Leaving Work Behind

4 Vital Things to Consider Before Making a Big Life Change

Written by Anne Dorko on September 6, 2016. 9 Comments

A frog carrying a suitcase, heading towards the big city.Making a big life change can be one of the most frightening things you can do – especially if you’re not sure how to go through with it, or how to make the most of your experience.

However, taking the right considerations into account as you dive into this change improves your chance of success – and even if the initial mission fails, you’re more likely to make it out alive with an amazing story.

In this post, I’m going to walk you through four considerations I took before setting off on a 30-day solo bicycle tour from San Diego to Salt Lake City. By the time we’re finished, you’ll either think I’m crazy, or feel confident to prepare for your own next big adventure!

1. Your Plan

From moving states alone to leaving the country on a one-way plane ticket, I’m not new to making grandiose life decisions. I’ve used the same tactics to prepare for each one. However, the most clear-cut journey of mine began with a simple question: How would I transport myself from San Diego to Yellowstone National Park for my new summer job?

Plane tickets were too expensive, a car rental was too much hassle, and nobody was available for a road trip. Trains were almost as pricey as the plane. At this point, I got the idea to try cycling the entire 1,000+ miles.

Anne Dorko posing by her bicycle tour gear in Overton, NV.

I immediately began creating a plan. During the research phase, I learned a few things that shaped my adventure:

  1. Hardcore bicycle tourists average between 90–110 miles per day. Since I’m a couch potato, knowing this allowed me to wisely cut down my journey to a more realistic 550 miles total.
  2. A surprising number of people live on their bicycle semi-permanently. It’s quite manageable.
  3. I’d need a lot of special gear to survive.
  4. Rogue urban camping calls for a lot of attention to detail.
Bicycle and camping gear on an empty lot in Overton NV

My bicycle and camping gear were set up wherever I could find the space.

How to Do It

Keep in mind that things go wrong and you’ll have to adjust your plan. However, you should be prepared to deal with several probable situations, rather than assume you can figure it all out as you go – it’s better to be prepared than to be blindsided. In my case, not researching my plan could have put me in unnecessary life or death situations.

The bike laying in the desert, within the aftermath of two lighting storms

You are never really ready for two desert lightning storms to converge overhead.

Proper research enables you to set achievable goals. Blind optimism could have led me to attempt the original 1,000+ miles. However, I wouldn’t have made it to my summer job on time, and the entire journey would have felt like a catastrophe instead of the personal win it wound up being.

You should look to lay out the play-by-play. Firstly, ask yourself what equipment or resources you’ll need. This could be a bicycle, a moving van, lumber at your local home improvement store, or anything else appropriate. Make two lists – your must-haves and the nice-to-haves.

Next, map out your journey and find the challenges involved – I had to find water sources and potential camping spots, for example. Your own challenges will vary wildly. Whether it’s having Wi-Fi access, being able to exchange currency, or arranging transportation from one stop to the next, you need to know what you’re dealing with.

Finally, read the experiences of people who have gone before you – there’s nothing like getting hands-on advice from those who have lived it.

2. Failsafes

When you take a big risk, there’s always the chance of failure – but it doesn’t have be life-ruining.

For my journey, I mapped out every bus route and train station along the way in case I needed to bail out. I also reported my GPS location online every day to a safety team. Every night, they knew exactly where I camped and where I expected to be the next day.

A tent set up within the ruins of an old house.

Remote camping may look cool in pictures, but this was actually a scary place to sleep.

Honestly, I wasn’t 100% confident I could make it to Salt Lake City. Before committing to the journey, I made sure I had a friend who could pick me up farther south if I didn’t make it by the deadline.

How to Do It

Firstly, create a support team – this is for your emotional and physical safety. Mine consisted of family, a few close friends, and several acquaintances who knew a lot more about cycling and camping than I did. Next, research your escape routes in case you get into serious trouble and need to find safety in an emergency.

Finally, plan a margin for error. In my situation, that meant knowing a friend could rescue me at the end if necessary. In another situation, it may have meant building up a decent savings account before flying off around the world.

