INSPIRATION TRAVEL

Don’t Know Your Next Step? Do This.

After graduating college, I got a fun summer job, fell in love with a guy and moved with him to Australia. As fun and carefree as that sounds, it was actually one of the most stressful, unsure times in my life.

The summer was fun. I was leading adventure trips, something I was comfortable doing. When the summer was over, I had no plans, so I took a job with my new boyfriend in China. His plan after China was to move to Australia for a year– the exchange rate was great and he saw it as a good opportunity to save money.

He was right. We saved a ton of money. But for a lot of my time in Australia, I felt totally lost.

I had a full-time job in a camping supply store, complete with petty co-worker gossip and work stress. Meanwhile, all the friends I graduated with in New York were getting their first jobs at creative agencies, magazines and trendy startups. I questioned constantly if I was doing the “right” thing for myself. What career was I building? Was I being true to myself? What did I really want to do with my life? I didn’t have answers to any of those questions.

When I look back on that time now, I see something truly formative. I asked myself those questions at age 23, and I only have the answers three years later because I pushed myself through all the times when I didn’t know and had to tell myself it was okay. There were a lot of those times.

If you feel like I did, here is my advice for you.

Stop overthinking everything. Stop thinking that the next decision you make is going to determine the rest of your life– it’s not. The decisions you make in your lifetime are building blocks, small steps that help you turn pages in a book. You don’t know how long the book is going to be.

So do something. Do anything. And keep going, because you will find the answers you are looking for eventually– probably in a place you never, ever thought to look.

Work in a restaurant at least once. You will meet people who surprise you. You will learn skills that you’ll carry with you everywhere. It will surprise you.

Volunteer your time and your heart. To someone who can use it. Someone who needs it. Work in a soup kitchen. Work in an animal shelter. Don’t do it because it feels good or because you can say you did, but because it’s necessary.

Work on a farm. Learn to get your hands dirty. Learn and appreciate where your food comes from. Get sunburned. Get full on food you grew yourself. Learn how to slaughter a chicken and how to plant strawberries.

Do yoga. Go hiking. Go to a part of town you haven’t been to before.

Journal often.

Talk to people who are much older than you. Learn their stories. Talk to children. Learn their stories, too.

Buy a plane ticket with no return plans. If you are limited by money, learn about money. Sell the stuff you aren’t using and the clothes you no longer wear. Work hard.

Seek out people you want to be like. Take them out for coffee. Ask them meaningful questions. Never stop asking.

Read. If you don’t like to read, download audiobooks and listen.

Stop acting like you live twice. You get one life to live one time. It’s not worth it to think about the times you fucked up. We all fuck up and we will all make mistakes every single day. You will figure it out.

Go live. Go live now. Even if you don’t know where to start, just start. The starting, the doing, the living– that’s the important part.


Photos by Ali V. Find her on Instagram at @alisonvagnini.

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Rene
    April 22, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    I loved this! Very motivating.

  • Reply
    Eugene
    April 23, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Dam… this resonated so much with me, I have a similar story. My ex-gf and I taught in China then we moved to New Zealand together. We broke it off and now I’m back in the States going after my passion, the love of the outdoors. Love your blog and it gets me stoked on my transition to the West Coast and becoming a Wilderness Instructor.

    Erin, you have a lot of power with your words, Thanks.

    Eugene

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 2, 2016 at 8:44 am

      So happy to hear that, Eugene. Sounds like an exciting time!! All the best.

  • Reply
    Stasia
    April 23, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Oh man, I NEEDED this blog post Erin! This is EXACTLY what I’m going through/struggling with. Such a reminder to know that I am not alone. My husband & I grew up in NJ & we’ll be moving out to Seattle later this year. No clue what this adventure is going to bring & yet it’s already shaking up, in my mind, what is comfortable for us. I graduated in 2012 & been working a part time at a grocery store to help pay bills as I power through finding direction in my field. Not easy. I just found your blog a few days ago, so grateful for all you share. Keep doing what you’re doing! :)

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 2, 2016 at 9:47 am

      What an awesome move for you! I hope you find adventure – I am sure you will. So often we grow most when we force ourselves to be uncomfortable. Thanks so much for the love, Stasia! xo

  • Reply
    Michael
    April 28, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    It’s a good thing we’re not born with all the answers, it would sure mess up the journey. Life isn’t so much where you end up, it’s how you get there. Girl, you have an innate ability to identify life and share it in interesting ways. Thanks, M

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 2, 2016 at 9:58 am

      Thanks so much Michael! Means a lot. You are spot on.

