If you made it all the way to the end of my book, you know what happens. After more than two years of searching, experimenting, figuring things out, I (spoiler alert!) still didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I’m sure some readers wanted it all wrapped up in a pretty little bow, but I couldn’t deliver that. And that’s how most of real life goes anyway — we don’t have fairy tale endings to everything. I was fine with that, and so was my editor, but I can now admit that just as we were putting the book to bed, in final edits, I started to see a path. It was too late to add an epilogue, and I only had the barest outlines of what I thought I might say anyway.
Fast forward six months or so and my life is changing in so many ways that I can’t even keep things straight myself. That path I saw? I started to walk down it. I started to look at where it might take me. And I started to feel incredible joy and excitement, even though it meant the curtain would come down on other parts of my life.
Like so many people on this lonely planet, I’ve had an undercurrent of wanderlust coursing through me for most of my adult life. I love nothing more than a roadtrip with all the windows down and no idea where I’ll end up. (That’s something I did the week after I quit my job… pulled out of the driveway with a packed car, six empty days and no idea where or how I would spend them. It was one of my favorite trips EVER.) I lived in Europe for a very short period back at the turn of the millennium and explored much of that continent while there. I’ve since taken three trips to South America and fell more in love with it each time. The last time, earlier this year, I didn’t want to come back.
The wanderlust is now so strong that my greatest emotional need at this moment in my life is to be untethered. And if I’ve learned nothing else over the last three years, since that day I quit my job, it’s that I have to listen to myself, and I have to act on what I’m hearing.
So the epilogue is about to begin. Except I’m calling it an EPICLOGUE! I’m off on an adventure of indeterminate length. I’ve told friends and family about what I’m doing, and they’ve all had fairly similar questions, so below you’ll find an FAQ explaining what I’m up to, when it starts, and, in the end, What the Hell Am I Doing? I’ll be chronicling it on these pages and elsewhere, so I hope you’ll wander alongside and share your own thoughts and dreams. I got off the merry-go-round and onto the roller coaster three years ago – and the ride continues unabated. The difference this time is that I’m truly ready to enjoy it. Anybody know a good book I could read along the way…??
Q: SO C’MON… OUT WITH IT!…WHAT’S NEXT?!
A: I leave in mid-December for Southeast Asia and I don’t know when I’m coming back. Happy New Year!
Q: What do you mean you don’t know when you’re coming back?
A: I don’t know when I’m coming back. I’m off on an adventure like I’ve never had before, and — by design — there is no real strategy to it. I lived my entire life with big plans, knowing exactly what I wanted to do, what I wanted to accomplish, where I wanted to be and what my life was going to look like, and I did all of that and was successful beyond anything I could have hoped for. But I’ve lived the last three years with NO plan and it worked out pretty well. So the plan, such as it is, is to have not much of a plan at all, except for the broadest outlines.
Q: Why Southeast Asia?
A: Why not? My first instinct was to return to South America, specifically Peru, which I fell madly in love with earlier in 2015. But I’ve already been there. I’ll go back one day, but I should go somewhere else as the first step in this grand adventure. I’ve never been anywhere in Asia. I’ve been obsessed with Ha Long Bay in Vietnam since the first pictures I saw probably 25 years ago. And I found a cheap airfare LA to Saigon back in June. So… Vietnam is first. From there, the stories I hear about/find will dictate whether the next stop is Laos or Cambodia or Thailand or Malaysia or Indonesia or beyond. I’m hoping to spend at least 1-2 months in each country I visit. I do love South America, so I’m sure I will be back there soon enough. I want to get to Cuba before it’s overrun with US tourists. Africa? Russia? New Zealand? Who knows. No rules except no war zones. (*parental applause commences*)
Q: Do you know the language(s)?
A: Nope. I speak English and just enough German to order beer and pretzels.
Q: What about your pets?
A: They’re taken care of. I will miss them. Especially kitty.
Q: Is your husband going with you?
A: No I will be traveling solo. We are no longer spouses but remain friends.
Q: Aren’t you worried about your safety?
A: Not any more than I worry about it when I’m crossing the street in Los Angeles. There is risk everywhere. I also choose to believe in the fundamental goodness of people across the globe. That doesn’t make me naive… it makes me a hopeful world citizen.
Q: Will you be posting/blogging/tweeting/facebooking/instagramming/tumblring/periscoping while you’re traveling?
