How Travel Taught Me to Accept the Unknown

Click to read how travel taught me to accept the unknown, and how it can help you do the same! |

Today is my 26th birthday. I feel young enough to conquer the world, but old enough to realize I’m not far from being in my late 20’s. That’s kind of a scary thought, but I’m slowly learning to start accepting the unknown.

Almost exactly a year ago on this day, I put in my notice at my job at an advertising agency. I had no idea what I was going to do except that I was going to start a travel blog to document my solo trip in Spain – the one I hadn’t planned yet. In the two years prior, I’d interviewed and had been rejected from too many jobs to count, but still wasn’t desperate enough to accept another agency job. I was 25, jobless, and lost, with no direction.

Click to read how travel taught me to start accepting the unknown, and how it can help you do the same! |
San Sebastian, Spain, was part of my first solo trip in August 2015

I was also scared. Terrified, really. Despite the fact that the Internet makes it seem like quitting your job is an easy decision that happens with alarming frequency, it’s still one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. The only thing reason I pulled the trigger was because I was more terrified of the status quo: a four-hour commute, an unhealthy work environment, and complete and utter burnout. Despite this, it felt impossible to envision a future that didn’t look like the job I’d just left behind.

I’d lost my faith that things were going to work out, and I knew my only hope of getting it back was to embrace being lost. To start accepting the unknown.

The unknown is scary, you guys. It can be exciting, but for most people, it’s stressful and anxiety inducing. Myself included. When you remove structure and routine from your life, you’re left with the assumption that something amazing or awful could happen at any given moment. As someone who is incredibly impatient and hates surprises, this didn’t bode over well for my life plans. I didn’t see the endless possibilities as opportunities; instead, they paralyzed me. I knew I needed a solo trip to clear my head.

Click to read how travel taught me to start accepting the unknown, and how it can help you do the same! |
The Alhambra – Granada, Spain – August 2015

I didn’t leave my job to travel. I left with a round trip ticket, with every intention of getting a “real” job upon my return. I had amazing experiences and met extraordinary people. Flinging myself out of my comfort zone with solo travel was the best thing I could have done.

Now, one year later, I’ve come to some conclusions.

I’ve realized that nobody has any idea how life is going to turn out. Zero. You will make plans and they won’t all work out. You’ll encounter opportunities that you never thought you would. Things might turn out a little worse than you expect. Or maybe they’ll turn out a little better. Or maybe your priorities will change. Or maybe you’ll learn something about yourself that you never knew.

The best days of your life do not end when you throw your cap in the air at graduation. Despite what everyone says, the best days of your life are now, and are yet to come.

Maybe everyone already knew this. I didn’t. Nothing was worse than coming home after 5 months of post-grad travels than the realization that I would never be able to travel long-term again. I actually thought that my adventurous years were over because it was time to be a grown up and settle for two weeks of annual vacation. I thought the adventurous times were over at age 22. How sad is that?

The best days of my life aren’t just the days when I’m getting on a plane or eating new foods or meeting new people. The best days are also the days where I’m blogging at 2 am, brainstorming with my boss, or tackling my never-ending to-do list. But most importantly, the best days of my life are the days where I am consciously grateful for life, opportunities, friends, and family. The best days of my life aren’t a place, but a state of mind.

The best days of your life are now and are yet to come.

I’ve realized it’s okay to be lost. It’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing with your life. It’s okay to be a mess. We’re all a mess, even those that seem to have it together. I’ve realized that all my planning and overthinking and analyzing was for nothing because in the end, things turned out wonderfully and completely differently to what I’d expected. If you had told me at age 22 that I would be working remotely and running a travel blog and getting paid for both, I would have laughed at you. If you had told me that a year ago, I would have had the same reaction. I’m so grateful that this seemingly impossible achievement is now my reality.

