Since childhood I’ve struggled with boredom. My parents signed me up for t-ball, only to have me to sit in the outfield and make clover daisy chains (anyone else?) I barely graduated high school as I had difficulty paying attention in class and constantly found myself day dreaming. My lack of focus wasn’t due to ADD or ADHD, it was due to my own failing. I was always looking to the next big thing. I loved the novelty and excitement imbedded in trying something new.
My behavior was embraced throughout my childhood, and even as a tween, it was acceptable. Yet by the time I reached my mid-teens, the voices surrounding me echoed the same sentiment – I needed to calm down and settle on one thing.
The world asked: What major are you going to choose? Which classes will you focus on? What do you see yourself doing while raising a family? I earnestly tried to answer these questions.
I wanted my parents to be proud of me, I longed to be accepted and equal to my peers, and beyond all else, I wanted to fit in.
At 16, I moved out on my own and held a handful of part-time jobs while finishing high school. I ran through jobs like water – starting and quitting every 6 months, only to repeat the cycle again.
My journey to college followed suit. Within 3 years, I lived in 6 apartments across 3 cities, declaring 3 majors at 2 schools, and working my way through at least 4 jobs in the meantime.
I was failing in school, racking up debt, spinning my wheels, and I wasn’t any closer to answering the questions that those around me continued to ask.
Despite my valiant efforts to move forward on one steady path, I couldn’t seem to do it. I would start something, inevitably become bored, and like clockwork, move on to the next thing.
The pressure felt too much to handle. How could I settle on doing one thing when I hadn’t yet tried them all? Throughout the 25+ jobs I’d held, my experiences had been wide ranging. I’d done everything from train horses and run background checks to work in restaurants and give webinars to colleges nationwide. While I’d learned a lot about what I liked and what I didn’t, I still couldn’t tell you what my ‘dream career’ was.
In 2014, I spent a week at the Burning Man festival in Nevada. It was my first time attending. It’s hard to describe and the best comparison I can create is that it’s Disney World for adults. Due to the ever stimulating nature of the event, there were even a few times that I craved to be bored.
I kept audio journals throughout the whole week and I’m so glad I did. They helped me to capture my deepest thoughts and feelings in the moment. After leaving the festival and returning to daily life, I began to fully process my experience.
I listened to my journals repeatedly, considering why it was that I missed the playa so much. In time, I planned out my next adventure – to spend a week on a bus, a week at Burning Man and two weeks traveling across California, Arizona, and Nevada, searching for more answers to the question “What aspects of Burning Man made me so happy?”
And so it began. I rode to festival on a school-bus-converted-hippie-bus. I felt a lot of fear as the bus first rolled its wheels out of Chicago. As an introvert, having enough ‘me’ time is essential. I wondered – Is it going to be like a crazy party the whole way out there? Yet with time, my fears dissipated and I found comfort, inspiration, and deep respect in living communally.
I had the most wonderful month of my life traveling on the #CobraBus, revisiting Burning Man, and exploring the west coast. It was my first experience of long term travel and I loved the lifestyle. Coming back, everyday life felt muted in comparison to my time spent traveling.
Since then, I’ve allowed a slow change to take place in me. I’ve become more self aware and in tune with what makes me happy, finally seeking answers to the questions I’ve held for so long.
Those who don’t understand my journey have remarked that my trip was simply a vacation, and that as a lifestyle, it’s unsustainable.
For me, it was more than an extended vacation. I was invigorated by the feeling of waking up every morning and not knowing what the day would have in store. I loved going to bed each night, feeling appreciated as an integral part of a tight knit community. My experiences created a boundless energy within me. And for the first time, I felt a sense of tangible happiness, living the life of an adventurer. I had found what I love.
I’m compelled and driven to create those feelings in my day to day life. I’ve saved $5,000 and I quit my 9-5 job in downtown Chicago. I sold all of my possessions, aside from those that can fit in a backpack, and I’m embarking on my next adventure to spend 5 months traveling through Southeast Asia.
Amberly is part of the Contributing Writer Network here at Thirty On Tap. Apply to be a Contributor here.