Did I ever tell you about the time I took my life back? And other terrific stories…
That’s a loaded title, I know… I’m obviously promising a lot of great content with such a title and you’re wondering if I can deliver. I will certainly give it my best!
I should probably start by introducing myself. I’m Kaleigh.. A year ago, I might have introduced myself as a successful business owner, an aspiring sommelier, a.k.a. wine geek, a wife and a mother of three kids. If you had inquired further, I might have mentioned that I owned two restaurants with my husband, was responsible for 25 or more employees, worked 80 hours per week and rarely saw my kids. What I probably would not have told you, was that I was burned out, had started to resent my job and it’s demanding responsibilities and that I felt absolute guilt every time I missed one of my kid’s soccer games or plays or school fundraisers because I had to be at work.
I could see my husband, Engjell, heading down this same path. We rarely talked about it though, because we were so busy and because we were so successful. This was what we had worked so hard for, wasn’t it? We had focused all of our time and energy into owning a successful business and were making money at it, great money, so who were we to complain? And then one day, we did talk about it. We each knew that the other person was feeling enormous stress and pressure as it was clearly taking a toll on our relationship, too. We talked about how fast our kids were growing up and how much we were missing by being at work and not at their games. We talked about how much we had come to resent our jobs, rather than enjoy them. We talked about what we could do to make a change.
Let me preface this next part by saying that both Engjell and I love to travel! He grew up in Eastern Europe and then moved to Rome as a young man. I met him there as a student abroad and had been backpacking around Europe and Northern Africa prior to moving to Rome. We moved to the U.S. after we had our daughter in 2005, looking to finish university and make something of ourselves. Well… we did make something of ourselves, I suppose. But in doing so, we had left many things behind, including our freedom to travel. We wanted to travel again and we wanted to do it with our kids… to show them the marvelous diversity that existed outside of the tiny place we called home.
Carl Jung once asked, “What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.” And so it is… What were we chasing? We had a successful business, enough money, a mortgage, two and a half kids… okay, three… and everything they tell you is the key to happiness. And yet, we weren’t happy. We were finding that having all of those “things” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Our kids were growing up without us and before we knew it, they would be off to college and we would be left with a pile of things, but only a handful of memories with our kids.
The decision to sell everything we owned to travel full-time… the house, the cars, the restaurants, the furniture… wasn’t easy and the process wasn’t automatic. It took us almost two years to get everything sold and on the road, but once we made the decision and started to take steps toward achieving our goal, everything fell into place. There were a few times when we both felt that we had made the wrong choice, that giving up our comfortable way of life was a crazy decision. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t laying in bed, terrified, the night before we left for our big adventure.
So let me introduce myself. I’m Kaleigh… I am a wife and a mother. I live in a motorhome and am traveling around the U.S. for one year with my family. The road is my home! I still love food and wine, but now I get to experience those things for pleasure, not for business. And if all of that wasn’t enough, I get to spend every day with my kids! Next year, our family plans to downsize to backpacks and travel for one year around the world. We plan to revisit places we love, like Rome, and to experience new places we have yet to fall in love with. We don’t have definitive plans for what comes next after our two years of travel are over, but neither do we feel pressed to make them.
In just the few short months we have been on the road, I have come to realize that true wealth is the experience. It’s our first time at the beach together, it’s eating noodles in Little Tokyo in LA, it’s watching my kids make new friends on the road, it’s in the journey… And so I encourage you to rediscover what made the hours pass like minutes for you! Life is too short to spend it otherwise! Take your life back too!