How does it feel a week after stepping off the proverbial cliff?

It’s now been a week since we stepped off the plane and into the drizzling mist and humidity of our first stop: Hanoi, Vietnam. We’ve spent a week eating, drinking, and wandering our way through Hanoi’s top sites and fascinating nooks and crannies. But the question remains: how do we feel about the fact that we’ve upended our lives to travel on a life sabbatical for the foreseeable future?

There’s no instruction manual out there for how you’re supposed to feel when you leave your job to travel across the world. Taking any sort of leap—whether it’s moving to a new profession, or a new city, or flat out quitting—is a deeply personal undertaking, and everyone experiences it differently. Daniela and I have read a number of articles and blogs of people doing similar things, and it’s clear that nobody is impacted in the same way. Some people dive in headfirst, liberated from all their worldly cares. Some go straight into a routine, finding a local class or community service opportunity to keep them busy and provide consistency. And some, like us, are still trying to make sense of it all in our heads.

For the past few months, we’ve experienced a heavy mix of fear and excitement—often overshadowed by the fact that we were too busy winding down at work and wrapping up our lives in DC to feel much of anything. Now, a week into our journey, that initial fear and excitement has morphed into… a sort of numbness. It hasn’t sunk in that this isn’t a vacation: we’ve had fun checking tourist boxes in Hanoi, we’re slowly adjusting to the time zone, and we’re still getting our bearings. There’s a sense you get at the beginning of a vacation—tired from the jet lag, excited for the new sights and smells and sounds, but facing that nagging voice in the back of your head reminding you that it’ll all end before you know it. We’re on autopilot and that’s exactly how we’re feeling now. Our brains have tricked us into thinking we’ll be back in DC, at work, and ensconced in our safe routine in another week or two.

As many blogs and articles as we read before heading out on this life sabbatical to prepare, we never expected that what we’re doing wouldn’t hit us, and that we’d be feeling blank. But now that we’re here, it seems like it’ll take at least a month more to actually register that this is our life now. That we won’t be seeing our friends and family anytime soon. That we won’t be home for the holidays. That the new, exciting things we’re doing on week one, like shopping at the local markets for things to cook for dinner, or eating pho for breakfast with locals who don’t speak a word of English, will become routine. And what happens when all that is novel, one day, inevitably, isn’t? How will we react when we stop mimicking a vacation, and start living our life abroad? Perhaps the numbness will shift to new parts of our lives.

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When Daniela and I left the US on our life sabbatical a little over a week ago, we were afraid and excited. But as anxious as we are for what the months ahead hold, and as excited as we are about individual things we’ve done or plans we’re making, the reality of what it means to leave our lives behind is still ahead of us. And, we’re telling ourselves, that’s ok.

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