When I was 22 years old, I had successfully escaped my fairly average upbringing in Maryland and things seemed great. I was living with my boyfriend of 3 years that I assumed I would marry, had just moved into a kick-ass apartment located within two blocks of both Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, and (I thought) was about to set the world on fire in the publishing industry.

But then everything fell apart. Without warning or fanfare, the relationship ended when he told me he was no longer in love with me and I suddenly had no clarity to continue on the path I was headed. What I needed was a pure, unadulterated life-changing, freak out adventure to find myself after leaving this old life.

Long story short, that adventure turned out to be hitchhiking across the United States – east and west, north and south – a total of about 10,000+ miles in an 8 month period. I met a fellow hitchhiker early in the trip and, since neither of us had anywhere in particular to go, we traveled the highways together. When we weren’t hitchhiking, we were living in a tent on some of the most beautiful beaches in California, the most amazing deserts in Nevada, and all sorts of incredible places that I would have never otherwise experienced.

During that time, we had essentially NO money. When we needed money, he would play guitar and I would sing along and people would drop coins in our cup. What a big difference from living in Beverly Hills! That was the most exciting experience of my life and it taught me a very important lesson about life and about taking risks.

Something Will Always Work Out

There were plenty of challenges that came along with adventure, but something ALWAYS worked out. I learned to trust in this fact as a rule of the universe. Once I lost my only pair of shoes on the beach somewhere and my goal that day was to find a pair of shoes. When I hiked up the rocky Santa Cruz beach cliff to where Highway 1 passed by above, I found a pair of flip-flops in my size on the side of the road.

Once when we were broke and stranded at a gas station in the middle of nowhere New Mexico with no food, I dug through my backpack and found a book of stamps. I walked over to the gas pumps and asked a woman if she would be interested in buying the book of stamps for $5. She told me that she was in need of a book of stamps but didn’t want to drive into town to get them and happily handed me the $5 for the stamps.

Once when we were stuck in El Paso Texas at dusk (a bad place to be – we always tried to be out of the city and have set up camp by dusk) we put all of our energy into hoping for a trucker on a long haul to pull over. About 20 minutes later, a trucker on a long haul through Texas pulled over and told us that he had passed us and got off of at the next exit and turned around because “the universe told him to pick us up.”

No matter the situation, something always worked out.

You May Gain More By Losing It All

For all accounts and purposes, most people would say that being homeless and living in a tent is about as low as you can go. But that experience gave me a taste of pure unbridled FREEDOM – something that most people will never experience in their lives.

I’m not advocating going out and being homeless. Certainly, this is an extreme example and I hope that if you did ever lose everything that you would have a safe place to go. But if you don’t – guess what – it’s not the end of the world and you may end up stronger for it.
Freedom is Worth the Fight

Freedom is intoxicating. Even though I was completely broke, I had no one to answer to, no schedule to succumb to, nothing to get back to, no particular destination to head in – and it felt fantastic.

Now my goal is to have that level of freedom – only this time with money. I don’t care if I have billions of dollars – just that I can have time on this earth where I can enjoy the pleasures of being alive without anyone telling me where I have to go by when or what I have to do next. This doesn’t even need to last forever. 3-6 months out of the year will be fine and then I will spend the remaining 6-9 months working to get back to that state.

Just about every waking moment of my life is spent working toward getting back to that feeling of freedom and being able to expose my kids that feeling of freedom. In my opinion, this is something that every single individual should experience in life regardless of what it takes to achieve it. During those times when you have the freedom to think and act as you choose, you may find more inspiration, more ideas, and more meaning in life than in years spent in captivity.

Read the original comments discussion here (20 comments)

photo credit: “Endless Road”, United States, Nevada, Extra Terrestrial Highway (Area 51) via photopin (license)