Reader Email: Pre-trip Wanderlust and Angst

I receive emails all the time from potential, current and future travelers but occasionally one of them stands out above the rest. Leading up to my departure I had a difficult time summing up my thoughts. I was saving my money up for something, something… bigger. I didn’t have all the details worked out but I knew I was going to take off and those details would take care of themselves.

Back to the email I received. Marissa initially emailed me describing her situation and asking for advice, but she so perfectly captured the combination of wanderlust and angst I felt pre-trip that I just had to share it with you guys. That anxious feeling before one’s able to travel the world is so familiar to so many. I know many of my readers are sitting in the same boat, trying to be patient until you can break free for an adventure, and I just want to let you know that you’re not alone. So with her permission here is her email along with my follow up response.

Marissa’s Email

My name is Marissa. I’m 22 years old, currently a university student and also a full-time employee with a private company in my hometown. Having been working full-time for about a year, I’ve learned a lot about myself, most importantly that I feel extremely unfulfilled. Working 8 hours behind a desk each day of the week is the most tedious form of employment that I can imagine. Like you, I see how young I am and question where I currently am – for what reasons? Because this is what I was told to do? For possessions? The security to go buy “things” when I get bored with what I bought last week? In the movie Fight Club, Edward Norton’s character hits the nail on the head, “God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place.” This is so dead on. I do not want to look back on my life and see myself sitting at a desk.

The idea of quitting my job and traveling the world has been fluttering around in my head for some time. But I did not know how, or when this could happen. Peace Corps? International employment? What should I do? I’ve been beating a dead horse for months, telling my friends the same thing over and over, “As soon as I graduate, I’m out of here. Packing my car up and hitting the road.” By now most of my friends just smile and nod, figuring that I’ll just stay at my job once I get a raise (because to them, money does equal happiness – at least some sad form of it).

But now, I have a plan. A solid plan, only the various details need ironed out. I am set to graduate Spring 2014 with a Bachelors of Integrative Studies degree in English, Geology, and Technology. As much as I would love to quit school and high-tail it out of here, I know that the responsible thing to do is to complete my degree. I’ve come so far, gone through too much shit just to throw it all away. During my time working, I have already saved up about $4000. My rent each month is $475 which includes utilities. No car payment. No cable. My cell phone is on a friend’s family plan which will be up this November, which I will not renew and I will get a phone that doesn’t involve a contract. I’ve put off getting a pet because I know that if I were to leave for a while, I couldn’t take it with me. I’ve been planning for my escape all along, I just didn’t know exactly what I was planning for. Once I graduate, I will leave. I’ll make sure that I have my passport, my vaccinations, funds, etc. My two best friends are already talking about getting engaged and planning their weddings. For years, and I mean years, I always felt so distant to them in that respect. Getting married in your early twenties? Are you serious? There is so much WORLD out there, so much to experience, to see. Is it that some people just do not have that quintessential taste for life? No inkling? It begs the question, are people like us just irrationally idealistic? All I know is that life is short, and the fuse of life can blow at any minute. Why sit where it is comfortable when you can experience the eternal beauty in this world – it is all there for us!

Do you have any advice for someone like me? Someone who still has about a year before they can jump on the plane? Is there anything you would have done differently if you could go back? Any advice would be amazing and greatly appreciated.

Sihanoukville Sunset

There’s a whole world out there. Let’s go find it

My Response:

Hey Marissa!

Wow, that was quite the email, but I loved reading it. You’ve so perfectly captured the combination of wanderlust and angst I felt pre-trip that I feel like it needs to be published.

As far as advice, it sounds like you’re well on your way to saving up the funds needed, but I’ve thought of a few pointers in no specific order.

First off, this trip is going to be awesome and worth every penny. Don’t let anything derail your plans or cause you to lose focus on your goal. However, don’t forget to enjoy the year you have left in school either. College is great in its own way and life is more about the journey than any sort of destination, at least until you’re 70. Then you can look back and reminisce about good times.

Don’t put too much weight in the trip answering all of life’s questions. Just go out and have a f**king great time. Do exactly what you want to do, whatever that may be. “Finding yourself” is too cliche. Traveling does and does not provide a sense of clarity. I’m more confident in who I am, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I know exactly what I want to do with my life.

Upon returning from my trip and giving myself ample time to readjust to life back home, I have to say I’m more satisfied in the person I am and what I have accomplished and done with my life up to this point. What if I could drop it all for an adventure? What if I had quite my job and traveled Asia? The “what ifs” are gone. I know the answer cause I went out and lived it and landed on my feet. I found work upon return, no problem, which makes me so glad that I didn’t use work and money as a reason to stay.

