Transitioning Back to “The Real World”


Just a few months ago I was sitting on this ledge in Bagan, Myanmar, catching my breath after scrambling up the steep steps of Buledi temple. I remember thinking how my round-the-world trip with Mr. Wonderful had just begun. There was so much to see. The days and months seemed to stretch out before us.

All too quickly we’re back to what people call “The Real World.”

I hate that phrase. As if traveling for six-plus months was some irresponsible fantasy, and all we did was drink piña coladas on the beach. As if the world we saw doesn’t carry any permanent significance. There were family and friends who thought we were making a grand mistake we would never be able to recover from.

During our trip we met a fellow traveler who shared his story. He told us how he had recently been offered a promotion that potentially could have made him a very wealthy man. He thought he wanted it. After all, he liked his job and his boss. But he ended up not only turning down the promotion, but quitting his job and preparing for a trip around the world.

It didn’t make sense. Make your millions and THEN travel. Right?

It was simple, he said. He wanted to learn more about himself, to find out what really got him excited in life. He figured that traveling for a year, visiting foreign countries, and meeting people from different backgrounds would help him get there.

That’s it, I thought. I was just never able to articulate it before. I had been content enough with my life and my work, going through the routine week after week, assuming one day I’d have kids and maybe a house, retire eventually and call it a life. That was what people expected of me. That was what I expected of me.

But then, Mr. Wonderful and I talked about this traveling thing. Are we doing this? Are we really going to give up our jobs and spend money to do this? The answer was, without a doubt, yes. I knew there was something out there. I couldn’t voice it, but it was calling me to find it.


And I found it a hundred times over.

I found it at the church I attended in Jerusalem, bowing my head in awe that I was in the same city that Jesus had lived, breathed, and died.

I found it while crunching through a deep-fried fish in Bali, slurping up a bowl of pho soup in Hanoi, devouring a raj kachori in India, and eating multiple gastronomic courses at The Ledbury in London.

I found it in the kids running through the Langa township of Cape Town, dragging along their homemade toys made from discarded Coke cans, grinning at us, challenging us to find as much joy in the simple.

People ask how the trip was, how I feel now that I’m back. Though it’s hard to articulate, I think I feel more whole. The experiences I had and the people I met have made my daily life and understanding all the richer. I went to Whole Foods the other day and realized my long-time favorite yogurt is a style called Icelandic “skyr,” and I smiled, knowing I was just eating skyr, in Iceland, a few weeks ago.

But I’m also excited to be home. Excited to find the possibilities of the new me. Not that the new has replaced the old, but simply that I have found more of who I am.


Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry. – Jack Kerouac

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    • lifeunrefined says

      I’m glad you understand, Daisy. I just hope I can continue to live fully now that I’m at “home.”

  1. Christine says

    Thanks for sharing Jen. So glad you guys got to go n travel! Sometimes it takes guts to follow your dreams (and some sacrifice too)!

  2. Annie says

    Hi Jen! It’s been so long since I’ve kept in touch with you. What a great blog of amazing travels. I wanted to send a note saying hi and congrats on your sister’s upcoming wedding! I heard from LGCC folks.

  3. Tina says

    Thanks for this post! I can relate in so many ways… there’s something about stepping out of your routine thst awakens your senses. And in being away from your comfort zone, you find pieces of yourself that have fallen asleep since you became a “grown up.”

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