This is a Galavanting guest post by Annalise Combs:
I remember the moment I knew.
I was staring into the drivers side mirror of my dusty Honda, bawling. Bloodshot eyes, one hand obsessively stroking my hair and the other gripped tight around the wheel. And I knew, I couldn’t do it anymore.
I couldn’t keep living a life shaped by “shoulds.”
I knew I should secure a salaried position, using the degree I paid way too much money for. So I did.
I had just locked down a desk job in my college town, posted on social media about what a great opportunity it was, shared information with family friends who finally looked at me with pride and approval.
I knew I should move forward in my relationship. I was with a good man, who loved me and would stand by my side. So I did.
We realized we could move into a luxury apartment with my newfound income and still be able to put money into savings. So we started looking. We started planning the life I always thought I should want.
I mean, come on, my partner and I had a fur baby and were looking at engagement rings, and my new job had a 401K match and health insurance. This was success. I was successful. Why would I give that up? I couldn’t.
My need for success and approval outweighed my need for joy and self-care.
And then, staring in my drivers side mirror in the midst of a complete and total breakdown, I remembered, this was never the life I dreamed of. This was the life I thought I should want. This was the life I was pretty damn good at securing. This was the life that everyone else was proud of me for securing. But me? I wasn’t proud. I was frustrated.
I was frustrated with myself for treating my body, mind and spirit like they were unimportant and unworthy. In reality, I wanted to teach myself the exact opposite.
So, I thought about how I could do that.
I thought about a life that made me feel empowered, liberated and filled with joy.
I sat down and I made a list of all the moments I felt joy. And then I made the list again the next day. And then the day after that. Silly stuff, like popping the yolk of my sunny-side ups, or the way the rocks on the beach massaged my feet, slowly but surely, focusing on the things that truly brought me joy painted a picture of a joyful life.
I thought more pointedly about a home that made me feel safe and comfortable, and a job that ignited passion in my soul. And after joy journaling, and exploring what a life of happiness looked like for me I uncovered my vision: a car home, a trek across the states, lots of solo travel and a successful empowerment blog were in my future.
A few months after my vision became clear, I left my 9-5(6...7…8), I lovingly uncoupled with my then-partner, and I sat, with my hands covered in hot glue fashioning a window cover for my SUV home.
I was on my way toward a life of joy!
Okay, so how did I do it? How did I go from: “I’m done living a life full of shoulds” to “I’m living a life I love, filled with joy and passion!”
First and foremost, it was a process of letting go of my need for approval, and giving my greater need for joy space to take over.
I spent a lot of my early twenties caught up in comparison and expectation. I’d think about my 10 year high school reunion with dread.
I worried that if I didn’t climb the corporate ladder my former classmates would plaster fake smiles on their faces while they quietly judged me for not living the life I “should.” But what I didn’t realize until that breakdown in my car was: if I shaped my life around what my graduating class would think or how I would measure up, very few genuine smiles would grace my own face.
When I realized this, I realized if I attended my high school reunion people would probably plaster fake smiles on their faces as they peeped the armpit hair poking through my dress or the freckles dancing across my face as I said, “Yep, I live in my car full time and wander the world,” knowing their fake smiles wouldn’t matter. Mine would be genuine.
However, the fake smiles that did still matter were those of my close family and friends. But it turns out that:
I have an incredibly supportive family and I feel grateful for them everyday
Everyone who doesn’t understand the life I’ve chosen, everyone who is still waiting on me to come home and settle in, they might not get it, but they love me anyway.
It truly just took talking to my family and friends with intention, and saying, “Hey, this is what I’m doing. I’m choosing this path because it makes me feel truly happy and successful. Please support me.”
I mean, hell, my childhood best friend and I could not be more opposite. She is very happily living with her boyfriend, cat and working a corporate job. Just the thought of being nomadic, of not having a shower at her disposal makes her skin crawl, but she still loves me and will support me until our last day, not because she understands, but because she knows I am happy.
So those were the biggest steps for me. One, break up with the expectation that success = living a life based around societal expectation. Two, make up with my family and friends and ensure a strong foundation of love and support.
Then, I got practical. I turned to the finance side of things and figured out how I would transition out of my 9-5 and into a life of freedom while still maintaining some semblance of financial security. Your journey may not allow you to transition out of your 9-5. It may instead be about setting boundaries, opening up space for more weekend adventures and sunset walks. Regardless of your path, financial freedom is key.
And ya’ll, I learned a few key components of financial freedom and success:
One: Most of our relationships with money revolve around stress and obligation (pretty reminiscent of our lifestyles right?). But, if we can move into a relationship with money based around love and joy, the whole game is changed.
When you start treating money with love, it loves you back. I know, I know, this might sound too hippy-dippy for you. So, let me break out the concrete examples. When I started to look for love in my relationship with money I discovered side hustles that brought me serious love.
I babysat for two families who became like second families to me.
I worked for clients doing editing work I loved, with ease from home.
I decided to stop shelling out extra cash to dye my hair, a process I never really loved, and I fell deeply in love with myself and my natural beauty.
The benefits are tangible and unbelievable. When I sit back and look at it all together, I am amazed. If you start the process you’ll be able to look back and say the same thing!
Two: Budgeting is queen. I budget to this day!
I made a budget for the save up before I set out for a life of wandering.
I made a budget for my road trip across the USA.
And I made a budget for my time backpacking in Thailand and Europe.
If you know how much you make, and how much you spend, you can put the rest in savings and have a nice cushion! I know it sounds simple, but tracking the way you spend your money truly makes the biggest difference!
Three: Despite what society would have us believe there are a million ways to make money outside of convention. Woofing, Workaway, seasonal jobs in ski towns or summer hubs, online transcription work, blogging, editing, photography, craft making, teaching english abroad and online, or grabbing a work visa in Aussie...the list goes on. Sitting at a desk is not the only way to put money in the bank!
Some of my favorite tools for remote work and getting paid as a creative are:
Patreon - Offer your readers extra content
Etsy - Sell your rad creations online
Rev - Work from the comfort of your home
Sit down and think again about what brings you joy and then start searching, there is most definitely a way to make money from it. And if there isn’t a clear path, then you get the opportunity to pave your own!
Once I had my mind right, my support team intact, and my finances in order, I whipped my little car home Luna into shape and, just like that, I was off.
I haven’t looked back since. I am in love with the life I live. Sure, in the spirit of honesty, sometimes I feel lonely, and occasionally a heater and a bubble bath sounds pretty rad. But more than that is the joy!
The way I feel when I look in the mirror and see my eyes light up and sometimes even fill with tears of gratitude, the feeling of my breath moving through my body instead of being trapped within my lungs, the ability to soak in hot springs and shower in rivers, the freedom to roam where I am called, the knowledge that I am more capable than I ever imagined, all that makes it absolutely perfect!
I am grateful every day for choosing this life. I am grateful to be able to share my journey with you here. I hope to empower you to take your own journeys, into lives led by passion, joy and freedom. They won’t look exactly the same as mine, we all have our own paths, but I hope that journey to joy can help lead you to yours!
With love, Annalise Combs
Annalise Combs is a 24-year-old solo female traveler, empowerment specialist, writer and blogger! She runs a website: empoweredwanderer.com with a mission to inspire folks to live authentic and empowered lives led by joy and passion, rather than work and obligation! She is publishing an E-book called "Breaking The Chains" to support this mission on 2/26/2019. She hopes that her journey inspires others to break free!