When you’re young you dream of so many things
Of possibilities and opportunities, you let your heart sing
Unsure of what “direction” is, you aimlessly point and go
Without fear or doubt, you trust your intuition to know
For you will never be lost, just temporarily off-path
You must simply press on and don’t forget to laugh
The greatest luxury in life is to be happy and free
While the greatest deterrent is self-imposed responsibility
All preconceived adulthood notions should be torn and unraveled
The greatest gift in life is to just let go and travel
For staying in one place is no way to see the rainbow
And now adventure is calling…and I must go
– A poem written by me, February 2017
After I graduated from high school in the Bay Area, California, my family relocated home to O’ahu, Hawai’i where my Chinese ancestors immigrated several generations ago. I lived on the island of O’ahu for nearly ten years, attending University and working many jobs, fitting in quite well as a hapa (meaning “half” – this term refers to someone of mixed races, usually Asian, and I am half Chinese). I received my degree in Travel Industry Management from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and minored in Spanish, where after 12 years of schooling and study, I became proficient in the language. Thus, my thirst for learning about different cultures was born.
During my time on the islands, I traveled to China, Spain, France, Italy and Australia, which is what planted the seed for my first feeling of wanderlust. But it wasn’t until I landed a job working for Expedia Local Expert where my desire to travel long-term really came about. My desk was located just 100 yards from the beach of Waikiki. I was often travelers’ first point of contact, and I met people from all over the world every single hour, every single day. It was fascinating. I met folks from all walks of life; from blue-collar families working paycheck to paycheck who saved their entire lives to take a once-in-a-lifetime one-week trip to Hawai’i with their family, to wealthy Tesla-driving CEOs who came to the islands each year and dropped $1,000 nightly on a penthouse hotel suite. The gamut of backgrounds and personalities was vast, and this is where I learned how to connect with people.
After nearly three years of thriving in this position and loving where I was in life, I started to feel a thirst for something more that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I truly had the dream life in Hawai’i; I was earning a comfortable income, loved my colleagues, loved my job, was exposed to endless sunshine and beaches, had a nice house in the mountains overlooking the city, had a wonderful group of friends, and lived only 20 minutes away from my family. But I still felt antsy. I wanted to experience seasons again; to feel crisp, fresh mountain air (it is 75 degrees F. and sunny practically every day all year on O’ahu, which can get boring after a while.) I wanted bigger mountains to climb, and more of a career challenge. I felt like I knew everyone on the island and had hiked every trail and was starting to feel closed in. They say that living on an island will either make you feel confined or the vastness of the ocean will set you free. While the latter is true now, at the time I felt the former.
In August of 2013 I set a goal for myself: within six months I would select a city on the mainland to move to and make it happen. My choice was between Denver and Seattle. By October it was clear that my place of selection was going to be Seattle, Washington. I had visited three times and was fascinated by the majestic beauty of a city surrounded by water and volcanoes, and the mysticism of the mountains lured me in. I manifested my destiny by listing the following goals to accomplish by the time I moved to Seattle:
- Become a yoga instructor
- Land my dream job in the travel industry
- Meet an intelligent man who would eventually become my future husband
In August of 2014 I took a leap of faith and gave up my life in paradise to enter new territory and begin a new chapter in my book of life. I remember landing in Seattle at 6:00 PM on a beautiful warm August summer night. The sun was still out in full force and as we flew over Puget Sound with Mt. Rainier in the distance, the pilot came on the intercom and said, “visitors welcome. Seattleites – welcome home”. I remember thinking to myself…Seattleite…home…that’s me now! And within one year, all of the above three goals came to fruition. I went through a few bumps and unexpected events to get to them, but they all became a reality; I became a certified yoga sculpt instructor and began teaching when I moved to Washington. I landed a job for Seattle’s landmark and icon – the Space Needle & Chihuly Garden and Glass as the Tourism Development Sales Manager, and one year later met the man of my dreams – a 6’7”-tall Russian/American intelligent, kind, funny and well-cultured man named Sasha…who just so happens to have been raised all over the world and loves to travel; perfect!
After nearly three years of living in Seattle, I started to get that antsy feeling again…that feeling that something greater was out there that needed to be explored. While Sasha and I both enjoyed what we did in our careers, we started to realize that having a big fancy career wasn’t all it was chalked up to be. We began to seek greater fulfillment in life that wasn’t available to us sitting in a cubicle doing the same tasks week in and week out, working for someone else’s profit.
Many people think the “real world” means having a “grown-up job” and multiple responsibilities that only hold us back. In my humble opinion, I think being out in nature and meeting other like-minded people, learning about other cultures is far more “real” in the world than working 40+ hours a week for a paycheck that is only partially yours, while being granted only two weeks of paid holiday each year (America). So we set out to enrich the profit of our lives by leaving the cultural norms of our own society and embracing new ones.
In the Spring and Summer of 2016, Sasha and I got out as much as possible and every weekend we went exploring in the outdoors of the Pacific Northwest. Those were some of our first dates and our fondest memories. We ventured all over Washington, Oregon and Canada, camping and hiking our way through some of the most spectacular nature and trails in the country. Doing so inspired us to take our adventures further to explore what the world had to offer.
After a careful analysis of our budget and savings, we decided to take a huge leap and take a big chance that may have pegged us as “crazy millennials” in our elder’s eyes. In February of 2017 we gave our six-week notice to our employers, and in April, we sold our belongings, became minimalists by packing our life into two 65-liter backpacks and two day packs, and left the country to travel indefinitely with no set plan of where or when to return.
“Most people choose unhappiness over uncertainty” – Tim Ferris, The Four-Hour Work Week
Our future path is unknown, because we will be creating, designing and modifying our lifestyle along the way. That both terrifies and excites me. Having always been a type-A planner and control freak who has a contingency for my back-up plan, I knew this would be a tremendous learning opportunity for me to relinquish control and let life happen. We took off without a set plan of when or where we would return to if and when we did decide to come back to the U.S. Our dreams and priorities will shift and form and shift again, and that is how we will grow. But right now in this moment, we choose to take our lives by the horns and live now….not someday but now. Because there’s no better time than to live out your dreams. To live unconventionally. To live freely. To live without borders and without deadlines. Because right now, not only are the mountains calling, but the world is calling…and we must go.
Below is our tentative outline of an itinerary. A huge focus will be on hiking in each place we visit, so if anybody has any suggestions or has visited any of these places, please feel free to leave feedback!
April: 6-day road trip from Seattle to Boulder, CO (our second home) stopping at:
Arches National Park, UT
Canyonlands National Park, UT
Dead Horse State Park, UT
April – May: South America (5 weeks):
Ecuador (2 weeks)
Colombia (3 weeks)
May – London (1 week)
May – June: Eastern Europe and Russia (5 weeks)
St. Petersburg, Russia
July – indefinite: