“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” –Winnie the Pooh
As I prepare to pack up my apartment and set off around the world, I’ve been asked more than once why I would possibly give up the great job I have for such uncertainty. The answer: because it’s an adventure.
This isn’t the first time I’ve done this.
Although I grew up an east coast girl, in 2010 I was living in San Diego, California, a place that instantly felt like home. I had a solid (although unfulfilling) job, lived just two miles from the beach, and spent most of my free time outside. It felt like paradise, mostly.
I was still unfulfilled though and knew that I wanted to be doing something more meaningful with my life. I’d always had an immense love of animals and the idea of protecting them, whether it be from physical abuse, injury, or environmental destruction. I knew I wanted to make a career change, but into what I wasn’t sure.
I tested the waters of animal-focused travel on my first trip to Thailand, where I spent two weeks caring for rescued elephants. Just like that, I was hooked. I went back to San Diego and immediately began plotting my next, bigger trip. Then, after just over a year of living in California, I quit my job in the quest to figure out what I wanted out of life.
I packed up my apartment, put everything in storage, and set off for Ecuador, where I spent ten weeks in the Amazon collecting data for studies related to human impact on wildlife. We lived without electricity or hot water, got around in motorized canoes, and spent hours every day hiking through the jungle. It was amazing, but I wanted to try some hands-on animal care.
So on to South Africa I went, where I volunteered at a monkey sanctuary for four and a half months. I took care of orphaned babies, prepared meals for the adults, and distributed medicated bananas to the ill and injured. And although this was an incredible experience, I began to long for California. So I went back.
It wasn’t long though before the itchy feet began again. I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do with my life but I’d heard about a Masters program in England that sounded interesting. The focus was Primate Conservation. I love primates and the program was only one year, so I quit my job again, packed up, and moved to England. The course was a great experience and provided me the opportunity to travel even more (I wrote my dissertation in Sri Lanka), but I still hadn’t found that one thing I wanted to do long-term.
The uncertainty paired with another urge to return to California (you’d think I’d just stay there for a while, right?) sent me back to the US. I was lucky to get an internship with a fantastic non-profit in Los Angeles, and even luckier when I got hired less than two weeks later.
I’ve been in Los Angeles for almost three years now and have made fantastic friends. I’ve loved working for a cause I feel so passionately about and finally feel like I am making a positive impact on the world. So why am I leaving again when everything seems to be going right?
Because the world is full of adventures and I want to experience as many of them as I possibly can.
Yes, this experience of living in California, having a job I’m passionate about, and making some of the closest friends of my life is great. But it will also be great to spent a month at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, to backpack through Southeast Asia, and to finally visit Angkor Wat. And once I’ve done those things, I have an enormous list of other places I want to see and experiences I want to have. And those lists don’t even include the things you can’t plan for.
They can’t predict the time you’ll be invited to drink tea in a Turkish attic that looks like a secret bazaar, with beautiful rugs and intricate wood carving strewn about everywhere. Traditional outfits hung on racks throughout the room, antique artillery leaning against the wall, and more cushions and pillows than you’ve ever seen in one place.
They can’t predict the thrill of having a having a baby monkey run to you for a comforting hug. Or the time you feel like an adventurer when you’re hiking through the jungle and suddenly break into a clearing with the most amazing view you’ve ever seen.
When I look back on my life, those are the things I remember. I want to be able to tell stories of adventure, exploration, and excitement. Sure, my life right now is a great story, but why have just one great story when you can have dozens?