Meet Noelle (and Jake) of Every Day a New Adventure!
Hi everybody! Today I have a special treat for you! My high school classmate, Noelle and I reconnected (thanks Facebook!) and I got to catch up with her about her adventures traveling across the world. She and her husband Jake quit some jobs, took some HUGE risks and are doing something they felt so called to do. Lots of you here are entrepreneurs. Does that sound familiar to you? I think it does. This is a 3 part series. Next week we’ll be debriefing about how their journey and the insights they’ve gained apply to being an entrepreneur! Can’t wait to hear what you think!
1) Tells us a little about you!
I’m 30 years old, have two older brothers, and I grew up in a very loving and very protective home in San Marino! I didn’t go far from home for school – just 12 miles down the freeway to the best school in the world, USC. After graduation in 2007, I took a sales job that I was really rather terrible at. In 2008 I accepted a consulting job in San Francisco, and lived there until March 2015. SF is the farthest I’ve ever lived from my family – I guess I’m kind of a homebody! In 2011 I met my amazing husband, Jake, online, and we got married on 8/23/2014. My absolute favorite hobbies are horseback riding and learning about wine (ok, and drinking it!). I passed the Level 1 sommelier exam in 2012, and I hope to get my sommelier certification in the future. I have always loved the hospitality industry (my favorite job that I’ve had was being a hostess at a restaurant), and I think running a B&B someday would be really fun!
2) What were you doing before you started your travels?
I was working as a Senior Associate at a healthcare consulting firm in San Francisco. I had been with that company since moving to SF in 2008. Since I was not promoted to the next level, my career path there had reached the end. But rather than letting me go immediately, my company allowed me to continue working as normal as I actively looked for a new job. So I looked. And looked. And looked. And I had some interviews that never turned into anything. I didn’t understand the problem – I’m smart, motivated, and have incredible project management skills that I had gained over the last 7 years, why couldn’t I find a new job? It took a year to realize that, while I loved my coworkers, I was not passionate about the healthcare industry or the consulting world. I had been looking for a new position similar to the one I already had, in industries I didn’t care about. I was looking for a new job in all of the wrong places. So, to really answer your question: before I started my travels, I was working in a job that I wasn’t working out for me anymore, trying to figure out what career move to make in order to bring joy into my work, and coming to terms with what that would mean for my future, my paycheck, my husband, and the life we want.
3) What were the factors that made you make the decision to travel the world?
This whole thing was actually my husband’s idea! I had been away one weekend in July 2014 at a bachelorette party when the idea hit him. When he picked me up from the hotel that Sunday afternoon to go home (the party was in San Francisco and we were living across the bay in Emeryville), he handed me an envelope. On the front, he had written “The contents of this envelope may change our lives forever.” I was, obviously, curious – what was it? A big check? Keys to a house? A picture of a puppy he just adopted? When I opened it I found a printed copy of a journal entry he had made that weekend. In it he discussed a few things, the biggest being that he hated how miserable I was working in an industry I didn’t care about. He knew that the world of hospitality is where I belong, but also that I’d been too afraid to go back to it because it doesn’t pay well. “I want her to do the job she wants. We’ll figure out the rest. She should be happy in her work and if that means we make less each month, then so be it.” He goes on to ask himself if he’s really happy, and what he wants out of life, what we both want out of our life together. And then it hit him – “Maybe we should travel.” His entry talks about how we want to see the world, and that we’re hungry for adventure, and we have the money to make it work.
Still parked at the curb, I read it all in a matter of minutes as he watched me from the driver’s seat. When I was through, we discussed whether or not this could really be a possibility. All of the big things just seemed to line up perfectly. The time couldn’t be more right:
- I needed to find a new job since I could not move up in the one I had, and I was eager to find something I was passionate about.
- Jake’s career with his company was at a transition point; to move forward, he would either have to change job function or we would have had to move to a new state. This transition point provided a good opportunity for him to take a clean break for a while.
- Our apartment lease was due to expire at the end of the year 2014, allowing us to move to a month-to-month payment schedule for 2015.
- Neither of us had traveled much before, and we were both eager to see the world.
- We want to start having kids soon, and wanted to travel before children, so now was the time!
- We had been saving up for a down payment on a place in the Bay Area, so we had the money to do it.
- We started driving home, excitedly talking about the possibilities of the trip.
By the time we pulled into our parking spot 22 minutes later, we had decided to go for it, or at least to start researching how to make this dream of traveling the world a reality.
