You Can’t Change Your Life Without Changing Your Life

You Can't Change Your Life Without Changing Your Life

Remember when I said I was going to take two weeks off from the blog, so I could relax during the rest of my road trip and would come back on October 10th? I lied. Well, I didn’t lie at the time… but my thoughts changed, plans changed, and dates changed shortly after – and this became a pattern I cycled through over and over again in the final few days of my trip.

“Can I crash with you next Tuesday?” I would ask.

“Sorry, this Saturday?”

“Actually, can I come tomorrow (Friday)?” [insert cute emojis so friend doesn’t hate you]

I apologized for being scattered, and those apologies were sincere. But I wasn’t sorry for the why behind the questions, which was that I was ready to go home.

After seven weeks on the road, I had gotten everything I wanted from the trip, and even more that I never expected. The thought of seeing or doing anything more felt like it would push me into the travel version of information overload. I didn’t need more, when I’d already gotten more than enough. So, my plans changed and dates changed… and now I’m back home in Victoria, and it feels so good to be here.

If you remember, it didn’t feel particularly good to be here during the week leading up to my departure (August 15th). I cried every single day. My friends thought it was stress (I was definitely overworking myself). My family thought I was worried about the dogs’ health. And I thought I was just scared to be alone/without loved ones for two months on the road. But it turned out we were all wrong.

Within the first few days of the trip, I realized I was scared to leave home because I felt like I was the glue holding so many things together – and I didn’t want to leave, out of fear that it might crumble and fall apart in my absence. Nobody had asked me to be that glue. But with all the changes we went through last year, I had inadvertently stepped into that role, in an attempt to keep as many things as “normal” as I could. And I didn’t realize how heavy it had been weighing on me until I physically detached myself and drove away from it.

As soon as I hit the road, I felt a weight lift off of me. I could breathe a little deeper, smile a little brighter and laugh a little louder (though I’m not sure my laugh needs to be any louder). The only person I had to take care of was me. Every decision I made – where I slept, what I ate, where I ventured to and who I saw – felt executive, and mine was the only vote that counted. “Trust your gut,” has always been my M.O., but this trip was also about doing “whatever will make you happiest” – and that’s exactly what I did.

That’s not to say every moment of the trip was rainbows and butterflies. As I shared with you, I struggled to manage some of my freelance work. Honestly, writing, in general, felt impossible (though I did keep a journal). I wished I’d had the courage to say no to everything, take the full seven weeks off and just enjoy the trip for what I really needed it to be – a vacation. But at least I took some lessons from the experience that I can implement in future trips (of which there will be many).

Aside from struggling with work, my time alone on the road also helped me make the decision to let go of a couple relationships that had hurt me to hold onto. These weren’t fights that needed to be had, but honest conversations where I said, “I care about you, but I can’t keep pretending this is something it’s not”. While that was difficult to do and say, I knew it would make me happier in the long run. I’ve always believed that letting go of negative relationships gives room for new/healthier ones to enter. And while I obviously can’t give you any scientific evidence to prove that theory, I can tell you that the rest of my trip was filled with deep connections and the beginnings of what I think will be incredible lifelong relationships.

If you asked me what the best part of my trip was, I would say the people I spent time with all along the way. I loved some of the cities, the monuments were beautiful and the weather was amazing (it was always summer). But the things I’ll remember most were: the three hours of laughter caught on camera that magically included 11 minutes of usable footage; the deep questions we answered on long hikes; the honest conversations we had late at night in the dark; the tears shed over our morning coffee; and the last-minute breakfast date and free pancake gifted by a server who loved our energy and simply thought we were awesome (this was the best). These are the moments that made this adventure so special, and also taught me what I need/want in relationships going forward.

Before I left California, I had three separate conversations with three different friends that all led to the same conclusion: I’m so grateful to have been able to go on this road trip, but I never would’ve been able to do it if I hadn’t changed a few different areas of my life first. I couldn’t have afforded to go if I was still in debt or had no savings. I couldn’t have taken that much time off if I still had a day job. I wouldn’t have taken the leap if the shopping ban hadn’t taught me what I truly value (travel). And only after two of my girlfriends opened up and shared how alcohol has played a role in their life did I realize I definitely couldn’t have had this same experience if I was still drinking.

