Mount Rainier, Washington State

Mount Rainier, Washington photographed in Late July 2017

 

I noticed the pain in my stomach on a Friday in late March.

I was in the middle of a big corporate photo shoot in Austin. Initially, I assumed that I’d just overeaten at lunch as usual. The pain continued through the weekend. I already had a doctor’s appointment on Monday for a few travel vaccinations so I mentioned it to the doctor, which led to a series of tests. The results found something but further tests were needed to rule out cancer.

Those five days between the two tests were horrible. Our minds are our biggest enemy.

All I could think about was my British friend in Australia who went to the doctor with stomach pain. Less than seven months later, she was gone. Bowel cancer. She was only 30. Her death was a brutal reminder that life is short. It’s been two years, and I still can’t believe she’s gone.

Those five days of worrying before I got the final test results taught me a lot. I started to re-evaluate my life. What if I only had six months left? How would I spend my time?

I would finish teaching the semester, but immediately, quit my side jobs. Then, I’m move back to my parent’s farm. I would take my 15-year-old nephew on a trip to Europe—the trip I was saving for his graduation present. I would build furniture with my dad every day. (He builds 18th century furniture for a living.) And, I’d buy a pair of baby alpacas to raise on my parent’s farm.

Instantly, I was grateful for my travels—46 countries. I didn’t regret a single time I’d quit a job to travel. The only thing I regretted was all time I wasted working jobs I hated because I felt trapped by the good health insurance or the fear of being broke. I was disgusted by all the times fear lead me to inaction.

The results from my tests came in: I had a benign ovarian cyst, which are apparently common. Despite my paranoia, everything was okay with my physical health. It was my mindset that was irrevocably altered.

Here’s the biggest secret in life: The timing will never be perfect. Sometimes, you just have to go do the things you want even if it means quitting your job and selling everything that you own. Who cares if other people think you are crazy? It’s your life, not theirs.

Since I initially wrote this in April, I quit everything that wasn’t helping me move toward my career or travel goals. When my best friend in Tokyo jokingly asked me to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with her in September, I said yes and booked a flight. I’ve never regretted anytime I’ve invested time and money in experiences. No 80-year-old will every say, “Man, I wish I’d stayed home on the couch instead of going to explore the world.”

You don’t need permission to live your life or travel. If part of you still wants permission, then you have mine. That’s why I started this blog. Go now.

Today is my birthday. I’m not getting any younger. This minor health scare was a big wakeup call. I have already lined up some insane adventures for next year and big photo/travel projects that I’ll announce in a few months. Africa will be continent number six for me!

Life is short. Travel NOW!