What’s up guys?
It’s been a while since I wrote something super personal so here we go.
I’m on the last hour of my flight back to the U.S. and the last 13 hours have gone by really slowly. I’m surrounded by so many children and they are all unbearably loud so there is no point in even attempting to sleep anymore. I’m going to distract myself in my thoughts a little bit.
So about two weeks ago, I wrapped up a month in Bali. Not since studying abroad in Prague 3 years ago had I spent that much consecutive time in one place. Despite my initial skepticism about how awesome Bali would be, it truly was an experience of a lifetime.
At 23 years old and raised almost entirely in the U.S., I was led to believe that at this point in my life, I should be slaving away behind a desk.
23. Years. Old.
I put off getting a job after graduation but after having traveled for the majority of my post-grad life since May 2016, I was admittedly beginning to feel the pressure. I started thinking that the longer I went after college without having an actual job, the more unemployable I would become.
I thought about hanging up the backpack and passport for a while and considering settling down but not after one last hurrah, of course. I ended up going to Bali with PACK., a company that specializes in month-long co-working retreats. It was something I had never done before but it was something that I thought would answer a lot of questions for me.
As much as I hate the term, I definitely fall into the category of “digital nomad”. I had been working online for myself since I was 17 years old. I had been traveling solo since I was 21. It’s been a while since I considered anywhere as “home” so yeah, I guess I am a “digital nomad”.
What was hard was that I was also young when I started traveling extensively. As much as I wanted to find a work-travel balance, I fell in love with the backpacker culture hard. I was socializing almost entirely with other young backpackers, crashing at hostels, drinking a lot, and picking my life up every three days or so to move to the next destination.
I love backpacking and I love meeting other backpackers but it is impossible to deny the toll it was taking on my work ethic and my businesses. I had to shut down one of my companies this past December just because it stopped being a priority of mine. I was disinterested in the company which in turn, made my staff back in the U.S. equally as disinterested. We were just going through the motions, aiming for maintenance rather than growth.
I felt that I was at a crossroads more than ever. I either had to give up long-term travel or find a way to balance it with work. In September, my friend (in Koh Phangan of all places) introduced me to co-working spaces. He kept telling me how chill it would be if I just stayed in Koh Phangan, helped his hostel with social media, and then got my work done at the co-working office down the road.
I never actually checked it out but it got me into researching co-working spaces. I still haven’t found my ideal pace and style of travel but it seemed like something that would be worth a try. I knew I could save costs and do Bali on my own just fine but eventually, I took the leap and tried something I had never done before in a place I had never been before. I interviewed with PACK, got accepted into the program and after hesitating for a month, went for it.
I don’t know entirely what I was looking for when I signed up but I knew I was looking for something. I knew I wanted some direction in my life, maybe some advice from others, or even just some support during a transitional phase.
I justified the trip by telling my parents that I was expecting to learn a lot from all the different people attending. In the end, yeah I did learn a lot but I got so much more out of the trip than tangible skills and usable knowledge.
I learned too many life lessons to list but since lists are easily digestible (and because I learned how to make catchier titles from a YouTuber on the trip), here are 3 life lessons I learned in Bali that would stick with me FOREVER.
Life is long. But life is also short. Feel old all you want but right now, you are the youngest you will ever be.
Before going to Bali, I felt stuck at the ripe old age of 23. When you’re back home, it seems like everyone is doing the same thing as you, so it’s okay. Everyone’s working and hustling away at their jobs with little to no idea of what the future holds. Everyone’s taking things day by day but before you know it, months have passed without you having done anything at all.
The thought of that scared me a lot.
I learned so much from being around people of all ages, all career paths, and all backgrounds. People who quit their jobs because they weren’t happy. People who quit their jobs to travel the world. People who made careers off the Internet. People who picked up a camera and never looked back. For my own sake, I learned that there is nothing wrong with not knowing. You don’t have to always know what you’re doing or where you’re going or where you’ll be in so-and-so years.
Before, I kept thinking that my life would be over once I hit 25 or something like it was some big cutoff point where I would have to make some huge ultimatum. After a month with PACK. in Bali, I have never felt so confident in my choices and my career path. I was able to meet incredible people that had decided one way or another that it wasn’t too late to change what they were doing or what direction their life was heading. These people had been through some hard shit in their lives and were still killing it. They changed, they struggled, they fought, they survived, and thrived.
Life is long.
Whether you’re 20 years old or 50 years old, there is still time to chase that dream of yours. Hell, the person who founded my favorite nightclub and favorite cafe in Bali was apparently like 60 years old when she decided to start them. Now both are among the most popular spots in all of Bali. You are never too old to start doing what you want to do. People of all ages do incredible things all the time.
It doesn’t have to be now. It doesn’t have to be in 5 years or 10 years. Life is long enough that you always have time to say screw it and make a change.