I completely agree that getting married early seems like missing out on a portion of life, but then again, everyone takes their own path and finds fulfillment in their own way. Seeing other cultures blatantly shows us this fact, so I have no qualms with those that choose this path if its what makes them happy. They look at us the same way in which we look at them, dumbfounded. I always try to keep that in mind.

You may come home early or not at all. Just don’t have the course of your trip predetermined in your mind cause it surely won’t play out like that. Who knows what you’ll find or get yourself into and accordingly what sort of emotions will follow. Keep yourself open.


What do you guys think? Anyone else out there in Marissa’s shoes? I’d love to hear from you. Just know you’re not alone. You may or may not have all the details worked out in your head but your still planning, saving, scheming… It’s an exciting feeling so embrace it. You can follow Marissa’s blog over at

6 thoughts on “Reader Email: Pre-trip Wanderlust and Angst

  1. “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
    ― George Bernard Shaw
    “Life is not a dress rehearsal”
    – attributed to Richard Branson who pretty much exemplifies that.
    In short – go for it and have no doubts.

  2. Hi,
    I related to everything in the email above. Myself and my boyfriend are due to fly out of London on 16th jan 2014 to embark our HUGE adventure. We start in India and have got ourselves a volunteering job in a yoga retreat in goa. So we get free accommodation, 3meals a day and yoga in exchange for a few hours work 5days a week. This will prolong our stay here as for this 6weeks we will not need to worry about spending much money. We have booked round trip flights so from India will fly to Thailand, travel around Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos then head off to Australia. Our flights are in to Brisbane then out of Adelaide forcing us to travel across land and see things, but then we fly back to Thailand, which we planned I case we ran out of money in oz we can head back to live like a king and queen in Asia. This is all the planning we have.
    At the moment we have a business together that we are in the process of selling. I have a good job with a company car that I leave next month. This whole situation petrifies me! I have never travelled to any of the countries We are going to, so I cannot even imagine what they will be like as I have no personal experience in any of them- if that makes sense?! I know you can read in depth about them but they are other peoples experiences, not your own.
    Our house we have had to empty, sell all our belongings and rent out. Selling our belongings has been an emotional roller coaster. I know they are just possessions, people keep telling me and I know deep down they are replaceable. But I feel like I am really closing a chapter in my life. I have got to the point where there is no turning back, which is great. But on the other hand I have lots of savings in the bank, constantly saying ‘no’ to my friends about nights out and gigs etc, am back living with my parents and I keep forgetting what this is all for. As I am writing this I know it sounds stupid as next year I could read this back and think what an idiot I am. But my journey has already begun, but I am living the rubbish part of it. So my pre-travel jitters are in full swing. I have too much to plan at home so the trip has not had much planning, which makes it harder as you cannot get as excited when you do not know what you are doing!
    I’m glad I came across your blog as I can relate to the planning and saving money and I like that you reminded me that it is not the end of the world restraining your social life this side of travelling. I am also reassured you got a job on your return! Marissa just needs to enjoy the next year and it will fly by. Do not wish it away!

    Question for Phil:I would like to blog my journey. Was it really time consuming? Was it beneficial to you? If so in what way?



    • Lyndsey, so sorry! Somehow I missed this. Sounds like you’re already well into your trip. Hope everything is going great.

      As to your question, I will admit that blogging took up a decent amount of my down time. But once you’ve been on the road for awhile, down time without busy activities and sight seeing is welcomed. To give you a real answer, if you want to blog, than do it, but do it for you. What I mean by that is don’t ever feel obligated to write posts, because quite honestly, they won’t be your best if they’re forced. I will say it’s great to look back and read some old posts. They never fail to take me back!

      Happy travels!

  3. Good luck for Marissa in her upcoming travels as soon as she out of Academia…I’ve traveled to
    a fair # of countries in my time…That first one coming out of College may feel like a big jump…After you break the ice you’ll catch a travel fever…through the Action lies the next Dream and in Dream lies the Action, paraphrasing a quote I know. I’ve had the travel jitters before… Once you’re in full submersion in a strange country it’ll be gone soon enough. I must say ever since 9/11 I was more fearful to travel abroad for whatever reason for quite a long time…ISo ‘ve had to break the ice over again…It’s much like exercise…It’s easy to get lazy and be overly comfy in America of the North..
    “What each must seek in life was never on land or sea. It is something out of his or her own
    unique potentiality for experience, something that has never been and never could have been
    experienced by someone else.” Joseph Campbell

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