4) What has changed for you since starting your travels?
The biggest change I’ve experienced through this whole process is my relationship with my parents. As Jake and I have grown with each passing day on the road, so have my parents. I have always been very close with my parents, and have (mostly) always followed the rules, done what they’ve asked, and taken their advice. I rarely ever strayed from what I thought would make them happy, or what they thought was a good idea. When Jake and I let them know that we were considering taking this trip, they were NOT on board. They were extremely worried about our safety, our financial security, our careers, our family path. They were concerned that we would “fall behind” and never be able to catch up. In my interpretation, they believed this was a stupid idea. We kept communicating with them about our ideas and plans, and tried hard to show them our point of view, that for us, this was the right decision. We had fights, big ones, and tears, and moments where I wasn’t quite sure what this decision would do to our relationship. For the first time, I was doing something my parents didn’t agree with. I was going against their wishes. And I was terrified that they would be angry with me forever. I felt terrible, had many doubts, and even almost backed out of the trip, but Jake and I knew this was the path for us.
Since that big argument back in November, we’ve all come a long way. Jake and I have been documenting our trip on our blog, all of our stories, adventures, and mishaps, and my parents been reading every word we’ve written. With each lesson we’ve learned, they have grown with us. Through our travel journals, they see how much we are learning about ourselves, about each other, and about what’s important to us. They no longer fear (or at least not as much) about our financial future because they know we budgeted carefully for the trip, we are excellent planners, and we have a plan for when we return. We have great skills that will make us valuable to future employers; some of those skills we’re even finding on the road. And we’ve found great strength in a couple of our favorite hobbies – Jake’s photography gets better with every album, and my writing has improved since starting the blog in February. It was so amazing to hear my parents tell me that they can see me developing a career in writing, that they can’t ever imagine me going back to a desk job like I had before we left, and that they think travel will be a part of our life forever. They know that we will probably not be moving back to CA when we return, and they’re starting to be ok with that. And, the biggest win I think – they’re planning a trip to come and see us on the road in South America in December, and considering a trip to Ireland next summer!
I never thought they’d support this trip or be happy with our decision to do it. And I’m happy to say they are totally on board with it now. They trust us, believe in us, and know that this was the right path for us to take. They have now seen that I can spread my wings and fly. They will always be my parents and they will always be parenting me, but our relationship has matured and I am excited for the new found trust they have in me and Jake and our ability to do what is right for us.
5) What have been some of the big lessons learned during your time abroad?
The world is not the big scary place that many people and news sources want us to think it is. People’s differences are usually only skin deep (the way they look, dress, and communicate). But at their core, we’re finding that people are all the same – they have the same values, the same stress, the same desires, the same needs. Everyone wants to have good days and healthy families. Sure, there are some bad apples out there, but for the most part, people are good, and just like you and me. We have replaced fear of the unknown and unfamiliar with knowledge and experience, and it’s enriched our lives to degrees we have yet to understand. Fear of safety should not stop you from traveling. For the most part, the world is a safe place, just use your head like you do at home.
Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with strangers in a bar. We’ve met some of our favorite people that way, and made many strong connections with perfect strangers! Always have snacks with you! Or beware the wrath of Code Red Hunger!
6) Tell us your favorite locations so far!
Gimmelwald, Switzerland, a tiny town above Lauterbrunnen in the Alps, is the most beautiful place I have ever been, or ever seen, in my entire life. We were there in the spring, just as all of the wildflowers bloomed on the mountains and it was incredible. It was so beautiful that I didn’t really have the proper emotions to process it all – it was so gorgeous I was mad at it!
In Budapest, we met the most generous and kind family who took us in as their own. We even attended the wedding of their son! Our time with them, in that beautiful city, is certainly a highlight.
Of places that I could see myself living, it’s a toss-up between Vienna, Munich, Amsterdam, and Warsaw. Each of these cities love their green space, their outdoor recreational sports and activities, and their food! The each remind me of San Francisco and felt very familiar.
7) What do you hope to gain before ending your trip?
I’m actively working to better understand the importance of the kitchen and dinner table, how and what people eat when they come together, and how relationships are strengthened over a shared meal. I have always loved the hospitality industry and my work in restaurants, and have realized that the cooking and sharing of food is at the core of so many cultures. I’m even more excited to bring my knowledge back home, so I can better serve people in my future career (whatever that may be).
Don’t miss out on part 2 of the series!