Today, at age 26, I’m one year older and hopefully much wiser. There is so much more to experience. So much more to see and do and learn. It won’t all be sunshine and rainbows. There will be days where stress and the anxiety over accepting the unknown will take over. Days when I’ll freak out and realize I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I certainly don’t have anything figured out. Now when people ask me how life is, my answer is always the same: “life’s a mess but it’s great.”

We can envision and plan and stress all we want, but the world has so much in store for all of us. The beauty of life is in its messiness and mystery. So don’t worry too much about figuring it all out. Nobody does. All you can do is treat life like one big adventure and start accepting the unknown.


Tell me: When was the last time something completely unexpected and amazing happened to you? What do you think about accepting the unknown? Share your story!


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29 thoughts on “How Travel Taught Me to Accept the Unknown

  1. Trippin' Turpins says:

    I was 33 when I “threw my cap in the air” and my life was really just beginning! Hey happy birthday!

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you!
      Good to know! Forget all those people who say life ends in college…it’s just the beginning! 🙂

  2. Liz @ LizzieMeetsWorld says:

    Happy birthday! Your realizations are so on point! It’s true that the future holds no guarantees and that’s a good thing. I’m turning 31 in a few months and I’ve always felt that my life gets better as I grow older so I’m confident that the best is still to come. And I think for you, too. 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you! I agree with you wholeheartedly! I had a rough couple of years post-grad but honestly have come to realize that what goes down does come up eventually and in totally unexpected ways. It’s an amazing feeling to know more great things are yet to go come for all of us :).

  3. Emily Melcher says:

    Happy birthday! I hate the “best days of your life” nonsense so many people try to push on specific times or events. I’m 28 and every year is better than the last. I hope the same will continue to be true for you!

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you!
      AGREED! I don’t think anyone should say that to anyone. Life is great at every age and place if you want it to be – and it’s life’s unexpected moments that make it so amazing. Life does not end after one event – something that needs to be said more frequently :).

  4. Eva Casey says:

    Happy Belated Birthday, Sally!! I definitely can relate to this post. I had a very similar experience of thinking my life would be linear, and had it all planned out. I think we all have to go through that experience of realizing that no one has any control over what happens in life! We can consciously do our best, but things will happen that we could have never expected. And I think it’s better that way! It’s good that we’re realizing that earlier and earlier so we don’t have to wait until our mid-life to have a crisis! hahaha..thanks for sharing your story 🙂 Can’t wait to see what 26 holds for you!

    • Sally E says:

      Thanks Eva!! 🙂
      I feel like we had very similar experiences! All we can do is our best – and be accepting of the fact that things might not work out how we want. And that’s totally okay! It’s what makes life fun. LOL yesssss so glad it didn’t take us 50 years to come to this realization! Since we’ve had quarter-life crisis, hopefully we can avoid mid-life ones :).

  5. Laia says:

    Happy birthday Sally!
    I can completely relate with your post. I also took a break at work to travel (I didn’t quit my job, I applied for a sabbatical leave). That year of solo travel made me realize many things and at the end of it I didn’t go bak to my job.
    Taking the decision to travel for a year was scary, taking the decision to finally quit my job was even more scary. Even now, more than six months after the end of my trip, I’m still in uncertainty. I want to work online so I can keep traveling but my blog is not growing, so I’m thinking of a plan B. Sometimes it’s stressful not to know if things will work out at the end, but I embrace uncertainty as part of the journey, and have hope that I’ll find the way.
    I liked your sentence “The best days of your life are now and are yet to come”.
    Best wishes for your trips! 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      Thanks Laia!
      I agree with you – those decisions ARE scary no matter how easy people make them seem. It took me a good few months until I was able to find a way to sustain myself by working online (including a part time remote job), and those months were excruciatingly uncertain). It’s really stressful not to know but I do think that hard work and perseverance ultimately brings good things – whether or not they’re the exact things we want is a different story. I’m sure it will work out for you somehow! Good things are in store for both of us.
      Thank you and best of luck 😀

  6. Miriam - londonkitchendiaries says:

    So inspiring to read your story and how incredibly brave of you to jump into the unknown. You are so right – we can make plans as much as we want – life often has its own ways. ♡

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you :). It’s definitely a challenge to be accepting of the unknown but I’m starting to find that life’s own ways aren’t too shabby 😀

  7. Anisa Alhilali says:

    You are brave! I love your answer “life is a mess but it is great” – may have to use that myself.

