Issue #9 · Choosing Your Own Life Adventure
If you decide to hunt for the hidden treasure in the sacred valley, turn to page 14. If you decide to take the perilous mountain pass up to the mystical wizard's observatory, turn to page 22.
May 25, 2023: Greetings from my annual stopover in the States — I’ve been here for a month, splitting time between Baltimore (my old home sweet home) and a visit to my parent’s house. Even though I was just in New York a few months ago, the reverse culture shock of coming back never ceases to amaze me: Why are all these strangers smiling at me? Did I just say gracias to that waitress? Why is the self-checkout machine asking for a tip? And since when did a box of cereal cost $11?!
In three weeks, I’m headed to Europe for the summer (starting in Prague) so the annual re-packing of shit I plan to hoist around the world is already well underway. I’m always amazed that my entire life fits into a backpack and a single suitcase, although packing for Europe is always a million times more challenging — you want me to pack twenty cute outfits?? I’ll be lucky to fit three. And heels???? I’m not packing heels. Wearing crusty mismatched tank tops, bathing suits as underwear and living barefoot in a sleepy beach town is much more my speed.
Anyway, after giving myself a kick in the ass to get back to writing last week, I finally wrote a new long piece that brought up some fun nostalgic feelings. Hope you like it! 🧭
Choosing Your Own Life Adventure
Do you remember that exhilarating feeling of flipping through the pages of a Choose Your Own Adventure book as a child? Those captivating stories were filled with infinite possibility, as they were not intended to be read straight through — instead, these books allowed the reader to decide their own fate at the end of each chapter, something along the lines of:
Now, if you were a curious child like me, you’d select a path — obviously avoiding that perilous mountain pass — and flip right to page 14. But just a few paragraphs into your sacred valley treasure hunt, you’d secretly take a peek at what was going down on page 22, just to make sure that you made the correct decision.
While intended for a pre-teen audience, I can’t help but laugh about how these books are surprisingly representative of my adventurous life now as an adult. That’s because for the past three years, I’ve been living in a new city every couple of weeks, taking advantage of the freedom that comes with remote work — at times, it feels like a live-action remake of the Choose Your Own Adventure series:
The difference is, of course, that there is no peeking into how the alternate path would have unfolded. Once you board that flight, off you go, bon voyage! Sometimes the choices are clear-cut: Spend a month in my top bucket list country with three of my best travel friends? Sign me up! But more often than not, this unorthodox lifestyle provides no concrete guidance on what to do (or where to go) next, so I end up blindly following my wanderlust and/or trusting my gut. Sure, this is true of all life’s decisions, but as a nomad, these forks in the road often seem particularly significant — which leads me to the question I find myself constantly struggling with:
What happens to the unchosen paths?
Unfortunately, the bad habit of second-guessing myself and that urge to secretly take a peek at page 22 has followed me into adulthood. I can’t count the number of nights I’ve been wide awake at 3am staring at an unfamiliar ceiling fan, thinking “what the hell am I even doing in [Albania / Georgia / Nicaragua / Turkey / Tunisia] right now anyway???” These middle-of-the-night anxious uncertainties often spiral into intrusive looping thoughts that simply don’t have an answer:
What if I had never moved to San Francisco?
What if I had never booked that one-way flight?
What if I had never quit my job to freelance full-time?
What if I had just settled down in the ‘burbs and had kids?
It’s a nasty habit, and the thing is, I of course have NOT made all of the correct decisions. I’ve traveled too quickly, visited cities that I hated, packed the wrong outfits, made questionable career moves, dated the wrong guys — no matter how hard we overthink things, that’s just how life goes, right?
Fortunately, I do think that our wrong decisions have a way of self-correcting. At the risk of sounding like an “everything happens for a reason” cliché, the flip side is that for me, the past few years have still been some of the best of my life. I am beyond fortunate to have been able to travel to so many interesting corners of the world, grow as a person and have an absolute blast in the process.
This reminds me of a graphic illustrated by one of my favorite internet writers, Tim Urban:
We think a lot about those black lines, forgetting that it’s all still in our hands.
— Tim Urban (@waitbutwhy)
Mar 5, 2021
At a fork in the road, you can peer down both paths for a glimpse of what each might have in store — while you can’t predict every bend and bump up ahead, you still have an idea of how both Option A and Option B might shake out. But once a decision is made, the unchosen paths turn black and become obsolete. Dwelling on hypothetical “what ifs” serves no value, and in fact, distracts us from those bright green paths full of opportunity up ahead.
We are 100% in control of shaping our lives going forwards and 0% in control of changing the past — no doubt you’ve heard this advice before. But trusting your instincts and not looking back is much easier said than done, especially when stepping into unchartered territory like quitting a job, moving across the country, planning a solo trip, or in my case, all of the above.
This is definitely a life skill that I’m still working on — moving through life with a greater sense of conviction, that is. So the next time I’m tempted to take a peek at that unchosen path on page 22, I’m just going to rip those pages out of the seam of my book entirely, and forge ahead with the reckless optimism that the best chapters are still unwritten (shout out to Natasha Bedingfield for that one).
After all, life is meant to have zigs, zags, detours and diversions. Imagine arriving at the Pearly Gates without experiencing a few plot twists — where’s the fun in that?
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Here’s a list of every issue if you want to keep reading!
Issue #16: Embracing the Blank Canvas [Sep 2023]
Issue #15: In Pursuit of an Endless Summer [Aug 2023]
Issue #14: Follow Me to Weird Places [Jul 2023]
Issue #13: Self-Inflicted Social Overload [Jul 2023]
Issue #12: Schlepping It 🎒 [Jun 2023]
Issue #11: Finding My “Next Thing” [Jun 2023]
Issue #10: Book the Damn Flight and Just Go [May 2023]
Issue #9: Choosing Your Own Life Adventure [May 2023]
Issue #8: Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat [May 2023]
Issue #7: My First Month of Indie Making: An Honest Review [Feb 2023]
Issue #6: Ten Years of Making Money on the Internet [Jan 2023]
Issue #5: The Modern-Day Mission Trip [Dec 2022]
Issue #4: Ready, FIRE!, Aim [Nov 2022]
Issue #3: A New City Every Month: An Experiment in Change [Aug 2022]
Issue #2: Defining My North Star as a Nomad [Dec 2021]
Issue #1: One Year on the Road: Looking Back [Oct 2021]