Friday, February 22, 2013


When friends ask me about my reasoning behind this trip, my response is not clearly defined. I don't feel like I was trying to find myself. I think I am trying to take advantage of my life circumstances the fullest way possible. I'd like to give a shout out to those who made this happen...and to those who inspired me along the way.

This summer was my big 3-0. A few weeks before it, I had made a small and determined bucket list to learn how to mountain bike, longboard, and drive stick. I'd say I accomplished them all, even though my manual driving skills could use a lot more work. I decided then on that making small bucket lists in short time frames was the only way that I'd accomplish them, instead of making them too grandeous and for 'someday'. That's the relaxed procrastinator in me.

This summer I was fortunate to meet some friends with unique life outlooks as well. The first was so sick of losing himself to the daily grind that instead of just taking a vacation, he quit his job to travel. After all, you can always find a new job later! He was a vagabond for nearly a year, visiting friends and unique countries. He and other friends told me how a month in Thailand would be equal in cost to one week in Europe...if done right, it would cost less to travel around here versus live back in the states.

His inspiring book was The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. I read that as favorite takeaways from that being: do one thing a day that you fear and each day you will grow. And also, to take a bunch of mini retirements versus saving up for one big retirement when who knows what your situation or health will look like then. Time and tide wait for no man.

Another friend told me about the book A Milllion Miles In A Million Years by Donald Miller. After reading that I wanted to quit my job to create my best life story...because no interesting story starts in a cubicle.

During my Monday morning pipeline meetings at work, set for one hour but always dragging on for two, I'd drown out the others and make this my own personal pipeline meeting. After all, I was one of the only designers amongst the construction discussion. Most of the meeting did not pertain to san serif fonts and white space. I would make lists about where I would rather be than in those meetings. Looking back in my life what were my greatest work moments? Working in a coffeeshop or working on the farm. If I had a year to live, what would I be doing? Who would I spend it with? If I had a month to live, a week to live, a day to live. Every moment counts. Aside from this personal insight, this work meeting has just taken away two hours of my life.

My good friend whom I currently garden with was feeling the same feelings of escaping the 9-5 to start a farm. So we decided, along with her husband, to go for it. Next spring we'll start a farm! So from then on I'd make any downtime into researching what I'd do to startup this farm. Come fall I took the beginner farmer class with my friend's husband. I was planning to step down to part time at work when the farm started in spring, so when I was laid off, that changed everything.

Suddenly I had a couple weeks to spend with my family, instead of the few days for holidays. Then after that, instead of sitting around waiting for spring, why not travel before I have settled on a farm with a very small income??

I chose the places I did purely based on acute interest and how far my money would stretch. I wanted to visit each continent but realized that would be far fetched with money. Also, I chose some of the least romantic places since I'd be traveling mostly solo. I hope that my travels don't bring jealous fact, I hope people are able to laugh at and with me through my stories. And if I can inspire others to find what it is they truly want to do in life, their happiness makes me happy. It doesn't need to be travel. But I enjoy seeing others passionate about life and what they are doing, fulfilling their life dreams before retirement, even if its cleaning toilets. I've seen too many hours go towards complaining and that saddens me. Life is too short.

So huge shout outs to my friends and fellow farming partners, Christa and Dan for putting farm dreams to reality and still being so supportive of my travels. Although the growing season doesn't start until March, there's still a lot of planning and prepping that happens in the dead of winter. I'm excited to hit the ground running when I get back, as this is still very unreal to me that farming will be my full time job!!

More kudos to my supportive parents. Friends constantly ask how my parents reacted, and I just shrug. My parents have always given my siblings and I free will to explore and find our own way...offering insight or asking questions when appropriate. They never pressured us to be a certain profession, but encouraged where we had our God given talents...stopping us if they saw us making the same mistakes they did. I wasn't one to get bad grades, but if I did, they didnt give lectures, rather, they'd ask me if I had learned from the bad grade. So yes they did question why I wanted to travel, especially to the other side of the world and to poor countries. I encouraged them to come with! But realize they have their own places in mind if they were to travel next time :) for now they sent me off with lots of prayer which has been the ultimate love and protection.

