That time I traded a comfortable life for a one-way ticket

One year ago, I traded a comfortable life for a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Hong Kong. I had no idea what was on the other side, just that I needed to leave everything to grow into whatever was next.

Travel reminded me that life is a single player game. I had a backpack, some health, some coins, and an unknown amount of time left in the game.

Who am I? What is this world about? What should I do in it?

Stripped of defaults and routine, I was forced to consciously choose every aspect of my life: work, relationships, and identity.

1. Work

At first I approached work as a means to make money, because if I had money I could do anything. I started a passive income project. I tried to get rich with crypto. But the more I worked on those, the more I grew empty, greedy, and sad. I stopped liking myself.

I questioned my pursuit of getting rich:

What would I do if I were rich?
I guess I’d probably want to put my energy into something meaningful with people I like.

Well, doesn’t that sound like a job?
Hmm…

I stopped pursuing money and started working on interesting projects. Life got better.

2. Relationships

In my first six weeks of solo travel, I spoke to almost no one. After all, I was an introvert who didn’t need anyone. I could spend all my time alone, so I did.

But then this new feeling, loneliness, came in. It ate away at my sense of cool, untouchable independence.

So I started showing up at events and meeting people.

Something about the humbling realization that I needed people made me willing to be vulnerable. I said what I really meant. I asked questions, even if they were rude. I wanted to connect with people with how I really was, not how I perceived they thought I should be.

I made friends and let them know me, as I am. Life got better.

3. Identity

I had been successful in my last job. I let that success define me, in part because it was a more flattering story than other parts of my life, like a marriage that went badly.

Now wandering aimlessly down Chiang Mai’s temple-studded streets, I felt like there wasn’t really a self there at all. Just a consciousness thinking, feeling.

I was but one of the zillion extrapolations of the big bang. I was but one consciousness driven by a primate body’s motives. One consciousness hoping its thoughts, tears, and carbon could positively impact something.

With less of a persona to defend, I gained the courage to ask dumb questions. I reached out to people I found interesting. I spoke when I had something to say.

While I hadn’t dissolved my ego, I started acting in accordance with a new mindset–one that felt like authenticity trumps protecting some false identity.

***

Settling into a new life, I finally see what was on the other side of the decision to leave everything. I’m glad I took a chance on what seemed like a crazy idea at the time.

We’re all going to be dead soon, there’s no point in playing it safe. Might as well explore. Might as well live from the truth of your being.