On March 21, a mere 27 days after leaving my job with the California Medical Association, I submitted a couple essays for a travel writing scholarship through World Nomads—a travel insurance company. My hope was that I’d be one of three lucky storytellers selected to travel throughout the Balkans for an all-expense paid, two-week writing workshop and assignment, which would then lead (so I dreamt) to a fulfilling and adventurous writing career.
On the evening of April 12, just as I was heading to yoga, the results were posted. More than 8,000 entries were submitted, but only three selected for the scholarship. I wasn’t one of them. They also posted a shortlist of runner ups—17 to be exact. I didn’t make that list either.
As I stood in my kitchen and sobbed, feeling defeated and inadequate and so unbelievably lost, I remember thinking to myself, “What now; where do I go from here?” I had so much hope riding on that opportunity and was absolutely crushed when it didn’t come through, but I had a choice. I could sit and wallow in my sadness or pick myself up off the floor (literally) and move forward, trusting that things were going to work out even though I had no fucking clue how.
And so I did what any rational person who had already signed up and paid for a class would do—I went to yoga, where I cried even more (sorry for the sniffling, yogi neighbors).
The next night, after two weeks of very publicly sharing my most awkward and embarrassing dating stories (examples here, here and here) as a nominee for Sacramento’s Most Eligible Bachelor and Bachelorette (SMEBB), I attended the SMEBB finale event. I didn’t win that title either. Eff! “Bartender, I’ll take a stiff drink, please and thank you.”
It was a humbling week to say the least, but hey, that’s life. “Things happen for a reason,” I kept reminding myself, forcing thoughts of worry and angst out of my head. That had become a daily exercise for me—a conscious decision to focus on the positive “what ifs” during this period of exploration, instead of dwelling on all the things that could go wrong.
On May 30, after four months of interviews, including two positions I turned down and a few others I didn’t get, I received an offer to join MeringCarson—a full-service advertising agency focused on lifestyle brands and experiences. Without hesitation, I accepted—not because I needed a job, but because the opportunity felt right. Like really right.
Bringing it full-circle, below is one of the World Nomads essays I wrote, titled “Daring to delight in the unknown.” It was based on a personal travel experience and the theme I chose was “Out of my comfort zone”—a rather fitting narrative, considering that at the time, I had just left my job without a plan. I shared my experience of moving to London at age 22 without ever having been there or having a job or place to live lined up.
Recalling those memories—and the positive outcome—was a good reminder to my current 33-year-old self to continue to trust in the process, even when it feels like nothing is happening.
The ups and downs, excitement and heartbreak; it all happens for a reason—just keep moving forward and eventually you’ll see why…
– S A D Y E E V Y N R E I S H
World Nomads travel writing scholarship/essay contest
Title: “Daring to delight in the unknown”
Theme: “Out of my comfort zone”
Date submitted: March 21, 2017
I was 22 years old when I first crossed the pond, flying solo from Los Angeles to London—the start of a journey that would forever change my perspective on life.
While everyone else talked of graduate school or their “real job” prospects, I spoke of my post-college plans to live abroad and travel the world. Some people laughed, out of disbelief or disapproval, I’m not sure which, while others rattled off their concerns in the form of what-ifs. “What if you don’t find a job? What if you hate it? What if you run out of money?”
Call it stubborn determination, or the desire to simply prove the naysayers wrong, but I had laid bare my plans, tipped the first domino, and there was no turning back. All I could do was hope that the pieces would fall into place.
It was early October and the weather had turned dreary by the time I arrived, but I didn’t mind; it suited the mood—the confidence in my decision already crumbling beneath self-doubt.
Barely a few hours in my new city, I found myself missing home—the people, yes, but mostly the comfort of the known and the sense of certainty that came with it. A type-A perfectionist, accustomed to planning out every detail, I had moved to London without a plan. I didn’t have a job lined up or a place to stay; I was uncharacteristically “winging it” and freaking the fuck out in the process.
The whole experience extended so far outside my comfort zone that I’d need a passport to get back in. Uncertain as it may have been, however, I knew I couldn’t go back to the known without first exploring what was beyond it. And so, I persisted, knocking down another domino.
Eventually, I settled in as a waitress, working among Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans and Brits, becoming fast friends with each of them. When I wasn’t working, I was traveling, anywhere and everywhere I could.
In the end, I came home pale, penniless and several pounds heavier, but with my head held high and happiness in my heart. Looks will change and money will come and go, but taking hold of this chance to travel and explore and push myself outside my comfort zone—that is what matters. Daring to delight in the unknown, knowing full well that failure is as much a possibility as success—that is what matters.
These are the profound lessons that my 22-year-old self taught me and ones I have relied on in the nearly 12 years since. I will forever be grateful to her for showing me what I’m capable of and for opening my eyes to the joys of adventure and to a world of sights to see.