Last year, I was introduced to the field of travel nursing, an admirable field combining a sense of adventure with helping people. How inspiring is that! So when they asked me to speak about travel and career development at their Gypsy Nurse conference in Vegas, how could I say no? All I had to do was will away my intense fear of public speaking and squeeze in time during my move to San Francisco to write a speech — and then make it to Vegas four days after my move and one day before grabbing a flight to Hong Kong. The conference’s founder, Candy, is an energetic, encouraging, sincere woman, and I can’t thank her enough for inviting me to be a part of her world for a day. I had been so nervous, but once I got into the room of kindred spirits, I was fine.
It was strange to write a speech during this transition time, as I gear up for my next chapter, when I am determined to go after everything I want–personal time, success, freedom. But as always, I remain flexible to what my future actually holds…
All I know is that for now, I am right where I belong: on the move.
Here is a condensed version of my speech, about how each of these big moves/travels have been a defining moment in my life and shaped my career:
I have always been an absolute travel junkie, going all the way back to middle school. The details are sketchy, but I somehow managed to con my parents into letting me go (without them) on a senior trip of some kind to London and Paris when I was in the sixth grade – and then I somehow did it again the next year, going to Italy and Switzerland for my repeat performance. As I got older, I found that I preferred the slow-burn approach to traveling, giving a place time to seep in. This started during college, when I studied abroad in southern Spain. Most of the other exchange students took weekend trips every single weekend, determined to see all of Europe before we all headed back. I didn’t leave southern Spain until my last month there, for a quick trip to … northern Spain. But I had amazing local friends who invited me to so many holidays and to see their traditions. I got to experience so much that you only get to by staying put and making lasting relationships. Of course, I still look back sometimes and wish I had done more traveling during that time. As with everything, it really is give or take.
Now, as we all know here, you don’t have to be a full-time backpacker in order to see the world. In fact, I happen to really like working. Until now, my work in magazines has led me to some pretty hard-core jobs that have required me to work full-time until burn-out, which I discovered during my second job, at Us Weekly. It was a defining moment, the day I walked into my boss’s office and quit, cheerfully explaining that I wasn’t going to another job; I was just done. It was awful, working that hard, but if it hadn’t gotten that bad, I wouldn’t have quit, and I wouldn’t have discovered the rhythm of constant movement that has become my life. Finally, my exhaustion had won out over my money worries. I went to China for a month, even though I had no idea when or from where my next paycheck was coming.
I knew then that the rest of my life would be in constant movement. But it would take me another decade to work out how I was going to make that happen.
Up until then, all of my friends and I looked like we were on the same path. We had good jobs that could really lead somewhere, all in industries that were centrally located in New York, some in finance, some in advertising, myself in media. We took it for granted that we’d be in NYC forever, get married, have kids… Then one chilly weekend in November, I decided I was not going to do another NYC winter.
So I moved. December 1. To Texas. I was very excited. None of my friends were. They still ask me when I’m coming “home.”
I had never been to Texas. Austin was much cheaper than Manhattan, and I found out that they had been lying to me in New York City. As it turns out, I didn’t have to live in Manhattan to work as a journalist.
I could forge my own path.
I was there for only a year, but during that time I took assignments all over that part of the country, in Baton Rouge, small town Oklahoma, Odessa oil country, Santa Fe… And it was so much fun. I eventually took a job in Vegas, and I was off again, by now pretty into moving. I stayed here for a few years and then took off for LA. I had finally met my match.
It was there that I learned how to fail gracefully.
I knew after four months that LA wasn’t for me. But thanks to modern real estate, I had eight more to go before I could leave, because of my lease. To pass the time, I went to Europe for a month, Mexico for three weeks, where I went whale-watching for the first time, and then to Borneo for five. When my lease was up, I headed to Costa Rica for an indefinite period of time and ended up staying for a year. I loved it.
There, I learned to work remotely and think like an entrepreneur. I had been stuck in the world of print media, so stubborn. But in Costa Rica, I started a little business online. LA had left me pretty severely in debt, but in Costa Rica I paid back every penny and then didn’t stop until I had in my savings account double what I had owed upon arrival. The great irony of the whole thing was that in addition to the obvious lower cost of living that helped me manage my money, my entire business was out of LA. But it wasn’t until I changed my perspective that I was able to see this business opportunity that only I had the connections and knowledge to make happen, based out of LA where I had just spent such a miserable eight months of my life doing absolutely nothing productive.
And then, just when I was getting settled there, and because the universe had by now accepted the fact that I was a girl of extremes, I was lured back to Vegas, as the editor-in-chief of the luxury magazine, Vegas. I went from living in a one-room house the size of an SUV and wearing $10 dresses I bought in the back of the hammock store to having my photo taken at every fancy event in one of the fanciest cities in the US. Culture shock, reverse culture shock, growing pains, I’ve been through it all, anything to push me to adapt in the strangest of extreme environments.
After three exciting, wonderful years, I quit a few months ago. I have just moved back to California, this time to Silicon Valley. While Costa Rica worked for me because it allowed such inexpensive living and a chance to get back on my feet, this time I’m going for broke. After all of these trials and seeing what works for me, I know how to listen to what I need, and to what my career needs. It is a bold move, but this time, I want to create a life where I can work from home and have the freedom to travel more. With my second new online business idea, I know that I need to be where the money is. And if it doesn’t work out, I move again.
In six months… If there’s anything I learned from my disaster in LA, it is that I will never again sign a 12-month lease in a new place.
You’ve caught me in the throes of saying my good-byes here in Vegas, telling my story again and again of why I would leave a wonderful job I loved and move to a brand-new place, without work or knowing anybody, with nothing familiar at all except that of uncertainty and how much I’ve grown to like and trust it.
So many years ago, my friends were crushed when I veered off the path and moved to Texas with no plan, to commit what so many people gasped was going to be career suicide. That doesn’t happen anymore!
Now all I hear is, “You’re so lucky.”
Where is this “luck”? Anybody can do it! Yes, there are sacrifices, really big sacrifices. I have watched my bank account go up and down at an alarming speed. All of my friends did indeed go on to successful careers in Manhattan and get married and have kids. I miss those friends, and when I fly in for the weddings I usually don’t know the groom as well as my friends who stayed there do. I also have no idea where my career could have taken me had I stayed in NYC.
But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I don’t think that you have to be a travel junkie like me to be happy. But you do have to follow your heart – and mine likes to be on the move. I am finally, after years of trial and error, no longer scared of taking big moves without a safety net, or of veering off the path that all of my closest friends have taken.
I am not the type to sit passively, thinking that someone like me has all the “luck.”
When am I no longer happy in a current situation, I change it, no matter how daunting it might seem, no matter what I have to sacrifice. I learned at a very young age that I need to be on the move. If I want to double my rent and move to northern California to find out what that’s like, I am going to do it. I say this all the time: To change your life, you must actually… change your life. Mine will always be an exciting one, because I learned that lesson at a very young age.
And for that, I do feel very lucky.
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