5 Ways my Cross-Country Adventure Impacted my Life
My boyfriend, Eric, and I returned from a cross-country road trip a few weeks ago. We set out on this formative journey after talking about it in theory for over a year, planning and saving up for months, and finally taking the plunge and giving our two weeks notice in March. Free from commitment, we took two months off before tackling our next career moves to travel around the US. The whole experience is still fresh, but I know it was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that not only affected our relationship, but many other areas of both our lives as well. As I dive into my job search, I find myself reflecting on the ways in which these past few months have caused me to change and grow.
1. Health & Well-Being
We may not have maintained the healthiest diet while on the road, but we did manage to get outdoors and work up a sweat almost every day. It felt great to get our exercise by hiking through national parks, kayaking, and logging miles wandering around new cities. Spending time in nature can also do wonders for your mental health and well-being. Although we maintained a travel blog together and kept in touch with our families throughout the trip, Eric and I both wanted to make an effort to “unplug” as much as possible. There were many times when we chose to leave all electronics in the trunk for a few days to set up camp in the wilderness, technology-free. This afforded us the opportunity to slow down and spend time reading, exploring the natural beauty around us, and having meaningful conversations. It was a great way to release stress and become more in tune with ourselves and each other.
Eric and I first started dating five years ago, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Over the years we’ve learned a lot and grown together in many ways, but this trip in particular put our relationship to the test and inspired new understanding between us. We faced many challenges together: underestimating the length and difficulty of a hike in Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains, changing our plans on multiple occasions due to weather conditions, and powering through a 14+ hour drive without losing our minds, to name a few. Although we inevitably had some conflicts along the way, we overcame all the obstacles thrown at us, soaked in the incredible moments we were lucky to share, and came home with a stronger bond than ever.
3. Family & Friendships
My parents were a bit skeptical of my decision to leave my job and take a few months off to travel, yet they still provided their guidance and emotional support before and throughout the trip (after all, they took a cross-country road trip together when they were my age too!). I’m so grateful for the family and friends who have my back at home, as well as the loved ones across the US with whom I was able to reconnect. Despite their hospitality and the amazing places we visited, however, Eric and I both found ourselves missing home, especially as the final days approached. There are many spots I want to return to (Yellowstone National Park, the Pacific Coast Highway in California, and Colorado are at the top of the list), as well as destinations we missed along the way (Chicago, the Carolinas, Arches National Park…), but it has never been more clear to me that New England is my home and always will be.
4. Career Development
During the trip, I became engrossed in a book called Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron. Through the lens of the well-known Myers-Briggs personality types, this book helps readers discover their innate strengths and blind spots and apply them to their careers. I was surprised at how accurate the description of my personality type was. I had briefly considered pursuing more “corporate” opportunities, but my inkling that a traditional, buttoned-up work environment wouldn’t satisfy me or keep me motivated was reinforced by what I learned from this book. Having the time to research and explore my options was extremely beneficial for me. I was truly able to reflect on my career goals and passions, and I have approached my current job search with renewed energy and confidence.
On a broader scale, I really believe that Eric and I were able to expand our thinking from this experience. We met many people with completely different backgrounds and perspectives from ourselves, and hearing their stories was eye-opening. We encountered a couple of go-with-the-flow Australian hippie types in Arizona who were on their way to California in a used RV from the 70’s to find part-time jobs and surf. We spent a lovely Seattle evening with a friend’s grandparents and their friends, listening to stories of the incredible paths their lives have taken over the years and hoping to glean some shred of their wisdom. We came out of this experience feeling more self-reliant as well, after putting our critical thinking skills to use when unexpected circumstances arose, and even using an actual physical map and compass instead of GPS on many occasions.
I believe all these aspects of my life are connected, and growth in one area inspires growth in another. The line between personal and professional growth is blurry, and I’m discovering through the first stages of my job search that people are not only respectful of my choice to take time off, but fascinated with my journey and eager to hear more. Many people have said, “I wish I could do that!” and my response is simply, “You can!” If traveling and taking time to reflect and refocus on your goals are really important to you, then you’ll find the right time. It’s just about taking a deep breath and doing it. The timing lined up for Eric and I to both make career changes, and we seized the opportunity to do something spectacular before making our next moves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: LIZ WING
After graduating from Colgate University in 2012 with a BA in Philosophy and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric, I returned to my New England roots to join Visible Measures as an Analyst in their Boston office. I later transitioned to a client-facing role as an Account Manager, through which I managed online advertising campaigns and helped brands develop more effective strategies. I recently returned from a two-month road trip around the US, and am excited to find my next opportunity in Boston’s digital marketing field. By contributing to Women’s iLab, I hope to share some insight into balancing personal and professional goals, and reflect on my own challenge to translate life experiences into career skills.