How Traveling Changed My Life

How Traveling Changed My Life

I’m certainly not the first person to ever write about how traveling changed my life, and I definitely won’t be the last. When I first decided to move to Korea in 2013 I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had spent the previous year in a deep depression, grieving and turning to food and alcohol as a crutch. Within the short span of nine months, I’d lost my brother to the deplorable drug known as heroin, my grandma to a terminal illness, a long-term relationship and eventually my job. I had totally and completely lost my mind, and, to be quite frank, I was running like hell away from my life.

Deciding to Travel Long-Term

You see, I’d always wanted to live abroad. Throughout college, I researched countless volunteer opportunities which unfortunately never came to fruition. I’d spent hours browsing Pinterest, Instagram and blogs for travel inspiration, making lists of places I wanted to see and envisioned a life of travel. The only problem was the fact that I had no clue how to properly manage my funds and I was never exactly in the position to pick up my life and move to a new country on a whim.

How traveling changed my life

Something changed when my brother died, though. I’m not sure whether it was the fact that our family had to collectively decide to take him off life support or the fact that I witnessed someone so close pass away, but I came to the realization that this life we are all living is extremely precious. Somewhere in the booze-filled days and nights that masked my pain, I knew this, but I just didn’t know how to make it happen and certainly didn’t have the inner strength to do anything about it.

My depression snowballed into oblivion and I truly believe that I lost my mind at some point. The turning point, however, was the break-up. I no longer felt trapped or broken, and this is when I really felt good enough to attempt to turn my dreams into a reality. Three months and half a mended heart later, my life kicked me back down on the day I found out I lost my job.

Is this actually my destiny?” I thought.

How traveling changed my life

Determined not to let this setback affect my quest for a better reality, I refused to see the job termination as a negative. To this day, I still believe losing that job was fate and will eternally be grateful for that unforgettable moment. Tapping into my childhood memories, I remembered a mantra my mother has continued to tell me my entire life: “Laura, you’re the best problem solver I know.”

How traveling changed my life. Or, why I ran away from America.

I started applying for new jobs and in the meantime used my newfound freedom as an opportunity to start running, practice more yoga and meditate more frequently. During the quiet times in my mind, I’d realized I had absolutely no desire to return to Corporate America. I reflected on all those times I’d wanted to work abroad and decided to take life by the horns. I started obsessively Googling everything I could find about teaching abroad and studied all the different packages countries offered. I enrolled in a month-long TEFL practicum in Chicago and signed up to tutor Burmese and Iraqi refugees on the side. This pipe-dream of mine had finally turned into something real and attainable – and I was doing it all by myself.

The visa application process for Korea was complicated, long and expensive…but totally worth it. I moved here in 2013 with a hefty bucket list, a grieving heart, absolutely no expectations and an intention to stay for just one year. Well, it’s 2016 and I’m ready to embark on my next journey: backpacking South East Asia for several months before living and working in New Zealand with my boyfriend.

Why running away from my life was a good decision

My life in Korea has been overwhelmingly rewarding, challenging and gratifying. I haven’t always liked living here; I’ve actually come to the realization that I don’t like living in Korea. One thing is for sure, though: I’m eternally grateful for all of the memories and relationships I’ve made here along with the once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

I’ve managed to regain my sense of self, open my mind and lose 30+ pounds in the process. I’m at peace with my brother’s death and have learned to deal with my emotions constructively rather than destructively. I’ve managed to teach myself how to create a budget and stay well-within it. To some, these may sound like minor victories, but to me, they’re remarkable.

In all honesty, running away from my life and choosing to find myself through travel and expat living was the best decision I’ve ever made and I can only hope for what’s to come in my future. After all, as David Mitchell once wrote, “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.”

How traveling changed my life. Or, why I ran away from America.

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30 Comments

  1. January 28, 2016 / 5:07 am

    Wow! You’ve definitely been through more than most people, I’m glad you are happy after all the turmoil in your life. The bad makes the good even better, and I hope your life continues to be filled with things you love! 😉

  2. January 28, 2016 / 5:39 am

    Travel is so valuable. I am so glad you took the risk. I know so many people who have never even left my home state in the midwest. I hope you continue to inspire others to make tough decisions and get to know themselves better!

