How I Abandoned Everything in Search of Myself

in search of myself

“Those who know where the treasure lies, joyfully abandon everything else to secure it.” – D.A. Carson

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had gone through the motions that most others my age went through  high school, college, job. That was it, that was the plan and that was the direction I was heading towards. Until it wasn’t.

I studied elementary education and had every intention of being a teacher. The dream of having my own classroom and working in inner-city schools was really attractive to me. Really! So, I was on my way towards that, until I wasn’t.

Instead, I joined the Peace Corps. Different paths post-college led me there and it was something that had always interested me. This wild, exotic fantasy of living completely alone whilst “saving the world” definitely had its allure to a young 20-something. So I did it, and it rocked my world. Did I save the world? Absolutely not, but that experience, that village, it definitely saved me.

It was all “planned” out, hours spent researching the best programs in the US to get my Masters of Education, grandiose ideas of living in a new state and beginning to settle into a normal life. After the Peace Corps, I would assume my role as loyal citizen to the US. I would teach, I would take out a mortgage and I would be happy. Until I didn’t.

About 18 months into my Peace Corps service, after riding this emotional roller coaster of emotions, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was living abroad and that I kind of liked it. I also came to the realization that all these fancy-schmancy schools offering the best degrees were not cheap. What to do?

Commence the research, this time, the google search term, “ways to make money fast in Asia.” And there it was, teach English! Of course, EVERYONE was doing that and it seemed that the money was really there. I felt that I had an upper-hand because my degree was in education, and I wasn’t straying at all from what I set out to do 5 years ago. Instead of teaching in the US, I would just be teaching abroad now. Teach for a year, save up a stack of cash, go home and study. Done. Until it wasn’t.

I ended up teaching in Taiwan and falling in love with the country. Taiwan is a fascinating little country, rarely visited by tourists. People are genuinely nice there, public transportation is incredible, it’s a prime spot for vegetarians and the health-care is fantastic. It was the perfect place to live. Until it wasn’t.

The problem with Taiwan was the work-culture. They have a 6-day workweek over there (which is actually pretty standard for Asia) but the days are long, and so are the mornings and nights. I found myself in a 60+ hour workweek, between work and commuting, I was spending a lot of time away from home, thus sacrificing a lot of personal time for growth and happiness. As the money stacked up, I became more and more tired, finding ways to squeeze in naps during the day whenever possible. Surely this wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t.

I left Taiwan earlier than expected. I had my stack of cash saved, but instead of putting that stack towards my student loan I traveled the world (uh, Asia…I traveled Asia). Over two years of constant work, the last thing I wanted to do was lose it instantly. Instead, I followed my heart and haven’t looked back since. And I didn’t.

I have absolutely no regrets, (even when the student loan folks are calling incessantly) for taking the time to travel instead of forking over the cash to be debt free. There’s so much freedom in traveling and living the life that I’m living, that I have no worries about what will happen.

Instead, I’m living in the present taking it one day at a time. What traveling has taught me, and is still teaching me, is to trust and let go. I know that there have been times that I have been on the verge of bankruptcy, but the universe has always provided. Yes, I’m still living off of that stack that I piled up over a year ago, and trust me it’s not much anymore, but I’m trusting in myself that I will always be taken care of.

There’s always work to do and money to be made. Will I be able to pile it up money as easily as I did in Taiwan, absolutely not, but simplicity is also something I’ve learned along the way. I don’t NEED all this money. Yes, it’s reassuring to have, but when food and accommodation are provided for, what else do you need?

I know this must sound crazy. I have no savings whatsoever and I’m heading into my 30s this year. Yes, I’ve thought about that and I trust that I’ll eventually “get my shit together” and have a constant flow of money. I won’t be young forever, but right now I am.

It baffles me to hear so many people “saving” so that they can travel. Why not just travel now? Why not do what you want to now when you know you can. The present is what we have. We’re constantly saving for our “future” but there’s no guarantee that the future will be there. Is that a pessimistic way of looking at things? I don’t think so, I think it’s hopeful and inspiring.

Now, that’s not to say it’s been rainbows and unicorns the whole way. It’s taken quite the journey to get to where I am. Looking around at my friends who have stable jobs, marriages and children and then comparing it to what I have, a depleting bank account and the same clothes I’ve been wearing since college. But that’s just thing, I can’t compare. Everyone is on their own journey. What works for me may not work for others. Maybe others do not want to live this life of uncertainty, and instead, feel completely comfortable with where they are, and that’s totally fine.

But for me, this is working. Yes, it’s scary and I’ve had my fair share of breakdowns, and still do. I often stop and wonder, “what the hell are you doing?!” But then I bring myself back to my breath and the present moment. Being reassured by the notion that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. The places that this beautiful, strange world has taken me to is something that I never planned for. I ride the waves in life and find myself washed ashore in these incredible places. Each one teaching me something new. And I keep going.

I don’t know where I’m going next and I don’t know what it is I’m looking for. But does it matter? Whatever it is I’m subconsciously looking for will eventually find me, and when it does I’ll know. For now, I’m going to continue to wear my old clothes and have those minor freak outs over my dwindling account. But at the same time, I’m going to embrace life and live in the moment because that’s the one thing I know will always be there. How do you live fully and presently?

in search of myself

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20 thoughts on “How I Abandoned Everything in Search of Myself”

  1. Sri Purna Widari

    Tara,

    I am Sri and hello from Bali.
    I can exactly relate to how you feel right now about the dwindling bank account and thank you for sharing because your story makes me feel less anxious.
    I left a job in real estate because it did not fulfill me even though it provided me good money.
    My saving account is not what I am proud of, even though I also have saved up some for health insurance and a small investment and i feel nervous about whether or not my plan to blog will actually make profit.
    I have traveled already, I still live in a small room, and right now I am 32 years old and i have put so much pressure to myself when I compare myself with the accomplishments of others.
    We will go through this!