But also, life is short. You never realize where the days are going until the days have already gone. Before you know it, so much time will have gone past you and you will have no idea what happened. You only get one life and unfortunately, there’s no rollover. If you die with millions of dollars saved up from decades of working, you won’t get those million dollars handed to you next time you are born. The clock is constantly ticking and you aren’t ever getting any younger. You have to take advantage of what you’ve got now.
Do more of what you love and amazing things will happen.
This has become one of my biggest philosophies. I love traveling. I love making people laugh. I love taking pictures. I love writing. I love a lot of things. I also don’t love a lot of things.
Two years ago, I tried to force a career out of my business management degree. In high school, I told everyone I was going to be an accountant. Sure, those things might be for some people but I am so so so happy that I did not follow through because deep down, I had no interest or fire for either of those things.
I started working with social media when I was 17 years old. I never thought I would make a career out of it but because I loved doing it, it never felt like I was actually working. I eventually started making money from it because I found something I was good at doing, enjoyed doing, and then took advantage when the opportunity arose to make something out of it.
One of the best parts of doing more of what you love is the people you meet. You meet other people who love doing the same things as you. They inspire you and you learn from them. You learn how they’ve made careers out of your shared passions, or just how to be better at it. I love photography but never considered myself a photographer until after meeting other photographers on the trip. Between Steve, an incredible professional photographer from Canada, and Carmen, a relative newbie, I got so much inspiration and encouragement, whether they knew it or not.
During Bali, a lot of different opportunities have opened up to me that I would have never got if I just stayed in the U.S. I’ve always wanted to work location-independently and in the travel industry. 500 companies showed up at my university’s career fair and not one of them fell into what I wanted to do. However, I and many others will settle for one of them because we are given the illusion of choice.
When you travel, you will meet other people who love to travel. The same goes for whatever your passions are. Art, hiking, photography, whatever. Do what you love, put yourself out there, and good things will happen. You will meet like-minded people, you will make friends with similar passions, and you might even meet the right people to help you build a career out of it. My one month of working and living in Bali has opened up more doors for me in the travel industry than I even knew were possible. Where were these companies, startups, and inspiring creators at those college career fairs?
I genuinely believe that doing what you love will lead to you meeting great people, opening up opportunities you never thought you would have, and most importantly, making you happier.
Be unapologetically you.
This is so cheesy but it is so damn true. College sucked for me, especially being in the dog-eat-dog world of the business school. We’re all taught the same things, taught to dress the same, taught to interview the same, taught to act the exact same as everyone else. There was basically a set formula for how to get a job. Dress like this, act like this, talk like this, make sure you say exactly this. They call it “professionalism” or something.
And then we’re supposed to somehow stand out from hundreds of other applicants? I was a goofy-looking long-haired ~flower child~ who would rather sing karaoke than read off my resume. I walked into every interview unafraid to be myself even if it made me look out-of-place or unprofessional. I guess there was a reason I was unemployed post-grad.
I’ve been confident my entire life in my abilities, intelligence, and work ethic. If I was judged on appearance or lack of perfect professionalism, then fine. I hunted down dozens of jobs my last year of college and got offers from none. The past couple of months, I’ve been offered three different positions without having to change myself for any of them. I haven’t updated my resume in two years. I haven’t applied for a job in two years. I don’t even know my LinkedIn login info anymore.
Although I’ve had my issues with self-doubt and confidence in the past, I’ve come to truly love myself for who I am and how I’ve gotten to where I am. You only have good things to come if you accept yourself and then be yourself whether others accept you or not.
Oh, and it’s okay. It’s okay to be (f)unemployed. It’s okay to be 35 years old with marriage and kids nowhere in sight. It’s okay to leave a relationship that you feel isn’t going anywhere, no matter how long you’ve been together. It’s okay to just leave and do what you want. Change is okay. I think one of the hardest parts of change is what everyone will say about it. If you quit your job, break up with your partner, move across the country, or make any major life change, someone will always have something negative to say about it.
Don’t worry about it. An old friend recently asked me if I felt like old friends resented me for the life I chose to live. If they resent me, then that’s weighing on them because I ain’t worried about it. It’s definitely easier said than done but taking those leaps to become more of who you want to be will pay off in the long run.
Also, I FINALLY watched Eat, Pray, Love so combining that with the bittersweet emotions of coming home after a long trip, I admit this post is at least 500% cornier than what I usually post. However, I gotta be real every now and then.
Going forward after a month with PACK. in Bali, I believe more than ever that I am going down the right path. If it works out, then perfect. If it doesn’t work out, things will still be okay. The only thing I know the future holds for sure is a long shower after over 40 hours of planes, trains, and automobiles.
P.S. I went out six nights in a row after my month-long Bali sabbatical so don’t you dare think I’ve gone soft. I’m still ~ The Partying Traveler ~ at heart.
P.S.S. This was in no part paid for by PACK. I just really like them. If Michelle decides to take me to Lisbon, then yeah, maybe I’ll be #sp’ing every post, but for now, nope. This is all me.