More than anything else, I know that last point is true. If I was still drinking, I would’ve used alcohol to help me get through most social activities. I would’ve let my alter ego takeover and portray a very different version of myself to strangers (who then may not have wanted to become my friends). And it would’ve stripped the depth out of every interaction I shared with someone. I’ve also mentioned the theory that your maturity and emotional intelligence caps out at whatever age your addiction kicks in, so at age 27 I think I acted like a 19-year-old in many situations (mostly in my relationships). Now, I can see that I’m 31 on all fronts. And I know I wouldn’t have been able to learn and grow from this trip if I was still letting alcohol control any part of the experience.

In the final homestretch through Oregon and Washington, I started to notice more drivers passing by in vehicles filled top to bottom with their belongings. I tried to imagine the mix of excitement and anxiety they might be feeling about moving to a new city, perhaps for a new job or new relationship. And wherever they were going, I secretly hoped each one of them was doing whatever would make them happiest. That’s what I was doing whenever I changed one area of my life, and each change has led to more happiness, which led to more change and even more joy. By the end of this trip, I felt like the best version of myself – and I am so grateful that’s who I got to bring home with me.

I can’t finish this post without thanking everyone who took me in on this journey: Anthony and Amy, Derek, Kayla and Branon, Clare and Drew (and Boris!), Carrie and Ryan, Julie and Jared, Wendy and Matthew, Amy and Kristian, Garrett, Judy and DK, Claire and Ian, and Kathleen and Brent. Thank you for letting me make your home feel like my home. <3

And I just have to say: America, you’re already pretty great. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  • Well, you certainly brightened up my dull, dreary, rainy, Monday morning. :) I am so glad that your trip was all you had wanted it to be and more. I always say travel as much as you can! Me being a person who has only been outside of Canada 3 times in her 40+ years on this earth. LOL The older I get, the more I realize life is about people and experiences. Definitely not stuff. I can’t wait to hear your future plans as well Cait. We have never met in real life, and might never, but I feel like….well, I look forward to reading your blog posts and reading your tweets and seeing your Instagram photos. You just never know what affect you have on people; how your words or actions can better someone else. There is enough bad out in the world; it’s nice to have some good in it. ☕

    • Aww, thanks for your continued support, Shelly! I appreciate it so much. And I hope you feel like we are online friends, because that’s exactly what we are :)

  • I’m so glad you had a wonderful trip and then you came home when the time was right. I’ve traveled alone and known that feeling. I respect you so much for yes, your success, your book, your shopping ban, your debt repayment, and your ability to face the need to let go of alcohol and even sometimes people. But I also respect you so much because your genuine kindness comes through in everything you write and post. I’m just a year older than you (and in one of those endless corn states) and honestly I wish we could be friends! Cheers to your great adventure and the many more to come. And also I’ve been to Victoria and I can understand why you love to call it home.

    • Oh, Amy! I LOVE that you live in one of the corn states (truly enjoyed driving through them) and I REALLY love that you’ve been to Victoria! If we’re ever in the same place at the same time, coffee is on me :)

  • This experience is been great and honestly I can understand you I love traveling but also is normal to miss HOME, but reading your post and seeing pic of your instagram I know youhave done great experience during this road trips, without debt/shopping ban maybe you’d be a different person…I’m glad you enjoyed thi s experience and thanks fro sharing I find always inspiration from your posts:D

    • Yes! I didn’t actually miss home, but just felt like I was ready to go back to it – and I think that’s a good thing :) thanks, Giulia!

  • Thanks for the thoughtful post. I’m glad we didn’t have to wait two weeks for it, although you totally deserve a break!

    I agree completely with the idea of the virtuous cycle of change. Once you can change one area of your life it makes it much easier to change others. You can see that it isn’t as difficult as you thought and that the change made you happier than expected. That first step really is the hardest.

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your experiences and observations through what seems to have been a really amazing trip! Thanks for sharing!

