When I first started The Open Road Before Me, it was early 2011 and I’d just decided to quit my job of three years to take up teaching English in South Korea. I was burnt out and desperate for change, and addressed the problem by veering down a vastly different road from what I’d been walking.
Since that first fork in the road, I’ve secured a number of other amazing (and not-so amazing) opportunities, only to turn them down or abandon them mid-completion. The Peace Corps. A promising career with a US-based startup. Most recently, a teaching job in Thailand. Brandon and I were recently joking about how this has become a disturbing trend for me, but the more I think about it, the less I’m disturbed.
Since quitting that first job, making decisions in my own interest has become an easier process.
If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi Berra
That process hasn’t become second nature, however. I love to plan and seem to have several potential life paths in play at any given time. The map of my future is like a giant tree of if/then statements. If I can’t find a motorcycle, then I’ll hitch the Pamir Highway. If I get approved for a working holiday in New Zealand, then I’ll quit my job with Zirtual. If I can get my background check in time, then I’ll leave New Zealand early and move to Thailand for six months…
I think it’s my coping mechanism. As long as I have an escape — a light at the end of the tunnel — I’m okay. And with each successive commitment drop, bailing gets easier.
Still, I hate to quit something I’ve started. Always have. So when I all but decided to leave New Zealand in early-May — leaving my job several weeks early and spending that short amount of time packing in as much sightseeing as possible — I had a feeling the decision would gnaw at me. And it did.
You came all this way, and you’re leaving? Why, is the work too difficult? You’ve hardly seen anything!
But I was tired. I’d been spoiled after breaking away from the 9 to 5, and working 60 hours a week was wearing me down. I wanted to get back to Asia, to where I could work less and still save money, to where life was just a little bit easier.
But then, a friend asked me a question.
“Do you want to go to Fiji with me?”
The question hit me like a wave of cold water, and I’m sure I looked like a fish out of water as my brain caught up to the conversation.
But Thailand! You’ve already started gathering your documents. You’ve told the agency you’re coming. They’re sending you job placement offers. MANGO STICKY RICE!
Because, why not? It was random it was unexpected, it was completely out of line with the plan I’d sketched out over the last month. But that nebulous idea I had five years ago when I started this site — of following the open road wherever it might lead me — had been reawakened by that one question, and my fernweh was stoked to an inferno.
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go. Beaches. Fresh fruit. Snorkeling in bathwater-warm shallows. Turtles!.. And while we eventually decided on Samoa over Fiji, I’m still counting down the days. Did I give up an opportunity? Sure. But if there’s anything the past four and a half years have taught me, it’s that there is no right path. There are only forks in the road, and it’s up to us to find the beauty along whichever one we take.
What’s an opportunity you’ve passed over? Looking back, are you proud of or do you regret your decision? Let me know in the comments below!
- Hiking to Refugio Frey and Beyond - January 20, 2020
- Christmas Letter 2019 - December 18, 2019
- My Walk Out of the Woods - June 30, 2019
Ooooh, Fiji! I look forward to that.
I haven’t passed up any opportunities but I did let fear and insecurity prevent me from enjoying the opportunities I had. Thankfully I was able to see that and have been living fearlessly for about 10-11 years now. I see a very clear line in my life between then and now, before and after.
Since money is not too much of a worry for me, jobs take a back seat. Though the odd bit of artwork for a bit ‘o cash here and there will not be refused.
It’s those forks in the road. I already know whee I’ve been and can see some of what lies ahead, but then there’s that fork. That unknown path …. wonder what’s down there and off I go. Usually (not always – as I found out recently), it proves interesting, I meet some great people and see things I didn’t know existed.
Thanks for reading, Ted! It’s always fun to look back and see where you been, and try to figure out what the future holds 🙂
You absolutely Inspire me.
I have so many positive thoughts about your journey, your freedom, the many forks in the road, your ability to wander with purpose to experience the world. A freelance writer, and so much more. Have a great experience in Samoa.
Thank you, Dee! 🙂
Sounds like a pretty perfect fork to me!!!
Here’s hoping! I was a little bummed, I really wanted to check out Caqalai, but I’m super excited for Samoa as well…
Love this post Nathan! In the end we’ll only regret the things we didn’t do so good one for choosing to go ahead and explore. Thailand and the agency will be waiting for you. Enjoy your travels!
Thanks, Ankita! Looking forward to some proper island time 😀
I can totally relate to your situation and your need for that light at the end of the tunnel. I’m the same- for me it’s satisfying to know that there is a fork in the road- I’d be scared if I knew it was a straight road all along. I don’t see it as quitting, I see it as starting something new. What is often forgotten is that there is almost always a right time to change direction and only you as someone who knows that the choice exists can know when that right time is. It’s the voice in your head, the feeling in your stomach and the impulse that speaks up.
Thanks Natasha, I love that last sentiment! A lot of choices I’ve made at forks in the road have been as a result of a ‘gut feeling’, and they always seem to lead me to some new place I never expected. Hopefully this trip proves to be similar!
This is a skill I’m working on! I’ve been making steady progress towards becoming a full-time traveler, but sometimes it feels like I don’t know how to just rip the band-aid off. I wish I had honed this instinct more in my twenties, so it wouldn’t feel so unnatural now.
Sounds like you’re well on your way there 🙂 Keep it up!