Coney Island, New York

Three years. Back where it all began.

It's been three years since I quit my job to travel...

Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest in Coney Island, New York.

Where I stood to watch 3 years ago. Where I will eat on Friday.

Three years ago today I boarded a one-way flight to New York to attend the July Fourth Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest and begin my ’round the world trip.

At the time I thought, “There’s no way I would ever want to travel for more than a year,” and I’m pretty sure everyone else thought, “She’s not going to make it three months.” But things chance. People change.

Yesterday I again boarded a one-way flight to New York. This time to compete in the July Fourth Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest and to leave on part three of my ’round the world trip.

In my first go, I lasted fifteen months on the road, traveling around Europe and Asia.

In the second, nine, traveling from Guatemala down to Colombia and then detouring to Ireland and the UK.

And now I’m set to head to Peru, back to South America, and see where I end up.

It’s been three years since I left my full-time job and left for the first time, and I’ve traveled for two of those three years.

I’m always hesitant to say that I’ve been traveling for three years. But, really, I have no idea what to say when people ask how long I’ve been traveling. And, really, the entirety of my time home in these years was spent either sleeping on an air mattress in a friend’s apartment or a twin bed at my mom’s. Situations that don’t scream permanent.

But labels are labels. And I don’t feel like I’m starting a whole new trip, I’m just continuing my journey.

There have been times in these last seven months at home where I felt like I was failing. In all I’d been home for twelve months: five months here, seven months there. A year. Each time I’d meant to leave earlier. I felt like I should be constantly somewhere else, only dipping my toes back in Chicago. I felt like my life wasn’t coming together.

But then I stepped back and realized, no. No, it’s not failing to go home, to work a temp job, to pay off credit card bills, to not feel like moving for a while, to enjoy a sense of home.

It’s making things work.

I’m making things work.

I’ve been lucky that my old job has welcomed me back so many times. I’ve been lucky that I’ve always had a place to blow up my air mattress. I’ve been lucky.

I’m not sure what this next year, or the rest of my life will hold. I have plans. They will change. I know this.

For all I know I will be back for good in six months with a completely empty bank account. For all I know I’ll fall in love and move across the globe. For all I know I’ll make freelancing work and be able to continue traveling.

All I know is that I’m heading into my fourth year of travel knowing more than ever that things work out. In one way or another.

Things always work out.

Boardwalk in Coney Island, New York.

Nathan's Famous in Coney Island, New York.

Coney Island, New York.

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Hema
    July 3, 2014at8:36 am

    It’s never a failure, just part of the journey.
    I hope you have someone taking pictures of you in the hotdog eating contest! Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

  • Jodi
    July 3, 2014at1:48 pm

    Looking forward to the upcoming journey! Don’t ever give up on what makes you happy!!

  • Rob
    July 3, 2014at10:32 pm

    Has it been three years already? Crazy. Looking forward to seeing you compete tomorrow. I hope you remember that mean at Brennan & Carr’s. Gargoyle burger, knife and fork style.

  • Ali
    July 7, 2014at6:10 am

    Congrats on 3 years Val! Definitely not a failure. No one’s journey looks like anyone else’s.

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.