What's it actually like to quit and leave everything behind? It’s...
Imagine bungee jumping, or jumping off of a helicopter (parachuted, hopefully).
The anxiousness as you suit up, the jitters as you board the respective platform, and the split-second spark of excitement you feel right before you finally jump.
Ok – now imagine that concoction of anticipation and excitement, but spread out over a week. That’s mainly what it feels like to quit and leave everything behind. It might not be as potent, but the excitement is definitely there.
Then there’s our newfound freedom, which is just as amazing as anything else. Not knowing what new opportunities and pathways we could come across at any moment, not knowing what problems we'll have to overcome in the near-future, and simply embracing the unknown – it’s all exciting.
Even from a practical perspective, having time back in our control is unreal. If inspiration hits me late and I need to go to sleep at 5 AM editing and preparing photos, I can do that. If we want to take care of errands in the morning or in the afternoon, we can do that. And if we want to hold an all-day “garage sale” in our apartment, we can decide to do that too.
Until I stepped out of it, I hadn’t realized how much my life was controlled by an office schedule that I wasn’t particularly fond of. Not being confined to someone else’s reality is incredible.
This kind of freedom does come with the weight of responsibility, but it’s a weight we’re ready and willing to manage ourselves. A burden we’re grateful to have.
Alright, this one is probably obvious. Within a matter of a week or two, most of the things that we spent years surrounding ourselves with – gone. And every time we get rid of something, the future becomes more and more certain.
That’s when the internal uncertainty begins:
Will this actually work? Will I be able to do what I love for a living and actually live to tell the tale?
This is the stuff that comes up occasionally as I sell the last of my office work clothes. Or the moment I finally quit my job. Or when we sold our car and had to take a Lyft back home from the dealership.
Naturally, everyone’s fears may be different as they prepare to travel. What if something happens to you while you’re far from everyone you know? What if you make a huge mistake that leaves you stranded in some barely-known region of a country far from everyone you care about? What if you’re chased by a clan of rabid monkeys that steal your credit card and use it to buy an ungodly amount of bananas?
Those are the most common fears I hear. Usually though, you’ve done enough research to prepare for the worse of contingencies – and if something unexpected does happen, you trust in yourself (and whoever you’re with) enough to handle it. Real certainty dissolves fear.
Plus, once the wheels are set in motion, i.e. you’ve quit your job, made a public announcement about it, etc., it’s difficult to dwell on negative hypotheticals. Why? Because there are just too many things to take care of before takeoff. And even if you have a system in place (Marta has enough Excel sheets to create a small book), you double- and triple-check everything to make sure it’s right.
Towards the end, you have to sell this, buy that, close and cancel and quit those things but open and renew these other things, email this one person and call these other two, schedule visits for your friends and family … this list could go on, but I’d have arthritis by the time I finished typing it.
Point is, there isn’t much room for fear, or whatever is left of it.
The process of becoming a nomad has taught me so much about myself: it’s surprising how much you can learn about yourself by removing excess things around you.
By selling, donating, and giving away most of the things in our apartment, I noticed the few things I actually needed (most of which are in my backpack now), and how many things we had that were really just occupying space.
And, this is coming from someone who “declutters” his home every couple of months. Still, there were books that I swore I would read, furniture that I swore I would use, and clothes that I meant to wear.
Gone. I’m lighter and more mobile.
Then there’s time, and how we choose to spend it. Because Marta and I are leaving for about two years, most of the people we meet with won’t see us again in at least that amount of time.
While it isn’t a permanent goodbye, it sure feels that way.
When you limit the time you have left, it matters more. The time that we’ve been able to spend with friends and family has been much more impactful and meaningful than any of the interactions in the past couple of years.
By leaving, you realize what and who is really important to you. People and things you might have taken for granted before are suddenly much more salient in your life.
You also realize how many bills, contracts, and month-to-month agreements you’re pinned under. There are so. Damn. Many.
But soon, you let go of those as well and just like that – you’re lighter. Mobile.
I’ve embraced minimalism for a few years now: the efficiency and freedom that comes from decluttering and living a simpler life. Our backpacking will be the culmination of those principles and a life much closer to what I want, in my core.
Life is about growing, becoming a better person than you were yesterday, and helping others to do the same. Although we haven’t been working in the traditional sense, this week of uprooting our lives and everything we’ve established has been hectic. While I’d like to say it’s been an emotional roller coaster or something of the sort, it’s really just been an exciting and introspective adventure, exploring the freedom we’ve created for ourselves.
And sure, there’s uncertainty – but when isn’t there? Live your life to the fullest and embrace the unknown.
“Life begins where fear ends.” – Osho