an amazing, irreplaceable feeling. You start to concentrate on more important things, like relationships, people, learning about a place and understanding history. Though I traveled “alone” I was rarely alone, even back in Mexico City, I continued to meet people right and left, mostly because I am now open to it.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Aside from the pure joy of quitting your job with no other work to start, the best reason to go is that you will open your mind in completely new and unexpected ways. Even when I wasn’t traveling, I learned so much. I started reading a lot more, talking to all kinds of people, experiencing totally different things. I opened my mind and my heart. And I relaxed. A friend once told me that the first time he met me he thought I was on crack. And I could have been, because I was running running running all the time. But getting no where. The year off really helped me learn to be quiet. I have found a calm inside myself. And after mastering travel in completely foreign languages and lands, alone, I know I can face many greater challenges life is sure to hand me.

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