Archive for the Pre-trip Category

Allow me to introduce myself…

Monday, November 8th, 2010




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Landing in New Zealand


As I start my journey, I thought I’d take a post to to share a bit about myself and how I came to start traveling.  Part of this post is for you – to let you know where I’m coming from, what I’m hoping to get out of my travels, etc.  However, a large part of it is for me – forcing myself to really think about all of those things – I’ve found writing to be a great door to self-reflection and hope you enjoy it.

My travel background

  • I grew up in Illinois, travelled on family vacations – a great time with family – Disney World, Florida, etc.  Travel wasn’t a passion, nor did we avoid it, but I wasn’t born into a family of world maps, road trips and summers in the National Parks.
  • After high school, I studied Engineering and Economics at Northwestern University.  A visit with my older sister (3 years my senior) studying abroad in London when I was 18, planted the seed for me to do the same after my Sophomore year at University.  That summer started off with a quick European trip with my sister.  Rome, Capri (still one of my favourite places – swimming in the Blue Grotto was an amazing experience), Barcelona, Amsterdam, ending in London.  That trip opened my eyes to the world – but didn’t give me the travel ‘itch’ that so many people talk about.
  • After Uni, I started my career in consulting.  A great, challenging job that meant I was on the road 4 days a week.  It led to such glamorous destinations as Minneapolis, Memphis, Atlanta and San Francisco.  It also, led to 100s of thousands of hotel points and airline miles – and many a free vacation.
  • Most importantly, my job led to a ‘temporary’_ move to London that has become more permanent.  It created easy access to an entirely new set of countries and experiences, including: Spain, Norway, Greece, Italy, Belgium, France, Turkey, and Iceland..
  • Looking back on it – they were all great experiences, but often lacked a sense of really getting to know the people and culture of each destination.  Some of my most fond memories are of getting to the out of the way places (e.g., leaving the tourist towns on Santorini behind and exploring the Island by car) where you don’t see a tourist for miles.
  • I’ve never done much solo travel, so my trip to New Zealand is a big jump for me.  And to be honest, pushing my comfort zone is a big part of the reason I’m doing it.  Even if I am starting safely in an English-speaking country – I’m hoping it gives me the confidence to expand my horizons even further.

Photography as an influence

  • Right after University, I picked up my first Digital SLR and started what would turn out to be a lasting love of photography.  Not a ‘traveller’ by nature – I was able to use photography to experience travel in an entirely new way.  Seeing life through a lens has driven me to take things more slowly, be patient and actually experience more of the world.   50,000+ pictures later, it has become part of who I am.  I don’t have any dreams or desires of making a career out of it – but I get a ton of joy and fulfilment when I’m able to capture a moment in time that the vast majority of people never see.  Over time, the combination of photography and travel have blended together to become one in the same for me.
  • The end result has been an amazing set of experiences and an increased desire to travel and see the world.  Once you’ve _hiked an hour in the pitch black, sat in the darkness, with only stars as light, and watched the sun come up over the Grand Canyon – it is hard not to want to do it again, all over the world!  That was truly was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  It isn’t often we have the chance to sit in complete silence as the only person for miles and look at the stars…amazing.
  • I’ll likely expand further on photography and prior travels in future posts – but given the length of this one, I’ll hold back for now.

My career

For those expecting the typical ‘I had a 9-5 in a cublice, hated it, and quit to live my dreams of a nomad’ – that isn’t my story.  I really enjoyed my job.  Loved it at times.  Hated it at others.  Depended on the day of the week and the way the wind was blowing.  I’d get some positive feedback or a promotion and think ‘I’m good at this, maybe it is the right place for me long-term’.  Then I’d be in the office yet another weekend and be thinking to myself ‘Time to move on, do something else with your life’.

So far, I’ve made it through 6 great years in consulting and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  All of the long nights, and weekends lost to work were worth it.  Looking at people that had worked at clients for 15+ years – I was getting experiences that they may never get.  I was surrounded by incredibly bright, hard working people – many of which will remain friends forever.   That being said, early last year, I started to think more about my life, who I was, and what I wanted out of it.  As many of you who have tried to answer those questions – there isn’t an easy answer.  What I do know today is that in the long run, I want family to be the center of my life, not work.  And for me, consulting wasn’t the place that was going to happen.  I am currently on a six-month leave of absence that started in July of this year.  The plan was to decompress and start to think about what was next for me.  There have been many times where I stepped back and decided that I was going to return to consulting.  A few more years and I’d have even more incredible experiences, learn even more, and be able to build out my savings.  I could jump to a senior position at a client and be set.  There were other times when I was sure I wasn’t coming back.  When it comes down to it – at this point in life, I think it is time for me to move on.  I’m not sure yet what will be next (travel, at least for now!), but I think it is the right move.  That being said, I haven’t yet officially quit – so there is still a chance I’ll go back to work in January!

What I hope to get out of this journey

I think this journey will test how good of a traveller I am – and what it really means to me.  I may come to find I love it, spontaneity is great and I don’t need a plan.  I may find that I need a daily agenda or I’ll get bored.  I may find I’m much better at meeting others than I thought.  I may find I love being alone.  The last four months of not working has made me realise that the meaning of life isn’t a question to be answered, but one worth thinking about from time to time.

On of my small frustrations with myself is my lack of thoughtfullness.  It isn’t that I am unable of thinking of the deeper meaning of things – it that my default setting is generally very trustworthly, taking things at face value.  For example – never thinking ahead on my career, to my next holiday, or much else for that matter.  While some may wish they could avoid always thinking about problems or the future – I think a healthy balance is useful.  I enjoy living in the moment, but need to give some thought to where I want to go as well.

Just forcing myself to write things such as this (for personal or public consumption) challenges me to reflect on what motivates and drives me and why I am who I am.  I think it is only then that I’ll figure out what it is and what I want to ‘do’ with my life.  Or even the next few years for that matter.  I’m not expecting a clear answer to fall from the sky – but the more aware I am of myself, the more I’m likely to see opportunities that come up.

In addition to personal relfection – I’m looking forward to meeting a ton of new people.  Locals, travellers, people fresh out of University, people that just quit their job, and the list goes on.  I’m already planning to meet with Mike (from http://travelsofmike.com) in Auckland, and am hoping to cross path with others along the way.

So, what do you think?

Think I’m crazy for leaving my job without a plan?  Think I need a better agenda for my travels?  What about you?  Were you born in a travelling family with the itch to hit the road?  Are you travelling to escape something?  To experience something?  For another reason?  Are you working up the nerve to leave a job you hate?  One you like, but isn’t right?

Hopefully this (long) post has given you an idea of who I am as I start my journey.  I think it will be interesting to look back in a years time and see who I’ve become (travel-driven or otherwise).  Welcome to my journey.

Cheers,

Steve

Karangahape

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Dear future Steve…

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

(more…)

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No turning back now…

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Even though this blog is still in development, and I haven’t even started my trip, I had to at least post that I’ve booked my first flight! A few things fell into place, meaning I could leave as soon as I could get a decent fare, so for $840, I now have a one way ticket to Auckland departing Chicago on November 7th!!

I’m so excited to get to NZ and start exploring and planning future phases as well. A bit of nerves certainly kicked in right before I hit ‘purchase’, but I know it is all going to work out and be an amazing experience!

Now, only minor things to do like: Get NZ Visa, figure out what the heck I’m taking, get to the UK and back before then (long story…), etc.

More to come soon…

Bonus points if you guess the emotion conveyed in this image

I’m feeling…