  3. January 28, 2016 / 7:00 am

    This was such a good read ..thank u for sharing ….im goung through a rough time too i do not know which step to take which would lead to a happy future ..hopefully il be guided by god the same way u were guided ..

  4. January 28, 2016 / 7:12 am

    My story is similar to yours. It’s incredible to see how losing somebody close to us can shake us but also give us the energy to react and take life truly in our hands. Well done in being brave and follow your destiny. Take care xxx

  5. January 28, 2016 / 9:28 am

    Great post! It is amazing to see that you have found so much happiness even after such a dark period. Sometimes we need to leave home and our life to really live our lives in a proper way. It’s great to see you have gained so much. My expat series begins next monday, if you want to include this post (with some tweaks so it’s not exactly the same), make sure you get it to me by the end of the month 🙂 It would fit really well with the other stories 🙂

  6. January 28, 2016 / 9:44 am

    Travelling really is an incredible experience and I think you have summed it up brilliantly in this post. I hope you continue to travel and live your dreams.

  7. January 28, 2016 / 10:50 am

    Way to take the leap! It’s incredible to see how you’ve dealt with everything and come out on the other side (quite literally!)

  8. January 28, 2016 / 2:10 pm

    You have overcome quite the obstacles! Korea is a beautiful country with kind people. ..what a great country to find the “reset button” in your life.

  9. January 28, 2016 / 2:27 pm

    Yes life is short so do what makes you happy! Glad you made that decision 🙂

  10. January 28, 2016 / 2:50 pm

    Some people say that running away is a weak’s act. I don’t agree at al.l.. I am also running away now and I am loving how far I have done. So happy for you! 🙂

  11. January 28, 2016 / 3:21 pm

    This is very inspirational! I, too, lost my job and decided to make a run for it and travel full-time. I agree with you that those things definitely don’t happen by accident! In my case I believe the Universe heard me saying over and over how much I wanted to travel, but knew I would never willingly give up that cushy full-time job. So the Universe did it for me! Definitely a scary way to go, but super rewarding. Thanks for this post 🙂

  12. January 28, 2016 / 10:08 pm

    I don’t think they are minor achievements at all, I think you should be very proud of yourself for these achievements! And in my mind, I don’t like to think of it as “running away from your life”, it’s that sometimes only by stepping aside to where you have no background noise, to where you can be whomever you want to be without a past or judgement, you can actually become the person you were always meant to be. I have learnt that in life it’s really important to know when to go in, but it is equally important to know when to leave. It doesn’t mean running away. It means leaving behind what is meant to be left behind.
    Good luck in your new adventure!

  13. January 29, 2016 / 2:31 am

    Wow Laura, this was such a brave and honest post! So glad that your time in Korea has had such a positive impact on you 🙂 xxx

  14. January 29, 2016 / 12:31 pm

    This is such a honest article, thanks for sharing your experience with us. Also for saying it’s ok to run away from life. I think we often feel by traveling we are running away when we shouldn’t be. However, if you’re not happy, its important to remember its ok to run away from whats making you unhappy. Not every ‘problem’ can be solved and sometimes running away from them leads you to a happier place. I also lost my job (two in the space of 6 months) and those experiences have led me to where I am now 🙂

  15. January 29, 2016 / 3:32 pm

    Wonderful read. Thank you for sharing your story – you went through a lot. After my mum passed away, travelling was my refuge – not in the sense of running away from it all – it gave me a sense of purpose again and it made me grow in so many ways. I think travelling stirred me away from falling into some very big holes. It kind of kept me going over the years, you know? Seeing the beauty of this world – never knowing who you might meet next. And I lived in Namibia for three years – how many people can say that?! 🙂 I think we have a lot in common – i’m happy you decided to create the life you have dreamed of. Never give up 😉

    • January 29, 2016 / 3:42 pm

      Thank you so much! I do agree that we seem to have quite a bit in common as far as our experiences and our travel mentality goes. I’ve found myself so unhappy in Korea as the superficiality of it has driven me insane and I long to have some real experiences out in the world. Your photos and posts are really lovely and inspirational as is your story. I’m going to be spending a large chunk of the next few days reading your posts! I hope you know to never give up as well, but I’m sure you already know that. Thanks for the kind words and be well. <3

  16. January 31, 2016 / 7:52 am

    HI Laura! I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves is “run away”! For me that meant discovering the true me away from who I am/was to my family, my history, my habits or expectations. Especially as women, figuring our who we truly are builds our strength, tests our pre-supposed limitations, and invites us to take on challenges. We bring to our families and future family the gift of a woman with strength, compassion, competence and self-awareness. I know it’s an over-used saying, but “You GO girl!”

