aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Ourminds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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why i decided to travel the world

Sunset

I have never told you why I decided to travel round the world.  I told you my fears about the how and the what but never the why.  Then, in the last two weeks, two bloggers wrote about whether travel could cure a thirty-something midlife crisis and the jump off the precipice of everyday life into extended travel because of that looming age.  I decided it was time for me to spill the beans.  You see, the reason I decided to travel the world was because, one year ago today, I turned 30.

Patrick had different reasons --- he always does --- because, for him, turning 30 was no big deal.  I, however, felt the crush of the dreams that I had not fulfilled and the weight of responsibility against my shoulders.  By 30, I was supposed to have figured out my life and found a career that would intellectually satisfy and stimulate me.  I was supposed to be a "grown up," comfortable with who I was and where I was heading.  Instead, despite a successful career, I knew nothing about who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with the next years of my life. 

I needed to unplug.  I had already planned to quit my job at a law firm to work for a judge for one year and, after that, we would travel for a year.  I hoped that by leaving the United States, I would gain some perspective and have some fun.  Traveling long term would be the ultimate thumb to the nose to those who said that 30 meant responsibility.  So, three months and one day after my birthday, we left.  As our plane left Hartsfield International Airport, I crossed my fingers, hoping that the sacrifice of leaving our dogs behind would result in a happier, healthier us. 

I was wrong.  In the first few weeks, I was awed and overwhelmed by Australia and New Zealand .  But, quickly, that question returned to haunt me: ultimately, what am I doing with my life and, when this trip is over, what then?  Problems did not disappear because we left our homes, our jobs, and our lives in the United States.  If anything, my problems were amplified because more money was leaving our bank accounts than entering and I had no concrete solution to utilize my skills in a work environment.  We were still the same people, tied to the same responsibilities, whether we were in Atlanta or Asia. 

Travel was not the answer.

The cure to my thirty-something malaise was something else altogether.  The cure was freeing myself from expectations.  Expectations were the lace web that manacled my wrists to my chosen career.  There were my family's expectations, my peers' expectations, and the expectations of society at large, who dictated that college followed by law school followed by Big Law was the right choice for a smart girl. 

Worst of all, there were my own expectations, ones that I had built up since I was eight years old when I learned that writers rarely made money but lawyers could write and make money at the same time.  By the time I was fifteen, I had built myself a house of glassed-in dreams, based on high rise living and cushy offices, dreams fulfilled by the time I was 25.  A year ago, I understood Matt's complaint that his "soul is aching for more --- for enrichment that conference calls and trips to Home Depot cannot fulfill."  I thought that was what my soul was aching for, too. 

Traveling dissolved all the expectations I had built for myself because, other than Patrick, no one knew me on the road.  I had already dropped out of my career and had changed my bar license to "inactive."  I answered to no one and took the time to discover what I love and what keeps me going every day.  It turned out that all I needed was a healthy dose of perspective, something I could have gotten in Atlanta just as easily as in Australia.  

A good friend of mine graduated from law school in the top of her class, with great predictions for her legal future.  Instead, she met a guy and had two kids and now stays at home with them.  People don't understand, she says, how she could have given up a dream career to stay at home but, once she had her kids, her perspective shifted.  In a way, that's what happened to me.  I stopped worrying about what everyone else wanted ---- and especially what I thought I once wanted ---- and started worrying about what I want now.  I stopped caring about the 15 year old girl inside of me and started caring about the 31 year old woman who stands in my shoes.

06/18/2010 07:11
What a beautiful post and all too true. You are absolutely correct when you say that what is needed is perspective, which can happen anywhere in the world. Congrats on realizing that you needed a shift in priorities and actively sought ways to make that shift. As you know, we are in that process ourselves. Funny, my partner is an attorney in a huge firm and I can completely relate to everything you say.

No matter what a person does for a living, be it nomad or big firm attorney, it is key that it is something that makes them happy and motivated. Life is too short to do something that makes you miserable.
06/19/2010 08:26
Thank you for this post. I'm 21 years old and I'm so afraid to turn 22 because I still haven't achieved anything. I've planned so many things for myself and I'm so afraid of not being able to realize them until everything will be too late.
06/19/2010 08:44
I can very much relate to your lovely post. I quit my high stress job as the executive chef of a busy restaurant a few months before my 30th birthday so my husband and I could travel RTW. I celebrated my 30th birthday in New Zealand.
By the time we returned home 9 months later I'd had enough time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I loved my job but not the stress and long hours and decided to step out of the kitchen. A lot of people couldn't understand that but these are the same people who couldn't understand why we wanted to travel RTW too.

