Before I left for my world-traveling adventure, I had a plan.
I was going to travel until the first week of August, at which point I would return to Chicago to pursue a cross-functional doctorate in business and sociology, studying the intersection of social challenges (ie: global poverty) and business solutions. In my mind, it was a done deal.
And I guess this is where I need to rewind.
In July, 2014, I took my beautiful kiddies to camp, and after a particularly resonant evening, I (dumbly, maybe) told my girls that I was thinking that God was telling me that it was time to move. This was met with the expected disapproval and the beginning of the (never-agreed-to) agreement that I wouldn’t leave until the current senior class graduated.
I didn’t have a plan at that point, but I could feel the stirring. The pull of something new, despite working at an organization I loved.
It was years earlier – spring of 2009 – that I first started thinking about Around the World travel. And then, all of a sudden, it was back on my radar with a new, scary intensity.
I started telling my best friends that I was going to do this – go around the world solo.
I must have sounded serious because for my birthday that year (2014), I received a number of travel-related gifts, including my first RTW journal. This thing was going to happen.
The back-to-grad-school dreams had started much earlier, too. I remember talking to my dad years ago about what I was going to do with my life (long before my Opportunity days). He mentioned teaching, and I thought, “YES. Of course. I’ve been teaching since my sister could sit in a chair and be forced to do math problems. This makes total sense.”
It resonated in a way that all good things do, so I kept the professor dream lodged away, waiting for its moment, its time.
At some point while at Opportunity, I realized that professorship first meant PhD, so I began to research. By the fall of 2014, I had a list of 10 schools and programs, a decent GRE score, and the bull-headed optimism that, yes, indeed, this was going to happen.
The plan was to apply by December, work until February, travel until July, and start school in August.
I had it all figured out.
(Because God loves a good “and then” in a carefully crafted plan).
I was offered a new role at work in November 2014. More importantly, I was offered the chance to work on an incredible team building a really beautiful platform and digital strategy.
Career-wise, this was gold.
And for whatever reason, I hadn’t sent my applications yet. I kept fiddling with my statement and had my recommendation-writers on standby. I should have known by that alone.
And so I changed course.
I took the job offer and agreed to spend the next year working with my best friends building beautiful tools and campaigns for an organization I love. And we did just that. I am so grateful I was a part of it.
Even a few months in, though, I knew that I still needed to move.
That initial push at camp was rearing its head in full force, leading to a months-long spring spending my commute day-dreaming routes around the world.
That part, the trip part, still felt so overwhelmingly right.
The school part, on the other hand, had started feeling “meh”. I don’t know how else to explain it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to teach – I did and I still do. It was just that at that moment, going back to school felt off. Uncertain.
I soldiered on, meeting with advisors, choosing former faculty to write letters, retaking the GRE. Gut feelings be damned, I had a PLAN.
By the end of October, I was armed with 7 months of plane tickets and one completed application to one PhD program.
It was the only one that still felt at all right – and I made the decision that if I couldn’t go there, then it wasn’t time for me to go at all.
Through all of this, God had been planting in me the notion of the Next Right Thing. Of stepping out in faith to where he calls, even when I can’t see what’s coming next. Of taking it one illuminated step at a time.
For a type-A crazy planner like me, I expected this to be torture. But it actually felt amazing. Free. Peaceful.
I didn’t need to know what was happening in August, because I knew I would step to the next right thing.
See you later, five year plan.
In January 2016, a full 18 months after I first publicly said I was going to do it, I boarded a flight to Colombia and my RTW adventure began.
I have zero doubt that this was what God planned for me.
Not even one week into the trip, new opportunities began to materialize. Despite not even having an admission decision yet, school was feeling increasingly uncertain. Not wrong, but not right either.
It didn’t light me up the way it once had.
But these other dreams and plans?
I couldn’t stop thinking about them.
In February, I made a decision that no matter the outcome of my application, I wasn’t going to start a program in the fall. I knew in my bones that it wasn’t the next right thing.
And you know what? I was right.
On February 28, I read the words that normally would have shattered me:
“We regret to inform you…”
I do not deal well with rejection.
But this time? After one second of disappointment, all I felt was peace and right-ness.
I knew it! I knew something else was in store.
So off I went, rejected, happy, free, eagerly awaiting whatever my next right thing was going to be.
So now, dear friends, the moment you’ve been waiting for.
What am I doing now that my original trip is ending?
I’ve accepted a contract to continue traveling. I will be spending the next three months on the road in Colombia, India, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique writing for my beloved Opportunity International. I will be meeting clients and telling stories and raising awareness for the beautiful people I’ve spent my career serving.
This thing has God’s fingerprints all over it.
It’s my next right thing.
Had I gotten into school, I would have missed it. Had I stuck to my plans, I would have missed God’s (very much bigger and better) story.
One step at a time, my friends.
Ditch the death-grip on life.
Just look for the next right thing.
And as for what I’m doing in November?
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!