Guest post written by Valery Parham.
There are 24 hours in a day, and 356 days in a year. Take a moment to think about how many days you have remaining in the rest of your life. Do you make each and every day count towards the things you hold most precious? If you’re like me, you are probably just starting to realize that the things you spend the vast majority of your time on aren’t necessarily the things that make you happy. But time and aging are funny things. When you are young, you think you’re invincible and that you have all the time in the world, but as you grow older, you realize that time is the only thing that can’t be recreated once it’s been spent. This realization shouldn’t scare you, but it should make you pause and think about how you choose to spend the most valuable resource of time before you wake up one day and poof 15 years have flown by in a blink of an eye.
That “poof – 15 years have passed” moment is something that I regularly experience thanks to Facebook and its constant reminders of what I was doing years ago. Disbelief creeps into my mind at times as I think to myself, “that couldn’t have been x-years ago!” But when I count up the years from the post to today’s date, I realize that darn Facebook post IS from over a decade ago! How is that even possible when I turn 25 every year?
I have always enjoyed traveling domestically and abroad. My family especially my mother and grandmother have always championed learning about new people, places and cultures. Years ago, I made a goal of traveling around the world to see places that are too far to visit during the typical 2-3 week vacation from work. But just like most good intentions and big goals, years flew by, and I was no closer to my round the world trip than when I had initially set the goal. Fast forward to 2017 when a death in the family created a spark in my mind. The spark forced me to confront the facts that life does not wait for anyone, timing rarely seems perfect, and circumstances can change very quickly.
For weeks I thought about these things and applied them to the goal I had set for myself but never acted on. The goal: A 5-6 month around the world trip. As far as timing and my current circumstances, I had two significant columns. A “Go for it column” and a “not ready yet” (aka “Fear”) column. In my Go for it column was not married, no children, have money saved for traveling, not getting any younger. Fear column: What will my family think? Will they support my decision? I have money saved, but what if it’s not ENOUGH money? I’m mid-career and with a good company. How will my employer react? No one can go with me, and I’ve never traveled abroad alone. I’ve never been out of the country longer than 3-4 weeks. How will I survive 5-6 months on my own? The fear column was winning. I wasn’t quite ready to leap, but a fire was sparked that made me change my circumstances and perspective so I could prepare for the leap.
1 year. I gave myself about a year to get things for my epic around the world trip. I started breaking the ice with my family members to slowly get them on board with my “crazy” 6 month 17+ country adventure. It wasn’t an easy conversation at first, but what I came to realize is that they love me so much that they were extremely worried about my safety. They unconditionally supported my dream, but they feared something might happen that would be out of their control to correct. Armed with their suggestions and concerns, I made a plan to address their fears, and ultimately it made me feel better about safety while away as well.
On the money front, I created a detailed budget for each destination I planned to visit. I researched the cost of living in each place and estimated what I would spend on housing, flights, other transportation, food, and activities. With a baseline for what the trip would likely cost, I made a savings plan that would get me to the savings goal line in time for me to take the trip in the summer of 2018.
And the most unbelievable thing happened when I shared the news about my trip with my employer. My manager and co-workers were happy for me. They praised me for the work I had done at the company and shared that the door would be open for discussions of me returning once the trip was complete. Wow!
With those things taken care of, I had to face my internal fears of leaving the country solo. I’ve never lived out of TN, and as I already shared, before my trip, I had never been out of the country longer than 3-4 weeks or traveled abroad solo. So I had to give myself a pep talk and only allow positive thoughts to fill my mind. I told myself I’d gone abroad with family and friends before, and I’d solo traveled domestically so what fear should I have about solo international travel? I was prepared, and I was ready, so all I needed to do was pack and go!
Currently, I’m in Hong Kong doing some much past due to writing. I started my journey on July 1st, and I haven’t looked back or regretted one second! Things haven’t always been perfect, and I’ve been faced with a few uncomfortable situations, but overall my experience has been indescribably spectacular! Not only have I met beautiful people and made connections around the globe, but I’ve seen and experienced things that have been etched into my memories and enriched my life. I have been touched by the wisdom and selflessness of people who have far fewer material things and opportunities than I have. Conversations with entrepreneurs from all industries have my wheels turning with thoughts of opportunities I never knew existed. Putting things in motion and seeing my plan take flight has shown me that anything is possible if you prioritize what you want above all the noise of everyday “I have tos.” Yet sometimes I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming a most wonderful dream. Yep! This is my life, and I’m wide awake.
View more of Valery’s journey on her blog at www.Norisknorewardblog.com.