  17. February 2, 2016 / 3:37 am

    Another beautifully written piece by you. Thanks for sharing such a personal and emotional time for you. I’m really sorry to hear all that you’ve been through. I find you to be super inspirational to be able to take the leap of faith to travel after so much shit had gone wrong. Taking the initial leap to travel was difficult for me, but I can’t imagine how much courage and strength it took after losing a family member. You’re SE Asia trip will be awesome, we really cherished our time there. That’s exciting you get to move to New Zealand afterwards! One day we will visit there, can’t wait to read your blog about life there! Thanks for sharing Laura!

    • February 2, 2016 / 7:33 am

      Thanks =) I think instead of viewing it as things that happened “to me” (something I used to do) I just sort of view it as a chapter to a story as lame as that sounds. A chapter I never want to read again, that’s for sure! I’m extremely open about the fact that my brother died of a heroin overdose. He was an addict for 10 years and it’s something that I tried to keep secret from a lot of my peers. As I get older I realize heroin addiction is a true epidemic in America and I want anyone who feels like they’re struggling alone to know they aren’t. F*$K heroin regardless. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to SE Asia but I’m terrified of wanting to have to come back here to make money again. I know we won’t make nearly as much in NZ but I’m hoping we at least get jobs! The unknown is terrifying. Thanks again for the kind and thoughtful words.

  18. February 2, 2016 / 3:45 am

    Thank you very much for opening up and sharing your story with us. I’m always keenly interested in what motivates people to travel and how people grow throughout the process. I distinctly remember my first big trip by myself back in 2009 and how much of an impact it had on me (and my ability to budget as well ^^) and that, after that experience, I knew I could ‘do it’. It wasn’t too long after that I quit my job in Corporate America and moved abroad. It is not always easy, but I finally feel like I’m living my dream.

    Thanks again for sharing and I wish you all the very best!

    • February 2, 2016 / 7:36 am

      Thank you so much!! The concept of why people travel is certainly interesting – particularly Korea. I’ve met a lot of characters here for sure with unique stories.

  19. February 2, 2016 / 11:28 am

    I love this. Your posts are always so inspiring. Who knew after a long time of being inspired by stories on the internet that you’d be the one inspiring others. Good on you, Laura. Take care and be blessed!

    • February 2, 2016 / 1:32 pm

      Wow, thank you so much for the kind words. I really appreciate it! <3

  20. February 5, 2016 / 7:37 am

    I admire your spirit. Sharing these very personal details is very courageous. And you pushed yourself above those. Hugs to you! Enjoy SE and New Zealand. Very beautiful, quite country.

  21. February 8, 2016 / 8:39 am

    Traveling is so awesome isn’t it? I feel you, I’m always looking for new travel opportunities and try to travel as much as possible.

  22. February 8, 2016 / 2:21 pm

    Laura, I can relate to your story. There comes a time in your life where you just have to get up and move. I was once bored in my job. I felt morbid about everything. There was no progress in my personal development. So I decided to sojourn to the USA, and guess what, that is where I met the opportunity to come and study here in Korea. I have never regretted living in Korea. I am glad to learn about the inner courage you bulged to pursue this journey. I wish you all the best in your next adventure. It was refreshing to read your sincere story. It’s truly a reminder for us to persevere.

  23. February 9, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    I completely agree with the view that traveling can change a person’s life, and you (and I) are testament to that. Traveling is addicting and returning ‘home’ gets harder each time. I hope you continue to find happiness while traveling, good luck on your journey around SE Asia and New Zealand.

  24. February 19, 2016 / 12:01 am

    This is lovely, Laura. God, you went through so much. The fact that you found the strength to do something new is incredible. You should be so proud of yourself.

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