    • I thought about taking this week off still, but I’ve been ITCHING to sit down and write! So I just did what felt good :)

  • Thank you, one again, for your honesty. I love that I get “the real thing” when I read your blog. I relate with letting go of negative/damaging relationships in order to get peace and move foward. I had to do this in the past year about a family member, and it’s not easy. it was never discussed, just a letting go of both parts I guess.
    I need positivity, I need light, and I need peace in my life in order to function my best. It’s OK to go about my day without stressing and screaming and being hurt and being sad. Those bring nothing. So I choose happiness and calm and “zenitude”

    Enjoy home Cait!!

    • I was scared to have the conversations, but also wanted to be honest (in the most loving way possible) and say it so we could both feel some closure. I’m glad you chose happiness too, Isabelle :)

  • Wow Cait, what an amazing post. I’m glad you got home safe (I secretly was upset you wouldn’t be writing till the 10th). You have made some major changes in your life and reading about how it enabled you to make a long trip like this is amazing. I’m still in it, still in debt, still having to work so much to do what feels like so little. I look at my side hustles and know that they actually make enough already to support my life just not enough to support my life AND pay off the debt. It’s so difficult for me, but I know that soon I’ll have the same type of experience you and many others have, that of being debt free.

    • Tyler, you might still be in the thick of it, but after meeting you, I can say that you are a LIGHT in this space. I felt so much joy come through you, in our conversations. I know great things will happen when you reach debt zero :)

  • “By the end of this trip, I felt like the best version of myself – and I am so grateful that’s who I got to bring home with me.”

    This is an incredible quote to read. That’s the whole point of going on a big adventure like this, isn’t it? Sure the sights are great and the people are wonderful, but if we don’t let ourselves evolve from the experience, nothing changes after we come back.

    So happy for you that the road trip experience was a positive one. Hope you can have that vacation soon – even if’s just relaxing for a weekend with no screens around Victoria.

    • That’s a great idea, TJ! I DID take lots of breaks from my computer/work on this trip… but a few days with NO screens would be wonderful.

  • So, so incredibly happy for you and that this 7 week road trip provided more than you could have ever expected! Thank you for allowing me & Eugene to be a stop on your journey – I was fascinated to hear about all of your experiences & what is to come. :) “And wherever they were going, I secretly hoped each one of them was doing whatever would make them happiest.” –this line really sticks out to me, it shows SO much great character that you were thinking of those on the road, too and that their journeys would result in the happiest of outcomes. <3 <3 <3

    • Oh my gosh, girl, thank you for pulling something from this post and making ME see it in a new light. And there was never a question of whether or not I was going to make that pit stop in Eugene! I knew we had to meet. So glad we did! <3 xo

  • Aww, enjoy being back home for a while :)

    I love that you said, “Now, I can see that I’m 31 on all fronts.” Isn’t this the greatest? We spend our younger years wanting to be older and our older years wanting to be younger, so it’s so nice to appreciate being where we are Right Now and not wanting to change a thing.

    Those years bring lessons and wisdom, and heck no, I don’t want to go through some of the pain of learning those lessons again, but I wouldn’t be who I am without them and so I’m grateful for every (well, most) minute.

    • Oh my gosh, yes! I don’t want to be anyone else right now. Life is good and all I can do is be grateful for what I have at this time.

      And “for a while” – you know me so well. My next trip is already booked ;)

  • I love anything that brings you through my town. Every time we hang out, I wish you lived closer. I love breakfast, coffee, and long conversations with you. xoxo.

    • Right back at you, girl! I miss you already! Will be back to see you guys + the baby much sooner than later :)

  • Moving post. I appreciate your candor in everything you write. Travel is so powerful for opening our eyes and confirming what we value most. Like you said, it’s not always so much about the sights and attractions as it is the people — and the ability to step away from our routines and the day-to-day. I’m glad you got so much out of your trip.

    • And it’s incredible how taking a step away from our routines shows us exactly what we do/don’t want in life! So many lessons learned on this trip.

  • I’m glad I stopped by for this post. You’re a terrific writer, Cait. I had to reflect on some of the friendships I’d made during my “roaring 30’s”. Alcohol can make quick friendships but the ones that last are ones built on trust and reliability.

  • I LOVE this post!!! I love your writing style….its very scary to me to be this open and honest with others(who can be so cruel) and yet you did it and I LOVED reading what you wrote when you did…. I LOVE that you were able to do this trip and learn so much about yourself…and who your true friends are..the ability to take that step to do things in your life like this is just AWESOME and exciting and scary and just WOW!!
    kudos to you Cait!

