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!