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Before fate, fortune, and a well-timed LinkedIn ad brought Amy Buczynski to our shores, she was bang in the middle of a 2-year solo travel stint, leaving behind an illustrious career in finance. I know, I know. 'Why I quit my $100,000 desk job to sail the world/brew kombucha/join a monastery in Nepal' is a fairly ubiquitous trope. However, what she's advocating is not so much a 'run away from work' attitude (she works in our Internships team), but rather a redefining of what work, balance, and purpose can look like. Here's what she's learned.
After working for 10 years in biotech/health tech I wanted to have the experience of long-term travel. The path taught me to enjoy each step, rather than focus on reaching some goal in the future.
I did my undergraduate degree in Finance at Penn State University, and was very focused on which job I would land at graduation. During my career, I spent a lot of time focused on getting promoted because I thought earning more money to get a nicer apartment, drive a BMW, buy designer clothes and travel the world would make me happier. The process of embracing minimalism by letting go of all the material things I had collected over the years, in order to carry everything I would need in a backpack, taught me a lot about letting go and what truly matters.
During those years I also spent a lot of energy looking for the perfect boyfriend because I thought finding the right love story would make me happy. Instead, I learned that true happiness cannot depend on anything in the external world. As an American, status, luxury and romance are all things my society sold me as the keys to happiness. What my experience traveling taught me is that happiness must be found inside, whether you lay your head to sleep in the Four Seasons, or a small mat on the floor.
Amy in Utah, USA
During my travels, I embraced periods of deep solitude in ways I had never done before. In India, I spent 10 days practicing vipassana meditation for 10 hours a day in Bodh Gaya where Buddha sat under a tree and reached enlightenment. I spent another 14 days living in an ashram in Rishikesh. In Peru, I spent 5 days at a retreat guided by shamans with the intention of traveling the inner depths of psyche and spirit. In South Africa, I spent 40 days living in a permaculture community in the forest without electricity. During those profound moments of silence I was able to connect to a deeper level of happiness than I had ever experienced before. I began to understand how I was addicted to all of those superficial things I thought were important, and have started the practice of being more conscious of the balance I choose in my life.
Amy in Machu Picchu, Peru
Leaving my family and friends to travel was a scary decision. I wasn’t sure if I would make friends along the way in countries I had never been to before. The media in the U.S. often portrays the world as a very threatening place, filling our consciousness with fear. It can’t be denied that you need to take care on the road (I’ve had my phone stolen twice).
My experience, however, was also full of kind gestures from strangers from all walks of life. From an old man in Vietnam who held his foot out to push my scooter when I ran out of gas to the next petrol station, to a woman on a train in India who ran after me to give me the bag I left behind, I have endless stories of humans helping other humans across the boundaries of race, gender, religion, or any other categories that never make the news.
Beyond the kindness of strangers I have also created some of my deepest human connections with people I met and traveled with along the way. I've gone to visit many friends I've met on the road in their home countries. I've also had many people open their homes to me in exchange for things I could help them do. In a world with an increasing income disparity, sharing at festivals, in communities, and through Workaway has been one of the ways I've found we can all create abundance with each other outside of our capitalistic financial system. Traveling has also made me closer to my family and friends because it helped me be more grateful to have them in my life.
We believe in the profound impact that travelling has on learning and personal growth. With campuses in different cities around the world, we invite you to build your dream summer abroad with us.