How I was Stuck and Decided to Get Lost Instead

It started on a Wednesday

You know when you wake up in the morning and you don’t want to be where you are doing what you’re doing?

That was me one joyously sunny Wednesday morning in Oregon last April (2012). I hated everything about where I was, and I hated that I hated it (because Oregon is amazing), and I hated that I didn’t want to get out of bed on a sunny day, so I hated the sun for shining.

It was a low point. I’m not proud.

“You should be happier,” I scolded myself. After all, life was sweet and easy.

I lived in a peaceful, green town. I’d made lots of great friends. I had a great job.

But I hadn’t meant to be here. I kept plugging away for a year post-divorce, waiting out the grief thing, trying to figure out what came next.

But oh the grief. Oh the unholy, still-pounding-the-floor-crying grief of it.

What is it about grief and floors that makes them go so well together?

Whatever it was, I didn’t want it. Travel had always been my go-to, my magic reset button, the thing that made me feel alive when nothing else did. Anyway, I figured if I had some crying left to do, I might as well do it on a tropical island.

I didn’t know how long I wanted to be gone, so I quit my job. It would’ve cost too much to move, store, and move my things again, so I got rid of everything. I didn’t know where I wanted to go so I bought a one-way ticket.

It all made sense until I started announcing my plan to friends and family and watched the inevitable mayhem that will ensue when you announce you’re doing a complete 180 with your life.


The Money

I know what you’re thinking.

How can she afford to just quit her job and travel like that?

One thing I’d done right all these years while living the cookie-cutter college-career-marriage before 30-401K American dream was to save money. In my entire adult life I’d never bought a tv or major electronic appliance (at least not a new one). Actually, there were very few things I hadn’t purchased second-hand. My designer jeans came from West LA yard sales and my Banana Republic work outfits came from the Santa Monica Goodwill (thank you career girls of Brentwood). I’d never had a fancy phone or cable tv.

Not paying for stuff for ten years was finally going to, well, pay off.


The Travel

I wasn’t new to international travel. I’d been using a passport since the age of seven, studied abroad in college, and despite being a cheapskate managed to see 18 countries already.

But at 34 I could already feel my years of happily roughing it in 16-bed hostel dorms and squatting over third-world potties coming quickly to an end. I knew I’d better travel now or I might not have the stamina later.


The Uncertainty

Embracing the uncertainty that this decision entailed was challenging. My identity was wrapped up in being a planner, a teacher, a project coordinator, in knowing what I wanted at all times and making it happen. I’d orchestrated my life with minimal drama and sufficient applomb. I’d finished my degrees in the requisite amount of time. I was married, I had a career, I had a home and a purpose. And then my husband declared his love for someone else, despite a promotion my job still felt soulless and unsatisfying, and I moved into a friend’s spare room because I couldn’t bear the sight of anything that reminded me of the man who’d betrayed so much trust.

In less than six months, the tidy little life  I’d spent ten years putting together vanished.

Why not go about life differently for a change? Why not stop wanting my life to look like everyone else’s?

Why not stop worrying about the outcomes and just be for awhile? What did I have left to lose?


Finding company on the internet since 2002

When I decided to take this trip, I’d never heard the acronym RTW before. I now know it stands for Round The World. I didn’t know what a career break was. I hadn’t even read Eat Pray Love yet (and I didn’t want to). Many of my friends were chronic travelers, but I didn’t know it was a thing, and I especially didn’t know there were so many people blogging about it. Where did you all come from?

A few weeks in the decision started to feel overwhelming.

Thankfully, there was support on the internet, invisible friends who held my hand as I hyperventilated late into the night, staring at my one-way ticket, wondering what I’d done.

On minimalism and getting rid of stuff
the minimalists

On long-term travel
Nomadic Matt

On solo female travel
Legal Nomads
Adventurous Kate


Bon Voyage

So I’m off in a few days, more than a little terrified by the unknown (I’ve been waking up in total panic for a week now), but even more terrified by the thought of staying put and being ambivalent about my life.

What about you? Are you out there? Are you reading? If you’re already a friend, say hi! If you’re out there on the big bad playground of the world introduce yourself. I’m probably lurking on your blog already anyway.



  • Uncle Mano

    Hi you. :) just started reading it. Will check in periodically to see what uve been up to.

  • Jason

    Glad to see you’re doing it, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the winds take you.

    • Colleen

      Thanks for reading, Jason. I’m looking forward to seeing where they take me too!

  • Kim

    I’m looking forward to keeping in touch!

  • Tricia Berg

    WooHoo Colleen! So excited to travel virtually with you through your journey! Have fun!

  • Ardemis

    Bon Voyage! We may cross paths. We will be in Vietnam on Dec 6, then on to Cambodia, Thailand and Bali.
    But you’re doing it alone, and that takes guts!

    • Colleen

      Safe travels on your trip! If we don’t cross paths it’ll be nice knowing you’re nearby in spirit.

  • Maria

    I can’t wait to live vicariously through you!!!! You are amazing and courageous. I look forward to hearing about your adventures.

  • Cathy

    I look forward to hearing of your journey as you travel. It will find you. 😉

  • ColleenGetsLost

    Hi Alissa! Aw, shucks. Us backpackers are a dime a dozen on the road but I’ll take the compliments. Good for you for minimizing! Let me know how it goes.

  • Petra

    Hi Colleen! I’m way behind in reading but sure I’ll catch up soon (just figured out you aren’t doing the tiptoes blog I first subcribed too;-) Glad to read from FB that you are in good company!

    • Colleen

      Hey Petra! Thanks for finding me and reading along! Definitely lots of company from friends and strangers to be had on the road.

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