    1. Thank you for sharing your journey with me, Sri! We are in this together and, for me, it’s best to not compare yourself to others but instead to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. It sounds like you’re living your life in a way that is purposeful to you. Money does matter, but and abundance of it doesn’t necessarily equate happiness. As long as you’re living comfortably and in a way that is meaningful to you, then we are certainly on the right path. Stay strong and let love, intuition and trust guide you. Good luck on your road to discovery and I’m sure everything will fall into place just as it should! Much love :)

      1. Sri Purna Widari

        You are so right about never comparing ourselves because that is where the suffering and misery started.

        I have beaten myself up over my past failures and I just realized, how after all these years, I was actually preparing myself.

        I was concerned about how people would judge me especially those who knew how I was always open about my big dreams and I do not think I am nowhere near it because of the choices I have made.

        But right now, I know more about who I am and that is good enough.

        You are good enough too and we will find a way.

    1. Absolutely, Ahsoka! Go on a retreat or make your own little getaway for the weekend. Taking some much-needed time in nature, and for yourself, is sometimes all you need to retreat from the “madness.” Just breathe and let go and you’ll find clarity to your chaos from within. You’ve got this! Good luck on your journey :)

  2. Truth is you cannot be free like this after you Commit to a: family, home, career. The only time to do it is before any of these. And this freedom will work. Until you want somthing more. Regular people start with career and family. Realizing or not, they loose the freedom. Sme miss it, some not. Whatever works for everybody.

    1. Thank you, Doina! And I absolutely agree with you, this lifestyle is certainly not possible if I had all the things you mentioned. I chose a different road, one that doesn’t involve a mortgage, children and those other “creature comforts.” As I’m getting older, I’m beginning to want a little bit more, that I know will be difficult to incorporate into my vagabond lifestyle as you mentioned. Whatever the circumstance, it’s all about finding a balance, and right now I’m still on that path of discovery to find that happy medium. Hope you’re finding it as well. Thanks again and for sharing :)

  3. It really takes a certain kind of personality to be able to give up having a steady income and a house/apartment so you can travel the world. Having grown up in poverty and been almost homeless several times in my youth I simply can’t bear the idea of giving up my nice apartment, even if not paying rent would give me money to travel. I admire your courage in going for it.

    1. Ah, thank you, Dianna! There’s definitely a special kind of courage in the path that you chose. You should enjoy the beautiful life that you’ve made and be so grateful for it. To be comfortable and happy in life is really all we can hope for as it can inspire others in unassuming ways. And I’m sure what you’ve endured is inspiring to many. Continue on your road of discovery and save up whenever you can, if you really do want to travel, as you don’t need much. Reach out anytime and best of luck! Peace and love :)

      1. Exactly! Though it would be helpful if my top bucket list locations weren’t also the most expensive countries in the world to visit(I’m looking at you, Sweden.)

  4. hi Tara thank you for sharing this with us. i would not mind doing what you have the courage to do. i think i would find some peace of mind. i am chasing happy and peace at the same time and not getting anywhere.
    i admire what you are doing and i hope you are always reach where you want to:)

    1. Thanks, Nadia!You have the courage too! I found that happiness and peace come naturally when I’m not looking at all. It helps to take just a few minutes out of the day to just sit and meditate, taking some time in the morning. There are excellent meditations on YouTube. Do some exploring as I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Hope you find that peace you’re looking for :)

      1. I am kind of going through the same feeling , I feel low depressed, almost like I have lost everything ion my life though I am doing good in my professional life and making good money but my personal life is missing out.
        but I try to make my self motivated and happy ,
        but meditation I never tired but I would sincerely do it an see how it can change my life.

  5. Everyone has their own path, you just have to own yours and be willing to readjust as life changes. I wish I had done a little more of this before settling down and having children–I was in such a rush for the “normal” suburban family. I wish I had taken time to travel and to be on my own for a little while. Now I have a demanding job and 2 young children so it will be a while before I have my freedom back. But look out late 40s…I’ll be coming for you!! :)

    1. Yes! That’s the attitude. All of our paths have led us to exactly where we’re meant to be. Celebrate what you have and be grateful every day. Each moment is meant to teach us something, no matter where we are in the world. Cherish the time with your kids and the life you’ve created. The world is our playground and I’m sure your little ones would love to explore it with you. Cheers! :)

  6. Dear Tara,
    That is nice idea.
    I am Iranian and in our culture we have a man that named mollana.
    He said that happiness and other things is inside of us and at first
    you must find yourself. After that everything come to you.

  7. Who wouldn’t like to lead such life, but once you are married and taken all the responsibilities on your shoulders, that may not be possible anymore. Not being pessimist here, but I feel that it is not so easy to follow your dreams, when people around you are dependent on you in one way or another. The expectations your family members have from you and you have for yourself may become a hurdle in this process.

  8. Hi there, i believe that all this searching for peace and contentment is the problem. Accepting who you are exactly the way you are presently will free up your mind for allowing positive changes to happen automatically without the searching and seemingly endless path of discovery. Only once you have stopped resisting the ” state” in which you and your life are you can and will see the positive changes happening.

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