    • Thank you so much, Kelly! It certainly wasn’t all easy, but I came home with no regrets. :)

  • Your outlook is always so refreshing. Following your journey on Twitter was amazing. Thanks for opening yourself up to us so honestly. I am constantly working on pushing myself; it’s my biggest struggle and my biggest weakness. Definitely always a work in progress! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • I think we’ll always be a work in progress! If you’re not learning/changing, you’re not growing :)

  • I love this Cait! I’m glad you had an amazing trip. It was so fun to follow your adventures through pictures and posts. This post was so raw and real. Makes me think about a few things I need to change in my own life. Thank you for being so open and honest.

  • I absolutely love this post and previous ones. I too have no debt and have been able to save. The few times I have treated myself for drinks with friends I’m flabbergasted by the cost of alcohol in those establishments! Your amazing! 😊

  • Thanks for sharing how your changes years ago have influenced the awesome changes and adventure you’re experiencing now. Sometimes it’s hard to see all that through the fog of every day life, but it really is beautiful to reflect on what’s brought us to where we are today. Yours is a very empowering story. I’d venture to add to your theory that materialism, like addiction, is capable of stunting our maturity, too.

    • Ahhh yes, that’s a great point, Kalie! It’s just another cycle to get stuck in, and not realize you have choices and the power to get out of it.

  • Thanks so much for sharing this. I love how travel sweeps away the clutter and can bring focus. I’m so glad you found some of that on the road. Your comment about relationships that aren’t working was really convicting for me. Those are the hardest conversations for me to have. But maybe this is the motivation I need. Thanks!

  • Hi Cait, this post is so perfect, it brought tears to my eyes when you spoke about having become the glue that holds everything together even though no one asked you to be that. I’ve done that as well, this past year, and the timing of this post, dropping in my in-box the morning I wake up having moved half-way across the world, a dream I have wanted to realize for ten years, is perfect.
    You may have passed me and my boyfriend on the road up California through Oregon and Washington this past week :) I helped him move all his stuff from Southern Oregon down to the bay area to begin his life anew, where he’ll be pursuing a career in programming while I teach out here in South Korea for a year. Distance from your familiar life is so important, and I am grateful to have the chance to step back from being “glue” so that both my bf and I can pursue our own dreams and hopefully come back together stronger than ever.
    In conclusion, I cannot tell you how much your post resonated with me, and the eerie parallels! Thank you so much for your blog, it has been an inspiration to me for many months now <3

    • Oh my gosh, Laurie… this comment nearly brought tears to MY eyes. I am so excited (all the exclamation points!!!) for you! Wow, wow, wow. I can only imagine how you would’ve felt this week and today. And if you’re both supporting each other in following your dreams, I can only imagine it will help you and your boyfriend build an even stronger bond. Sending you a huge good luck hug! Please keep me posted on how you’re doing over there :)

    • I watched a little bit of it, yep! And I just booked a trip back to your country only a few days after the election. Should be interesting…

  • I just want to thank you for being so open and honest about everything. Sharing really personal things such as giving up alcohol makes you seem so warm and real as opposed to just another blogger. I personally gave up alcohol nearly 5 years ago and I did it for what seemed at the the time to be all the wrong reasons. I gave it up because of weight gain and my girlfriend didn’t like who I was when drinking not because I was willing to admit that I might have a problem. It took me about a year and a half to realize that I didn’t like who I was when drinking either. I lost some friends, made some more and changed my priorities greatly. Most importantly I made that girlfriend my wife and we couldn’t be happier. Reading stories like your’s help me connect the dots and realize how lucky I am that she took an interest in me and that I was smart enough to listen to her.

    • Oh my gosh, Scott, thank YOU for sharing that with me! While I love the happy ending, what I really enjoyed reading about was your experience with realizing you didn’t like who you were when you drank either. I think that was the most important piece of the puzzle for me. I didn’t like who I was, and I knew my relationship with alcohol was bad. I still don’t know if I identify with the word “alcoholic”, but I knew I had an unhealthy relationship with it and it had to end. I’m so glad to hear how happy you are now! Thank you again for sharing – made my day :)

  • You basically rock
    Not because you set out on this crazy solo trip but the fact that you were willing to listen to that inner dialogue that played out in your mind during those long lonely stretches of highway.

