My decision to go backpacking was really the result of a series of events. Like I told my grandma, if I believe in signs or omens or whatever you want to call them, then there have been many and they are all screaming at me, "This is your destiny."
Here are my many influences. I can't remember if this is the exact order they occurred in, and there is no order of importance, they all made an impact. Hang in there, this entry gets long...
1. I saw (and eventually read) Eat Pray Love. Yes, I know how cliche that is, but I spent weeks after watching it unable to fall asleep at night, because I couldn't stop thinking about the way my life is going vs. the way it could go. Elizabeth Gilbert's breakup with her husband and her relationship with the boyfriend she left behind were so similar to my own relationship issues. A lot of people criticize the author as someone who screwed over the men in her life to childishly escape the "real world." It's hard for people who haven't experienced it, but sometimes you just realize that the life you are leading isn't the right one and you have to fix that. And most of the time, changing the rest of your life means leaving some of the old one behind.
2. Just as I started being able to sleep again, my amazing friend Krista and her amazing husband Stephen followed the call from an amazing God, and moved her three amazing kiddies to Africa to help the children of Swaziland. For weeks upon hearing this, I again couldn't sleep. Knowing that someone I knew could do something so brave and so unconventional made it really hard to deny that I had that same capability to do something AMAZING.
...Let me pause this list to make something clear. When I say these events kept me from sleeping, I am in no way exaggerating. As a child, we've all spent Christmas Eve or the night before our birthday, unable to keep our mind from spinning with anticipation to the point where it was a struggle to fall asleep. And as adults, we've all had times full of so much stress and worry, that we've lost sleep while endlessly going over to-do lists and worst case scenarios in our heads. Well, what I was going through was a combination of excitement, joy, and grand possibilities all rolled up into a ball with fear, stress, and horrible outcomes. Now with the trip actually being planned, trust me, that giant ball of crazy still keeps me up at night. Hence, the late night blog entries. Now, back to the list...
3. My apartment building went into foreclosure. Our landlord went AWOL, so we all (me and the three other tenants) stopped paying rent. If it hadn't been for this lucky streak of awesomeness, I would still be behind on all my bills, struggling to buy ramen and cheap wine with no possible way to save a dime. I've lived paycheck to paycheck since I started getting paychecks, especially since I moved to California. I only wish I'd realized my destiny early on, as I did not really start saving for my trip until many months into the foreclosure, but it was nice to spoil my family at Christmas time. The building finally sold yesterday.
4. After hearing about Krista's journey, I ordered four books from Amazon. Three of them were about volunteering abroad; the fourth was a book called Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts. I thought it would just be a book full of some semi-useful tips about traveling overseas--buying plane tickets, what to pack, you know, that kind of thing. I severely underestimated it, and now I like to call it "the book that changed my life." Vagabonding is like an infomercial selling the idea of long term travel. All of the books on volunteering said you really had to commit to six months to a year in order to get the full experience. Reading Vagabonding made me realize that if I was going to commit to six months to a year of anything, I wanted the freedom to come and go as I please and I wanted to see as much as I possibly could. It also convinced me, and I believe it could convince anybody, that long term travel is completely and utterly possible for EVERYONE. It's not just a book of travel tips, it's a guide to a new lifestyle. I recommend this book constantly, and I've loaned my copy out twice already. In fact, if you are reading this blog, go buy the book. You are obviously thinking, "Wow, look what Sandi is doing. That is so cool. I wish I could do that." Whether you are locked into a job, have children, or don't think you can afford it, Vagabonding will convince you that you can.
Happy Little Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to talk anyone out of committing their summer, their year, or their life to overseas or at home volunteer work. There are many great organizations and people like Krista out there who need help. But as I have learned, tourism IS a way to help. Many of the countries I am planning to see have a struggling economy that relies solely on tourism, and every single dollar I spend is helping their country to survive.
5. I missed a period. This one was a doozy. My boyfriend and I had been together for a year, but it was our second time around--we'd dated for two years, four years ago. We had a goal of marriage and a baby, and we were calmly moving toward it. I had made it clear the first time we dated that if we stayed together, I would eventually want a baby, and he wasn't a fan of the idea. But the second time around, he was completely on board--we'd even argued over baby names. Then I missed a period, and everything changed for me. "Oh my gosh, I don't want to have a baby." This was a huge revelation for me because not only did I not want one right now, but I wan't sure I even wanted one in the future. "Oh my gosh, I do not want to marry my boyfriend." This was also big, because even as I am typing this right now, I love him truly and deeply. But we are so different. And the differences that we have are fine for just the two of us, but they would affect so much of how we would raise a child that we would be sure to f*** a good kid up. There was also the possibility that I wasn't pregnant, but maybe the missed period meant there was something wrong with me and I couldn't have anymore children. "Oh my gosh, I don't know if I could stay with him without the promise of a baby." How odd that I wasn't sure if I ever wanted a baby, but I wasn't sure if I could stay with him without one. Yeah, I can't explain that one either, but there's one thing I knew...trip or no trip, baby or no baby, we had to break up. By the way, there was no baby. My period came the following month, and Planned Parenthood assured me my pipes are all still in working order.
So that's pretty much what got me here. I may have missed a couple of signs...doesn't everybody? but I still figured it out. This is my destiny.
Where to read Krista's blog http://prince-fam.blogspot.com/
Where to buy Vagabonding http://amzn.com/0812992180
Where to buy Eat Pray Love http://amzn.com/B0042816YK
Where to get a pregnancy test http://www.plannedparenthood.org/