We never really considered traveling forever because ultimately we wanted the house, the cats, and the trips to Home Depot. :-) No regrets. We still travel, just in shorter bursts (spending for a week in Panama next month).
Now my goal is to retire early (mid-50s) and be able to have my home base and do extended travel for half of every year.
Kristina's recent blog post: CNN Hero, Ponheary Ly
06/20/2010 06:06
Excellent post - oh, so true. It's such a refreshing feeling to rid yourself of other peoples expectations. Traveling opens a new perspective in us that someone outside of the world of travel could never understand.
06/20/2010 08:28
Beautifully written--and happy birthday!!
Camels & Chocolate's recent blog post: Anchors Away: Discovering Ghana, Part II
06/20/2010 21:30
Why do we need to set expectations on our lives and what we 'should' achieve by a certain age? Why not go with the flow of life and do what makes us happy. I agree travel is not the answer, as it becomes a temporary escape. I'm glad you've found that right space to live by. I hope that it continues to be the right framework for you and doesn't end up giving you more limitations and expectations :)
06/21/2010 21:00
Loved this, and I'm empathizing with you. There is a word for this yearning of the soul you mention, but I don't know it. Perhaps it's lack of what the Japanese call ikigai: something important that one lives for. Travel itself is rarely the answer, but it's the conduit through which we find out answers. Perspective is what we feel when we are freed from the rote and mundane stress of our everyday lives.

Looking forward to Patrick's post now :)
Keith's recent blog post: Middlewoods
06/21/2010 21:17
I originally thought that leaving my job and traveling around the world would cause epiphanies that would make professional and personal choices crystal clear. It didn't. More and more opportunities and choices appeared. But, I've learned to embrace the fact that I may never know what I want to do when I grow up. And being free from that expectation helps me to explore new things.

Happy 31! I've got the big 35 coming up soon...maybe the epiphany will come then :)
06/21/2010 21:19
Beautiful prose, and I understand completely as another BigLaw lawyer who gave up the job to travel the world. It was great to meet you in person and this post gives me more insight into who you are and what motivates you to keep going. As Keith said above, travel can be the conduit through which you find your answers, and what better way to turn 30 than after a trip of this magnitude. Happy birthday!

-Jodi
Legal Nomads's recent blog post: Comment on WHERE HAVE I BEEN? by Subir Dey
06/21/2010 21:32
based on the comments, i guess this is a universal feeling. i had similar enlightenment not so long ago. it felt like a spell had been broken and i began to see thing with a new set of eyes. cheers!
Lilliane @wanderlass's recent blog post: Chinese Shangrila
06/23/2010 09:24
@Matt: That's exactly right. Finding happiness is tough but a good start is figuring out what you don't want to do.

@Lilia: Thanks! And, I think the key is not to worry. Achieving "something" is such a hard thing to do because we put such pressures on ourselves to make it an amazing "something."

@Kristina: What a wonderful place to celebrate your 30th and I think that's a wonderful goal! I think we are eventually going to want to settle down - we just don't know when that is going to happen.

@Matt: Thanks! It is so hard to explain to other people but getting away does wonders.

@Camels & Chocolate: Thanks! I had a good one in Fukuoka, Japan. :)

@Gourmantic: I don't know why we get so hung up on age. It's an interesting question really, because I remember always caring about age. When I was 10, I thought I was the coolest thing because I had achieved double digits. :) I wonder if it is something that we pull from our parents or from society at large, with its focus on pushing youth through television. Ah, there I go, blaming television!

@Keith: Thank you! And, I love how you phrased that - that travel is the conduit through which we find answers. I think that might be true but I am still trying to understand why that is true. And, I am trying to convince Patrick that he needs to write a post on our blog but he is searching for the perfect topic.

@Audrey: I want to get to that point that I can embrace not knowing what I want to be and do --- so, maybe you've already reached your epiphany.

@Jodi: Thanks! It's funny - we BigLaw attorneys all seem to be very confused folks. I'm glad so many of us have turned to travel!

@Lilliane: Congrats on your revelation! It's a good feeling.
Akila's recent blog post: kyoto for free: japan on a budget
06/26/2010 12:27
I loved reading this & I can totally relate. I just turned 30 a couple days ago & it's a weird feeling. I'm reevaluating all kinds of things, career, goals, life expectations. It's tough but kind of nice to know I'm in the process of making a change that will hopefully put my life in a more enjoyable directions.

Also, nice to "meet" someone else from Atlanta!
08/30/2010 08:04
Just stumbled here via problogger and found this wonderful post. I used to think I needed a career - that I wanted a career! I was smart, I worked hard, I got my degree and studied overseas and worked hard some more and got a great job and promising career doing "secret" stuff for the federal gov't. Then I had to choose -- between my career or my husband's. And it was a no-brainer. Because once faced with the choice, I realized that what I really wanted was a family and kids and the whole sha-bang.

So I quit and we've been moving around with my husband's career ever since. That was ten years ago. I'm 39 now with no regrets; in fact, I sometimes shudder to think I would have chosen a career over raising kids and making my family my focus, as thankless as it can be sometimes. I am very fortunate my husband can support us with his one income, and I can "dabble" in things like blogging in my "spare" time!