    So here’s to your new journey back home fresh from this internal awakening.

    • Aww, thank you, friend! Can’t wait to see you next week and chat about this more in person :)

  • I treasure our friendship SO MUCH and to be able to spend some time with you in real life was a serious gift. I can’t wait to do it again!

    Love you.

    • Love YOU! I’ll come back to Denver as soon as humanly possible. Need more hugs (and kisses from Boris). xo

  • I’ve read this post several times trying to figure out why it resonates so much with me – I sent it to my husband (who is in Victoria for work right now) and his comment what that he thought it was the being the glue reflections and the negative relationships piece and I think he is right. I have to think more about it – we are debt free and will be leaving Juneau less summer with less stuff than we arrive with – so it really is the personal stuff I’m working on. Right now with him gone and his work being busy I am the glue keeping the 3 year old going and the dog wrangled but it is more than that. I’m tired. When his travel is done we may have to talk about this more and see about changing things a bit. No idea what but something. I have a retreat coming up in November and I only wish it was longer. I’m glad you had the relationship talks – mine are ones where I either will let continue fading or – with family – where I reset my boundaries and expectations since I can’t fully extricate myself from them. Yay for the clarity of meditation. Thank you for your reflections – I’m so glad you had a good road trip and listened to yourself along the way.

    • Wow, I’m glad my own findings resonated with you so much, Eve. I hope the exploration you do on this topic is enlightening. And please enjoy every minute of your upcoming retreat, without concern of there not being enough time. It always feels that way: like we don’t have enough time to do what we want. But I promise, every minute will be helpful. :)

  • Thanks for speaking so candidly, this is a really useful post for us all. Moving and travel can churn up all sorts of emotions, and that is no bad thing, it is all life experience. It is great that you could share with us readers, it will certainly help and comfort a few.

  • Love the alcohol free life! 5.5 years Friend of Bill here myself, and I’m loving every year of it. I’m so happy you wrote about your journey. It’s truly inspiring. I’m hunkering down into my own shopping ban and minimalism to save for life in general, but also for a trip with my “niece” in either 2018 or 2019. I homeschooled her 10 yrs ago when she was 16 and depressed with school and i was in grad school. I couldn’t have kids and she’s become like a daughter/niece to me, and her mom is so great and generous and big-hearted to enfold me into their family.
    She is also drug and alcohol free and health committed as a younger person, so it’s great to get excited about big adventures. We’re super excited about Burma, and going to SE Asia in general…maybe by that time you’ll come join us for a leg of our adventure?

    • Oh my gosh, now that would be a trip! I’ve heard incredible things about Burma and am sure you’re both going to love it! The weather in SE Asia has never really appealed to me (too hot/humid), and yet I’m certain I’ll end up there at some point… so I guess we will see! :)

  • You have seriously put in words how I feel moving to the US after being overseas for so long. Such beautiful words, and if we can figure out how to move you to the US I’d totally do it :)

  • Such an inpiring post Cait! I’m turning 24 yo next month and hope that I can have the courage to go for a solo travel like you one day :)

  • Oh wow, sounds like your road trip really helped you assess your life – and I think that’s great. I’m a big fan of trying to look at the bigger picture and sometimes you need a push in the right direction. Sorry that you had some tears – but hopefully they were cathartic.

  • Oh, that last line! And this one: “I realized I was scared to leave home because I felt like I was the glue holding so many things together – and I didn’t want to leave, out of fear that it might crumble and fall apart in my absence.”

    I totally do this to myself. Part of it is true, frankly, and our situations are a little different, but getting away even just for one week helped me reconnect with myself after I got over the anxiety of being away. Parts of that reconnection were good and others were bad, but all of it was necessary.

    I’m glad that you’re at a good place in your life now. Turbulence will come and go, but being in control of yourself in all the aspects you have conquered makes those bumpy patches so much easier to deal with.

  • It was an absolute treat to host you during the last leg of your adventure! It’s always a pleasure to have those soothing and insightful conversations with you. Come back anytime. Much love, Claire & Ian

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