  • Reply
    Roxanne
    May 1, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Thank you so much for this. I needed this today. And I’m keeping it for days coming.

  • Reply
    Emily
    May 13, 2016 at 9:47 am

    This. This post is one of the best things I have ever read. Pardon my French, but not one sentence felt like bullsh*t, like many “inspirational” articles do. You are the real deal, girl. I especially love your views on giving your hands and your heart to help others. Not because you want to post the results on Instagram or tell people you have done it – but because it is what we all NEED to do. Thank you for all of your posts, they make me feel like I can do anything!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 14, 2016 at 9:47 am

      THANK YOU Emily! This is one of the best compliments I’ve ever received! Glad you feel The Realness – it’s what connects us. Stoked. Big love xo

  • Reply
    Rose
    May 26, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    This post is helping me do much right now! I just graduated and bought a plane ticket up Oregon to work a summer outdoor education job. I leave next week and I constantly worry I’m going to end up failing. I was having a major anxiety moment and then came across this. Thank you so much! Your words help me so much. Keep being unapologeticly you!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 27, 2016 at 9:06 am

      So happy to hear the post was helpful! Outdoor ed is hard but extremely rewarding. It’s normal to be scared, but if you fail, you will learn so much!! Keep it up Rose! xo

  • Reply
    Jen
    June 29, 2016 at 1:06 am

    I love everything you had to say in this post. I’m going through a huge transition in my life. I left my toxic job in LA, decided to just take a leap and went on a 3 week trip to New Zealand and Australia with my best friend, and now I’m moving in with my boyfriend who lives in Colorado. We’ve been in a long distance relationship and I thought my dream was to be an actress in Los Angeles for years, but I had a shift in conciousness so to speak. Everything is scary and new and I have no idea what to do for work but I’m just taking one day at a time and like you said living ;). So happy I stumbled upon this article. Very uplifting.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      July 8, 2016 at 8:05 am

      That is so exciting! Congrats on such a big change. Shifts and transitions are scary but when we follow our intuition we learn so much. xo E

  • Reply
    Erin
    July 17, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Yeah, girl. Preach on…:)

  • Reply
    Caty
    February 5, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks, this is the exact moment when I needed to read such words. All the best

  • Reply
    Rigmor
    February 5, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Yes, I loved this!

  • Reply
    Katharina
    February 6, 2017 at 1:52 am

    I absolutely agree with you. Every single Word you wrote!

  • Reply
    nora
    February 6, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Hi erin, this is so motivational.

  • Reply
    Magdalena
    February 7, 2017 at 1:35 am

    That is something I needed! (except slaughtering the chicken – compassion is the answer) ♡ I keep overthinking everything and worry about the uncertain future, you convinced me to stop it! Thank you :*

  • Reply
    Vidapirata
    February 10, 2017 at 9:42 am

    I’m exactly in that point in my live, 23,lost after graduating and costantly overthinking about every step I take. I just moved to Edinburgh looking for a restaurant job. Although I wish I were brave enough to leave Europe and go somewhere overseas.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      February 10, 2017 at 11:31 am

      Even though you might not feel this way, you are exactly where you need to be. And I have to tell you– last spring, I got a restaurant job because I needed more money. So I went and found the most fun restaurant ever, and I STILL WORK THERE whenever I can! I have learned so much working there and I’ll do it until I can’t anymore. Don’t wish you were brave… BE brave. Bravery looks different depending on our perspective. Tune in. I’m willing to bet that if you can find a job in Edinburgh, you can find a job overseas too. If that is your ultimate goal, set a date and work backward. Trust that the #1 thing holding you back is YOU – and you got this. Much love. xo

  • Reply
    Lisa
    February 10, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Thank you sooo much for this absolutely inspiring article!! I am just 23 and probably in such a situation. I am traveling through Portugal and Spain trying to figure out what I really want in my life.. you’re so true not to overthink everything! Thanks and much love!

  • Reply
    Marjorie Scheib
    March 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    So, so glad I found you and your site after listening to you on She Explores. This post hits me hard.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      March 10, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Thank you Marjorie! So glad you are here.

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