Why do YOU travel?

Koh Mook Thailand Sunset


Why did you first start traveling? Why did you continue to travel?


I’ve always been a bit of an unrealistic dreamer. At university, I studied subjects I loved, even though everyone told me I was foolish. I would never get a “real job”, they warned.

I studied religion and psychology, reading voraciously about religions of Southeast Asia. I yearned to travel but I felt too weak to do anything so bold and too broken to do anything so kind to myself as to follow my dreams.

Graduation from university cued an entrance into the real world and my research skills were siphoned into marketing. I spent long hours investigating a topic of zero interest to me, for the purpose of my bank account.

While wading through the bleak drudgery of my unchanging daily life, I realized I had unintentionally saved a chunk of money, certainly enough for a trip abroad. I started to tell everyone that I was going to Thailand before I even believed in myself.

Despite the constant half-playful reminders of the movie “Taken”, I bought my plane ticket. I threw up after hitting confirm, I was so overwhelmed with excitement and shock. Most of the people I knew didn’t even have passports.

When I started traveling

blurry photo courtesy of my little brother dropping me off at the airport – the last time I’d see snow for a while

Once in Thailand, I learned the limitations of my own knowledge, books, and even Google first hand. I was in awe of the reality of differences between the religious belief I’d studied “in the books” and actual religious practice “on the ground”. I was (and am) a big religion nerd.

A week vacation turned into the rest of my life when I canceled my plane ticket home. I slowly realized that there were other ways to live, and that I could leave the stream. No one had ever told me I didn’t have to live in the US and I didn’t have to work a job I drowned in.

I traveled halfway around the world to find answers that were within me my whole life. I didn’t need permission to leave, or for someone to tell me it was okay to choose to be happy.

I took the major, exciting, exhilarating leap into the unknown, with a seemingly unfounded belief in myself and trust in the world. I knew everything would be alright, and even better than alright, but I didn’t know how I was so sure. I just did.

Railay Thailand

Phra Nang Beach of Railay, Thailand

I traveled for months throughout Southeast Asia, basking in the beautiful wonders of the diverse countries and enjoying the overwhelming, permeating feeling of absolute freedom and total control of my life for the first time ever. I owned nothing more than the contents of a small pack on my back, and yet I felt richer than ever before. In many instances I relied on the kindness of strangers, and always on the kindness of my family, who helped me by getting rid of my possessions stateside. I met travelers, locals, and formed friendships that have lasted years and over thousands of miles.

Different cultures

I loved days like this in Bejansiri Park, Bangkok

When I ran out of money, I put my travels on pause and returned to Bangkok. I found a job quicker than expected (surprisingly, several good jobs) and started my career in a completely different and rewarding industry. A dream job, in my dream country, with my dream life.

Today, I continue to travel because delicious food discoveries, unexpected friendships, and shockingly beautiful sunsets inspire me to continue experiencing the joys and opportunities of a life abroad. Sometimes, things are hard (like when I get really sick or have to deal with the unpleasant realities that exist in every city or have to miss loved ones’ important events), but the joys outnumber the drawbacks.

And it may be the more idealistic, foolish, or “unrealistic” way to live – by funneling my money into travel instead of the next bigger car, better apartment, or new phone – but it’s the right way for me.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Railay Sunset Thailand

Why do YOU travel?

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A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

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