A: Of course! If I don’t, then none of it is actually happening, right? Kidding. Yes, I’ll be chronicling the adventure… in fact I’m thinking about putting up a new website for this next life chapter (one that better reflects me and the coming adventure). But even if I don’t do that, I’ll be writing and continuing to commit journalism, and certainly posting on photo sites and sometimes on social media. Friend me, follow me, subscribe to my newsletter, do all that stuff and I’ll keep you in the loop on where I am, who I’ve met, and what I’ve seen. I can’t wait to share those stories.
Q: What kind of stories are you looking for, and can I make suggestions to you?
A: I welcome any and all story suggestions — always have, always will! I’m mostly looking for stories of people doing good in the world, of compassion bubbles similar to what I found in Peru. I spent a career in journalism that mostly reported on all the negative crap in the world and I’d like to shine a different kind of light out there (though I will always be, at heart, a reporter and will run toward an important story good or bad). Good news isn’t generally news, unless it’s feel-good cat videos and heart-warming stories of rescuing an elk from a frozen pond. I’m looking for the deeper “good” news. It could be volunteer efforts, new ideas/methods for solving major societal ills (especially as applies to women and women’s rights), or anything else that deals in solutions, human ingenuity, compassion and empathy. I’m looking to tell the stories no one else is telling.
Q: Are you staying in radio? How can I hear you?
A: I’m taking audio gear with me, and certainly hope to file stories for US networks while I’m away, though I have no guaranteed “gigs.” There are plenty of ways to commit journalism on your own in this day and age, and I’ll keep you apprised of how I’m doing that and where you can find my work. I will likely do a podcasty-type audio diary of some sort chronicling the things I see, the people I talk with, and whatever I’m finding interesting about the experience. I’m also hoping (planning!) to seriously up my photography game and will be doing lots of photo essays, in addition to written essays and reporting. Needless to say, if there is breaking news wherever I am… I’m ON IT.
Q: So are you working for someone?
A: No. I’m working for myself — and maybe by extension for you. I’m a freelancer. This is by design — I don’t want to have someone else dictating where I go and what I do.
Q: How are you supporting your travel?
A: That’s a personal question! But to answer, I’m financing it on my own. Any money I do make from freelancing will serve to extend the travel beyond the current timeline that I’m expecting.
Q: What is that timeline?
A: I’m hoping to be gone at least a year. Emphasis on at least.
Q: What kind of research/preparation have you been doing?
A: Well I got all of my immunizations, which showed me yet another side of our absurd healthcare system ($1,200 for rabies! what?!). I’m in the process of getting visas for countries that require them, and have bookmarked the US state department’s website. I’ve spent a lot of time on the websites of longterm travelers who’ve gone before me — and there are LOTS of them — but my favorites have been Jodi Ettenberg’s Legal Nomads, Uncornered Market (Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott), and Nomadic Matt. Their sites have provided invaluable instruction in packing, preparing, and thinking about what I want from this experience and how I can make it useful and valuable to other people. I haven’t picked up guidebooks because I mostly want to avoid being a tourist, but I will probably get a Lonely Planet guide for Southeast Asia at some point in the next few weeks.
Q: Are you okay?! Is this a midlife crisis?
A: Yes! More than okay! Sure, I have moments — lots of them — where I ask that familiar question of myself: What the Hell Are You Doing?! But then I remember what I’m doing and why. And although yes, I grudgingly admit to the midlife part, it is NOT a crisis. I prefer to call it a reset. I look back and see quitting my job three years ago as the first step in an evolution of what I want my life to look like at this point along the way. I’m fortunate to be able to do this, and I’m even more fortunate to embark on this adventure with the support and understanding and well wishes of those closest to me. All of them. Sure, this is not how life is “supposed to” go — but I’ve left behind that whole “supposed to” bullshit. As I say in the talks I give, we get one shot at this life… just one. This is what it feels like I’m “supposed to” do right now, so I’m doing it. And I am just fine, thank you for asking!
Q: Didn’t you have a chapter in your book called “The Eat, Pray, Love Thing” where you said that, in fact, was NOT what you were doing when you quit your job, and aren’t you now doing that?
A: Um… yes. Kind of. I’m not a politician — I’m allowed to flip-flop! I mean… evolve!
Q: What if you get there and you don’t like it? Or what if you decide you don’t want to be gone so long?
A: I’ll come back.
A: Part of me believes goals are overrated. Sometimes it’s good to just experiment and have an adventure without having any real idea where you’re going to end up, what you’re going to learn, and how it’s all going to shake out. That said, I don’t want to wander aimlessly, so I do have a personal notion of how I want to look back on this experience and what I want to accomplish in my head and in my heart. I’m sure I’ll be sharing some of that along the way. So as we say in my business… stay tuned!
A: YES, PLEASE!