One of my favorite Broadway show tunes proudly proclaims the line "but it's in the detour that we truly find our way."
Choosing to attend Converse College, a women’s college that had only been on my radar for a month before committing to enroll, was one of those major detours that started me on this crazy journey. Once there, I was encouraged to try anything that appealed to me, empowering me to be impactful and diverse in my interests and activities. I was the chairperson for a community service organization, served in student government, worked as a residential advisor, studied ecotourism in the Galápagos Islands, and even spent three years as a synchronized swimmer.
After earning my Bachelor’s degree in biology, my life continued to take detours into a job as a zookeeper, which led to work in conservation education and field research, which somehow transformed into work designing and leading tours in the tourism capital of the United States: Orlando, Florida. During this journey, I was able to increase my versatility and ability to learn on the job as I performed roles as diverse as training giraffes, teaching summer camp, leading tours, and serving craft beers. For four years, I was even paid to ride roller coasters at Disney World!
To take on these varied roles, I’ve moved across cities, across the United States, and most recently, across the world. I took a crazy chance, applied for a working holiday visa in New Zealand, sold my belongings, and bought a one-way plane ticket to a country I’d never even visited. Oh, and I moved here by myself. I spent four months wwoofing, where one works short-term on family farms or small organic industries in exchange for room and board. My adventures included maintaining a yoga and meditation bed and breakfast, packaging organic seeds, picking feijoa fruit, and getting head butted by an incredibly obstinate sheep. Most recently, my travels have led me to Queenstown, where I’m working in a hotel, and doing my best to learn how to snowboard without breaking myself.
Don’t ever let yourself be limited to a certain job title, no matter what your degree declares your area of expertise to be. Be willing to do what you need to in order to make your life what you want. Every role can teach you something that can be applied to a future role. Years of supplemental income from working in restaurants not only gave me the financial means to embark on this incredible overseas journey, but it also gave me applicable skills to find employment anywhere in the world. Maybe your job is your life fulfillment; maybe it’s something that doesn’t drive you crazy and provides the means to find your fulfillment in other capacities. Finally, always remember that CHANGING the dream isn’t the same as giving up on your dreams.
If you’d like to follow along on my adventures, please check out my Facebook travel page @where.in.the.world.is.stephanie.sandiego or my blog at www.stephaniesandiego.wordpress.com