You might not have been able to make your discovery had you not traveled and experienced the road where others have no expectations of you or pre-conceived notions of who you are and what you're capable of. Sometimes leaving your comfort zone is necessary to challenge your perspective. Travel is such a humbling and enlightening experience, but you're right - it's not b/c of the location, but because of the people and b/c we're taking ourselves... out of ourselves. This can be difficult to do if you never leave home.
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05/18/2011 23:51
Hi , Came across your website in lonely planet,researching for our upcoming trip to Kruger ..the articles were very helpful, incidentally, and I loved idea of butt-shot... I now find myself coming back for a leisurely read now and then...lots of thoughts to your post above...
>>I remember quite a few years back, the Indian financial market was flooded with 25 year bonds. But I would scoff at it, my reason being 25 sounded like infinite.... that long? who lived that long... what would I do with money when I was that old... and when I turned forty , I realised I had not only covered 25 years of my life , I had only ten more years to complete another 25..scary ..:) :) :)
>> I was thinking of expectations... can we really get away from expectations of our family, our peers, our friends.. I quit a good career to bond with my son.. I felt I could live with all regrets but not the regret of not having bonded enough with him.. I was lucky to move away to a different country altogether ( I mean a complete cut off from my work place) ... but each time I am asked by my friends " so what do u do now" , or "where are u working now" , I find it so demotivating.... . I realise/appreciate that it is their healthy regard for me as a capable person which makes them ask this question -- but it leaves me wondering if I should have worked harder, taken smarter decisions to have both home and a career....Life is indeed beautiful now, I am bonding with my son and husband just the way I wanted.. but in some corner of my mind i am still left wondering if I did justice to the expectations of my parents, justice to the opportunities which were given to me. I love being at home but I also do miss working, I miss the satisfaction of having done a good job, and of course I miss my salary .. :) :)
>> and in this wired world, r u ever at a place where nobody knows u .....
Shilpi Banerjee's recent blog post: Cleaning Poem ... Anonymous
05/20/2011 17:46
Thank you Shilpi! Definitely let me know if you need any help with figuring out the Kruger.

Wow, I know exactly what you mean about time --- it runs so much faster than you expect. And it's hard to deal with everyone's expectations. I think you've chosen what's best for you and you shouldn't let others get you down because you've decided to be "just a stay-at-home-mom." (And, I mean that entirely sarcastically because I think a stay-at-home-mom is an incredible profession. And, it is TOTALLY a job.). So, next time, someone asks you where you work, you should say, "I work for my son. He's the most demanding boss I've ever had." :)
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/22/2011 23:32
Ah thats a great answer... am laughing away...:) :)
Shilpi Banerjee's recent blog post: Cleaning Poem ... Anonymous
06/02/2011 06:56
Dammit! Dont tell me that! I thought running away from my problems (travelling) would cause them to solve themselves :-o

My reason for travel was similar, but on the other side of 30 (Im 28). Some days I feel old, compared to all the 21 year old backpackers, but most days Im glad that Im this streetwise and confident. Not too many more rookie mistakes.

I've only been going 1-2 months, and I'm loving it.
Ian [EagerExistence]'s recent blog post: First Impressions of Turkey
06/06/2011 20:12
Congrats on your 1-2 months out on the road! It's a fun existence, isn't it? And I agree with you that I think being on the road a little older is an advantage than traveling while younger.
Akila's recent blog post: food unites in south africa
09/17/2011 11:32
Noon
What a nice blog.. I was wondering what other 30+ people are travelling, googled it and got on your page.. Left november 2009 to Maluku, Indonesia for 3 months with my dad, my first time on the islands where he was born, spending time with family. February 2010 set off to New Zealand, came back to Amsterdam April 2011.. I really wish I would've made this step when I was way younger, so many possibilities.. But still thinking bout traveling on, I've got the travelers bug.. There is so much to discover in the world & for me so little to stay in this place, since I have no partner nor children yet.. Nor secure job.. The only thing I've got is a rented apartment in the city center of Amsterdam & a lot of friends & family who think it would be stupid to give it up, because it'll take 15 years to get a spot like that again.. I just wonder if there are other 30+ people that did make the step of complete surrender to the universe & walk the wild world for a long period of time..
12/28/2011 07:21
Leon Kraig
I believe that understanding and accepting the diversity that exists in the world is critical. I have visited 108 countries up to date, and in every place you can find beauty and goodness!
07/24/2012 08:46
Yvonne Foster
I found your blog by accident. Serendipity! I am 72 years old and am planning a trip to Angkor Wat in late October. I printed your guide on how to avoid temple fatigue. That piece and the ones on Japan and kindness filled my heart with joy. I am so happy that there are young people like you.
07/24/2012 08:46
Tania
hi yvoone, i found her website by accident as well and i marvelled when i read your future travel to angkor wat. incredible that you will go there at 72! this info makes me happy and although its hot, it is well worth it- enjoy your trip!

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