  8. Stephanie Rose says:

    Good luck with the unknown. I took a big leap last month too and I am working hard to prove it was the right decision!!

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you! Best of luck with your new chapter! Every big decision is a great new experience no matter what. I’m sure it will be amazing 🙂

  9. Danielle Lindblom says:

    this was so wonderful, thank you for sharing your experiences! I’m soon to be 28 and can relate to a lot of your feelings. great post!

  10. Flo @ says:

    The unknown can be so exciting and you’re so right – nobody has any idea how life is going to turn out. It’s also totally okay to change your mind – I went back to work in a new fantastic role at an awesome company before realizing it wasn’t what I wanted. Sometimes life just smacks you in the face with an epiphany and you just gotta roll with it!

    • Sally E says:

      So, so true! I’m the queen of changing my mind so I try to just go with the flow instead of making “set in stone” decisions. It makes life much more exciting. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  11. andtheebee says:

    Love this. I have a similar story (since it involves spain haha)! I was a competitive dancer all growing up. After not being accepted into my first (and only) audition, I gave up, and signed up for a college program in Computer Animation. 1 week before my course started they canceled the program (not enough students registered). I didn’t know what to do so I packed my bags and left for Spain! Just like you, I had a round-trip ticket, except when it came time to come home I just… didn’t show up at the airport… my parents were not exactly thrilled. I ended up staying in Spain for 7 months, learned how to spin fire, and worked as a street performer busking my way from Ibiza to the Canary Islands. Currently I’m a professional fire dancer, a circus school student in Montreal, and a travel/”support local”/environmentally-conscious blogger! How’s that for a turn of events!

    Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      WHOAAAA what a cool story! It’s crazy how things work out when our Plan A doesn’t pan out, doesn’t it? I’m a firm believer in fate and that with hard work things do turn out okay after all :). Sounds like you’re currently pursuing your passion so congratulations :). Best of luck and thanks for sharing! 🙂

  12. Renuka Singh says:

    Love this, because I have been through the same. I like the way you have summarized your story in an inspiring manner. We all go through turmoils, but I guess the best thing to do is to listen to your heart and do what’s right for the moment. As long as you do what you are supposed to do, everything turns out well in the end.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thank you :). I agree 100%! I think as long as you’re working hard for your dreams then a little luck is sure to come your way in some form or another. Thanks for reading 🙂

  13. LeTara Moore says:

    This is great. I’ve always been inspired by women who travel solo. I’m a single mom now, and the thought of traveling solo is a lot scarier than it was before I became a mother. Still, like you pointed out, the unknown can hold wonderful things. Congrats on all that you’ve accomplished so far! Keep traveling.

  14. Nele Giese says:

    I totally connect to that feeling of life never turning out as you expect it! I always thought by the time I turn 30 I’d have my life figured out. You know, job, family, all of these things society tells us we should have. When it actually happened last year, I was unemployed, and single. However, I was also happier than I had been in a long time. I was unemployed because I had just left a job that threatened to drive me into mental illness and was working toward becoming a freelance writer, something I had wanted to do for a long time. And being single meant I could make use of my newly achieved location I and take off on a long-term trip to South America without worrying about leaving someone behind. It taught me that things are not always as they seem and have a tendency to turn out different than you think 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      Yes totally! Sometimes things are truly blessings in disguise and so much is really just how we react to the ‘bad’ things that happen to us! I’m glad you were able to change some of the things that were making you unhappy 🙂

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