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Speaking at Meet, Plan, Go Chicago

So, we meet again…

Speaking at Meet, Plan, Go! Chicago.

Meet, Plan, Go! Chicago 2012

When I was planning on quitting my job to travel I really had no idea where to start. I knew I wanted to go. I knew I had to go. But I just wasn’t sure how to go. The problem was I didn’t really know anyone who had done such a thing and didn’t really know how to start preparing. So when I saw that this event called Meet, Plan, Go!, an event dedicated to helping inspire and inform people on taking career breaks, was coming to Chicago, I got my ticket as soon as they became available.

It was at that event that I started meeting in person other people who had or wanted to do exactly what I was doing. And where I met women travelers who were so strong and so independent that I started to believe that maybe I was capable of doing way more than I ever thought I could.

And so, two years later, when Lisa, the host who I met that day, invited me to be a panelist at this year’s event, I jumped at the chance. And so, on October 16, just one week after I returned from 15 months of traveling, I sat up in front of a group of nearly 150 travelers-to-be and was able to tell my story along with Jess (who I traveled in India with) and Bessie and Kyle and Lisa.

Meet, Plan, Go! Chicago 2012

I was able to tell everyone the story of how I didn’t get my passport until I was 25. And how, five years later, when I took off for a year of travel, I spent every day crying and just wanted to go back home because I was afraid of everything. But how at three months I had stopped and didn’t want to go home. And how at 6 months I never wanted to go home. I was able to tell everyone about that time I learned to surf and how I realized that even though I was completely awful it didn’t matter, because I was doing it.

And that is what matters.

Meet, Plan, Go! Chicago 2012

And I somehow managed, later, in a smaller breakout session on solo travel and safety, to say to everyone “we had just met and ended up sleeping together. Wait, not ‘sleeping together,’ I mean, sharing a bed to save money.”

I probably should never be allowed to speak publicly again.

Meet, Plan, Go! Chicago 2012

I hope I was able to inspire some people in the way that the panelists at the event I attended in 2010 inspired me. Because I truly believe that this last year of my life was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done and the person sitting here writing this today is a completely different, better, more confident person than I was before I left. And I’m sure none of the people I stopped to talk with before the event, commenting on where they wanted to go, discussing favorite places with, realized that a year ago I probably would have been to shy and afraid to talk with them. Or that a year ago I probably would never have even agreed to sit in front of a group of people.

I hope at least some people left thinking that they too were more capable than they thought they were. And I hope those people take off on their own adventures and find out that yes, yes they most certainly are.

Meet, Plan, Go! Chicago 2012

Meet, Plan, Go! Chicago 2012

If anyone reading this ever wants to reach out to me, please do. Contact me through email or through Facebook. Over the past year I’ve heard from so many people who felt scared or intimidated by the idea of travel and said that reading my neurotic thoughts helped. I really hope that I can continue to show you that it is possible to travel the world, that if someone like me can do it anyone can, and that it is, quite frankly, amazing and completely worth it. I’d love to hear from you.

 

p.s. I look totally miserable in all of these photos but I swear I wasn’t, my back was just killing me and spasming a lot that night and it was really painful to sit or stand.

 

Photos courtesy of Lisa Lubin.

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1 Comment
  • Sherry Ott
    October 23, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Val – this seriously made me about cry. This is exactly why we started MPG – to show people how life changing travel and a break can be. Thanks for reminding me of that! Your story has been one of my absolute favorite to ‘watch’

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