The Great Escape

Our Friend Gina is this weeks Guest Writer. She writes about her escape from the normal 9-5 life, and how she has become happy as a modern day nomad.

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“TRAVEL IS FATAL TO PREJUDICE, BIGOTRY, AND NARROW MINDEDNESS, AND MANY OF OUR PEOPLE NEED IT SORELY ON THESE ACCOUNTS.” ~ MARK TWAIN

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

I began my solo travel adventures in September 2016. If you meet a lot of solo, nomadic travelers, there is usually a story behind what motivates or inspires this traveler. We are seekers, searchers, hopeless romantics, Vagabond’s; tramping our way across the globe is not only what we do, but it is a way of life. It’s a conscious choice. Seeking a way to spend our days free from the daily norm or what today’s society or even our own family and friends dictate as a “normal way of life.”  Real, deep, true happiness is the primary motivator.

I only ever wanted to be happy; blissfully happy, from the core of my soul, to my skin, JUST HAPPY!

The only way my story is unique compared to yours, is that I took the leap! “Everything you want, is on the other side of fear!” I read this somewhere once and it stuck! It resonates within me and became my mantra.

At the end of 2014, after suffering for over a decade from a debilitating back injury, I was facing a series of spinal surgeries. Not the way anyone would choose to “ring in a New Year,” but it was my reality and also my chance to research and plan for my “great escape” while I was healing. My research and learning became a respite and something to occupy my time and my mind in between various physical therapy, pool therapy, a very intensive pain management program, and countless other medical appointments. It was also a preview of possibility. Was this life of unending travel around the globe possible?

I could no longer envision my days spent in a corporate cubicle life. How much longer would I have the physical capabilities to travel? A voice in my head asked me over and over, “What do you want your life to look like?”

In September of 2016, after being released from my arduous regime of therapies,  I took my first solo trip, a road trip starting  from Eastern Washington, traveling as far east as Ohio, south to Tennessee, across Kansas and Oklahoma to Colorado and down to Utah, Nevada and up the California Coast back to Eastern Washington. With my National Park Pass in hand, my route was planned by National Park destinations. I researched car camping hacks on the internet and Pinterest, packed up my Toyota Rav 4 and away I went. 

My goal by the end of this trip, using November 15, 2016 as a return trip date, was to REALLY choose to A: Go back to corporate cubicle life or B: Sell everything and use the money that I would spend on daily living (car, rent, insurance, utility bills, etc. ) to fund my travel. My lease was ending on November 30, 2016. That would be the perfect time to free myself to travel or extend my lease and go back to work.

I have always been extremely independent, love to be challenged and not really afraid to put myself out there. I march to the beat of my own drum and have a bit of “Gypsy” mixed in with “explorer” so maybe this has always been my destiny. I’m the square peg and it’s ok with me if I don’t fit into “the round hole!” My path and choices in life lead me to having never been married or to having children. (I always get asked these 2 questions so figured you might also!)

My road trip was a gift! It reinforced that solo travel wasn’t lonely, it was exhilarating! Any challenge I came upon, was temporary and I was able to solve it, rise above it and most importantly learn from and empower myself!

After 3 months on the road camping, crossing 20 states, visiting 12 National Parks, and driving several thousand miles, my choice was clear.  I wanted to travel, full time, unencumbered by “stuff” and possessions. Free to live my best life on my terms for as long as my physical health would allow.

I returned mid-November as planned, sent my letter of resignation, gave up my apartment, sold all of my furniture and large possessions and packed a few boxes and put them in storage. (This would prove to be a “test” in case I needed to return and start “over” I’d have some staple items to do this. In 2019, I emptied the storage unit and sold the last bits.)

I flew to Florida and for the next year, lived in Airbnb’s in some of those beautiful Florida cities and near those beaches that I’d dreamed of during those miserable, grey Northwest winter days while I recovered. All the while, reading and researching how I could take my travels globally.

Two huge discoveries would prove to be the tipping point. I came across a book called, “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day”, a book by Matt Kepnes (@nomadicmatt) and a website for Work for Stay called workaway.info. Workaway helps you locate a host, ANY WHERE IN THE WORLD that, in exchange for 25 hours of work per week, will feed and house you and provide a cultural exchange! WHAT??? How does everyone in the WORLD not know about this? 

Ireland

Reading Matt Kepnes’ book was a huge “Ahhh-HA” moment that gave me the confidence to know that I could travel globally inexpensively and smartly. The work for stay, with Workaway.info, would help me to extend my dollar and provide what has been a cultural awakening, priceless new friendships and global networking connections that have opened even more travel opportunities! Through Workaway I have worked at a family run B&B at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, tutored English in Poland (3 times in the last 2 years and I’m headed back for the 3rd year April 2020!) and worked at a non-profit for 3 months in Cape Town, South Africa that provides job training for adults with disabilities, like Down’s Syndrome.  I’ve also had the most amazing experience doing Workaway right here in the US, supporting hikers on the Appalachian Trail at a Hostel and Welcome Center.

My most valuable takeaway is that PEOPLE in any country, in any city, town or village throughout this big, beautiful, amazing, diverse world we live in are fundamentally THE SAME!

When you are a guest in their country, city, town or village, they want to share and show you the very best they have to offer. Be it food, music, history or iconic landmarks, people are proud to share or to teach you about their way of life and their culture. They also want to learn from you, to share ideas and stories. Myths are dispelled, friendships forged.

Yes, there is always good and bad EVERYWHERE in ANY PLACE, even in your own backyard, but people around the world are basically true and good, free from agendas. If you look for and expect good, treat all people with mutual respect, dignity and kindness, have a genuine thirst for learning and experiencing new things, your cup runneth over my friends, in the most  profound and life changing way! 

What draws me to travel and keeps me thirsty? THE PEOPLE! I have had the opportunity pleasure and honor to meet and learn from the most amazing and diverse people from over 33 countries and counting!

Siesta Key, Florida, USA

I no longer collect things or stuff! I am a collector of memories, friendships and experiences! I am the sum of my experiences and my sum wouldn’t be as great, had it not been for the people I have met along the way.

What are you waiting for? What do you want your life to look like?

~Junketing Gina 

Be adventurous, always safe!

**A special thank you, to my friend Captain Gary, for inviting me to write this blog post. ~ We go way back to our days as young Airmen, serving together as squadron mates in the US Navy. He has inspired me to live my life with passion and perseverance, on my terms! I hope you are inspired by Aquatramp to live your life the way it looks to YOU! 

3 thoughts on “The Great Escape”

    1. Jon, thanks for taking the time to comment on Gina’s article. She and I have been friends since the 90’s when we were in the Navy together. She is an inspiration to many.

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