Many kudos to my coworker friends back in Chicago who probably thought I'd get here in a boat. Or anything besides a plane. They encouraged me time after time about the safety of flying. And I was nuts for all those six hour drives to Minneapolis instead of the 30 minute flight. I would have them tell me about their worst flight experiences and how they had handled them...most importantly showing me that they had survived. I couldnt understand how some even LOOKED FORWARD to flights. It took me moving far away from family and having planes be the most practical mode of transport before it finally sunk in. I am forever grateful to them, as a whole new world has opened up before my eyes.

I want to thank all my friends and new travel friends who shared their travel experiences with me. Those who gave me ideas on where to go and what to do and what not to see. Cat for sending her travel itinerary and book suggestion for BA. Rajesh, not only for setting up an itinerary for me in India, but for being my guide in Mumbai and welcoming me into his family's home so i could experience the real welcoming beauty of India. To the fellow backpackers whose paths just happened to cross with mine, whether we'll ever cross paths again or not. You all (or from the Scottish term I just learned 'yous') were more helpful than any guidebook. Your stories much more relevant and colorful. It's the fellow travelers who have really shaped this trip into something worthwhile. You don't make goodbyes any easier, even in crazy SE Asia.

I'm gracious to have supportive friends like Keri and LB for being way too generous when I dog sat before my trip! And to my freelance clients who were understanding of a much needed vacation, who paid me way far in advance to have funds for this trip and not so much as make a peep to interrupt my time off. Thankful for my tenants for watching my place while I'm gone, and my landlord for being flexible with that arrangement.

I have felt so loved from those friends and family like you who are reading this and sending me words of encouragement and excitement. I don't feel like I've ever been alone on this trip as I open my inbox each morning and hear from you. I'm so blessed.

What would this trip be without my true travel companions, Jess and Emily. Jess for showing me the ropes on planning and booking everything. Something I DESPISE doing. So thanks for doing the dirty work. And for somehow always having great ideas like me so that we'd never argue, even though we should if we want to be advanced travel partners! Who would have thought when we would party together in college 10 years ago that we'd be a great travel match. For those of you with wandering minds, we are JUST friends!! promise. He loves Chicago, electronica, glow sticks, and the Packers. Not sure how we're even friends actually :) then there's my lovely Emily! I could not be more thrilled to do what we do best...catch up in the sand and water while discussing everything under the sun. My experiences and thoughts from this trip was a jumbled plate spaghetti...afterwards she helped me make sense of it all. She's so great with putting everything into perspective. Offering insight and laughter is her best tagline because its true! I haven't laughed like that in a long time. I think I have a six pack now :)

And last but not least...Greg! He fits into most all of these categories as a former Chicago coworker and friend who passed on words of wisdom. But probably the most insightful thing he shared, also the one I noted but thought I could forget...he told me to smile. Really? Well duh, I generally think I'm a happy person and smiling all the time. That is until, I found out, you see slums and pollution and just chaos in the streets and people just staring me down with a look. And just when you think you hear your mom calling and you have to go WANT to go smile. Even if its fake. And the glaring eyed person smiles back. And suddenly your smile softens into something more real. That's the secret!! That's it! No one can NOT smile when someone smiles at them. Heck, most people turn 180 on their motorbike in confusion to why this white chic is smiling at them. I distinctly remember getting overwhelmed a few times in cities...questioning why this country girl chose to be in these crazy cities in the first place. So I gave myself a pep talk to make the most of the situation...and smile. And suddenly I'd have the best day, feeling like I made someone else's day just with a smile. Greg, your advice has been paid forward, as I have now told other travelers this secret. They too have put it to practice and gotten the same positive reaction. Here on out I hope I don't come across as that quiet lonely person sitting in the corner, keeping to themselves, when there are travelers just a few feet away with stories to share over beer and Oreos...and who are waiting to hear my story as well.

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