A Staff Story from Thailand Program Manager Dustin Huffman.
How I quit my job to travel through Asia:
One year ago, after much apprehension, I stepped out of a comfortable career and watched a whole new world open up for me. I had worked as a policy analyst in Washington, DC for three years, a great job by conventional standards, but there was this nagging desire to explore life beyond the ‘weekend warrior’ trips initiated every five days. I sought total freedom and independence in a foreign place.
So, I packed up all my climbing gear, my camera, three pairs of underwear, and set off on an adventure of a lifetime. It was more epic than I could have imagined. I climbed world-class limestone over the Andaman Sea in Thailand, slept on the floor in remote villages in Laos, wiped out surfing reef breaks and trekked high volcanoes in Indonesia, bought a motorcycle and rode from Sapa to Saigon in Vietnam, explored the ancient temples of Angkor in Cambodia, meandered the streets, mountains, and beaches of Hong Kong (and… dumplings), navigated the subways in Tokyo, Japan, and culminated my 11 months of travel with a 27-day trek to Everest Base Camp in the relentlessly beautiful Nepal Himalayas.
Upon returning to the States after such a transformative experience, I struggled to coherently articulate what I learned from a year on the road. I came up with the following revelations while strung out from jet lag after a three-day journey from Bangkok to Atlanta that I think all travelers can vouch for:
The goodness of humanity. We often forget it from watching the news, but people are overwhelmingly kind, trustworthy, and welcoming. Be good to one another.
The importance of self-love. Truly learning to love and be with yourself is critical to withstand the challenges and sacrifices of long-term travel, and life in general.
The realization that less is more. Traveling for 11 months with only what you can fit into a backpack, and seeing how local communities thrive with so much less, really puts materialism into perspective. Simplify.
The paradox of comfort. It became increasingly evident that getting far outside your comfort zone is one of life’s most formative experiences. Embrace discomfort, for it leads to personal growth.
The innateness of empathy. The capacity to understand another man’s plight is an essential human condition. It just has to be triggered and developed.
The power of travel. It is the transformational experience that unleashes new perspectives and, for me, led to the aforementioned reckonings. Small risk, big reward.
Although less existential, another lesson that I learned is that work and school will always be there—for the rest of our lives. There’s no harm in taking a leap for your own self-preservation. It’s a commonly accepted practice in most affluent countries. Less so in America, but I am optimistic that our generation will embrace long-term travel, reignite the idea of a self-imposed sabbatical, and foster the rebirth of the American adventurer.