This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader.
Starting over is never easy, but it does get easier. I know this because I’ve had to do it a lot. I moved five times before my brain could even form accessible memories. Then I moved when I was three, ten, 16 (my senior year of high school), 17 (for college), 21 (to NYC) and so many times over the past three years that the line between moving and traveling has ceased to exist. The early decisions weren’t mine to make, but in being forced to abandon everything familiar and start anew so many times, I gained awareness of a trait that many people don’t realize the extent to which it exists in us all: adaptability.
Now when I start over, I’m not subject to the same trauma/drama I was starting sixth grade as the new girl. I don’t wonder if I’ll be able to find a cozy dwelling with strong WiFi, or if ever make friends again; I know these things are inevitabilities.
Having an awareness of one’s adaptability also makes it much easier to decide when to stay and when to go. When you know that things will work out in the next chapter, because they did before—even when you were nestled in a pit of despair and thought you’d never laugh again—you’re more inclined to say “enough” and move on when an environment is toxic. You’re less likely to be bound by the fear of the unknown that keeps so many people from removing themselves from oppressive situations, especially when others are benefiting from keeping them there and will do things to make the alternative seem much scarier than it is.
A lot of people have asked me why I left Remote Year, and while there’s a much longer story that details the utter shit show that myself and several others experienced over the course of our time in the program, it essentially comes down to the fact that I left because I am well-equipped at A) recognizing a toxic environment when I am in one, and B) removing myself from it swiftly. I’ve also gotten pretty good at baiting arrogant people into removing me from the hellish microcosms they create, thereby eliminating the legal/financial/social burdens that can sometimes accompany an act of quitting on one’s own accord.
Basically friends, you forked over your hard-earned money to support my year-long journey, and once my journalist nose told me something was foul in the top tiers of Remote Year, I wasn’t going to spend another dime of it on the frat boy frauds who are running it. It took them six weeks to notice I’d stopped paying them and do something about it, so by my count that reimbursed the $3k “non-refundable” deposit I put down when all I got was a stupid t-shirt. So yes, I was officially kicked out, but I didn’t really give them a choice.
To answer the other question I’ve been getting repeatedly, no I’m not coming home just because Remote Year didn’t work out. I’d hoped initially that Remote Year would be a logical facilitator of two of the things I love most: writing and traveling. It turned out it was the antithesis of both those things, but I know know to do them on my own. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. I’m not sure how, at this point, or where exactly I’ll go. But I am sure that I will come back to the US from the other side eventually.
I won’t sugarcoat it: having to recalibrate my steering at this point has taken a lot of energy out of me, and my funds are running short. I’m taking a flight to Turkey tomorrow and I only have a place booked for the next three days, but I’ll figure it out. That’s the fun part—”the journey is the destination,” remember? Being forced to leave Remote Year was the best possible outcome for my life, and the past three weeks I’ve spent in Berlin have catalyzed more emotional and intellectual growth than any amount of time with Remote Year.
Now, I’m working on an article to ensure that anyone else who’s tempted by the too-good-to-be-true description on the website and all the fluff PR the founders periodically pump out knows exactly what they’re signing up for. I’m also working on editing a great book written by a pretty kickass woman, doing genetic research for a pretty noble biotech company (who have both been super patient while I got my shit together after this nightmare episode), and I’ll continue chronicling my journey for you all.
There are miles of stories to be told between where I left off and where I am now. I’ve been to Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, to the most epic Slovenian wedding in history, and now here I sit in Berlin: bags packed, ready to explore Istanbul for the first time. Then onward into the rest of the world, doing it my way, the right way: respectfully, responsibly, thoughtfully, and with the intent to leave the places and people I encounter better than I found them.