So if someone had challenged me to downsize my life back then, I would have balked. Trimming the fat off of my strenuous routine would have seemed an act of austerity, an ascetic denial of small pleasures, a cruelty set to make me even more miserable than I was. And boy was I miserable. I constantly worked overtime, my anxiety levels were soaring, and I couldn’t sleep at night.
Then, without fanfare, the ax dropped.
I was let go from my fancy, soul-crushing job in the fall of 2009, during the height of the Great Recession. Without my income, we could no longer afford our apartment, and I scrambled to find a job with equal or greater pay. Within two weeks, I was on my third interview for a position paying a quarter of a million dollars a year.
As I lay in bed the night before the final interview, I worried about my no-win dilemma. If I didn’t get the job, we’d have to move inland and give up our seemingly idyllic life — no more sunsets on the beach, no more shopping for organic fare at Whole Foods. But if I did get the job, things might be worse. With larger salaries come long hours, endless internal meetings, and unyielding corporate pressure to do more, more, and more. I might just lose my mind.
The next day, I came home crying. I’d been on enough interviews to know I didn’t get the position. My boyfriend, who had a keen understanding of our situation, held me in his arms and consoled me, but he didn’t give me the proverbial get-back-on-the-horse pep talk. Instead, he lobbied for us to do something dramatically different.
“Let’s go on a road trip,” he said.
“Sure, okay,” I whimpered.
“To the tip of South America,” he added.
Six years and 18 countries later, we haven’t stopped driving.