3. Documenting the Journey

Anne Dorko posing for a selfie.

Hold up, let me take a selfie.

A friend loaned me his GoPro for my trip, which was an invaluable tool. In fact, I pretty much took all my media tools including my smartphone, laptop, and DSLR.

Taking the time to be my own media team was harder than I expected, but going to the trouble enabled me to share my experience with others, and revisit the trip on days when I can hardly believe it happened:

How to Do It

To be honest, it was overzealous to do video, photography, and blogging the whole time.

The silhouette of a bicycle on a rock face.

Images like this don’t happen by accident!

My recommendation is to choose one primary media avenue and stick to it. I wound up with a lot of half-completed content due to spreading myself too thinly – I still have the video footage and content, but I have yet to finish publishing it all.

4. Getting Others Involved

When I committed to doing the bicycle tour, I only had a few hundred dollars to invest in the trip.

A selection of camping and cycling gear.

Solo bicycle touring calls for a lot of expensive items.

I decided to share my goal with everyone I knew. I told them what I had already, what I needed to make it happen, and how I planned to make it a reality. In doing so, I wound up receiving:

How to Do It

To begin receiving support, talk about your goals publicly. You’re never alone in this world, so don’t be shy to ask for what you need. It may surprise you to see how many people are excited to help!

Also, make sure you follow through on your plan. Once you get others involved, there’s a bigger reason to make it a reality as people are now invested in your experience.

Anne Dorko facing a floating bicycle helmet.

Finally, stay connected. Your ongoing updates allow others continue offering their advice and support. Having the power of a group at your back can make a world of difference when you find yourself in a rough situation.

Conclusion

Big life changes can be terrifying, but you’re not the first person to do it – and you won’t be the last. By considering these four key points, you’ll be well equipped to mitigate the risks and make it through your great adventure:

  1. Research your plan.
  2. Create failsafes for emergencies.
  3. Document the journey.
  4. Get others involved.

What big life change are you on the brink of making, and what’s stopping you from taking the leap? Share your story in the comments section below – I’ll be here to help you work through it!

Image credit: Alexas_Fotos

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9 Responses to “4 Vital Things to Consider Before Making a Big Life Change”

  1. Elvis Michael
    September 14, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    This is pretty amazing, Anne. I take it you’re an avid traveler? :p

    This reminded me of my own “big change” which happened in 2007. I worked as a helpdesk rep and just wasn’t happy at all. So one day, out of the blue, I gave my two weeks notice without really having a new job lined up. I just knew that life wasn’t for me.

    The great news is that I was only 23 at the time, with no family to support or mortgage to pay. But it was still frightening because i was nevertheless an adult with some bills to pay. So before quitting, i ensured to at least have enough savings while i figured out my life and my next move.

    ……and then, I found writing, and we’ve been in love ever since, haha.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing such a brave journey with us, Anne!

    Elvis

    • Tom Ewer
      September 15, 2016 at 8:45 am

      I’m sure Anne will step in with her thoughts too, but thanks for sharing your experience Elvis! I think having some cash in reserve is a sensible and solid plan – you may not have been able to achieve your dreams without it. 🙂

    • Anne Dorko
      September 15, 2016 at 11:47 am

      Hey Elvis, avid traveler is one way to put it 😉

      Like Tom said, having that wad of cash to help you get through is always a good move. Adulting is hard without some form of cash, as it turns out. But I think your twenties are the best time to take risks like that, as an older gentleman once told me: Even if you mess up pretty badly, you have more than enough time to recover and bounce back.

      So glad things have been working out for you with writing. 😀 Thanks for dropping by and all your kind words!

  2. Ramkumar Yaragarla
    September 18, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Initially, when I read the title, I thought it is going to be another ‘run the mill’ kind of story on making a change towards leaving your corporate job and becoming an entrepreneur. But I was pleasantly surprised when I read through the story. Nice way of capturing the essence of adventure biking and camping. The lessons could be used for any life situation. Liked it. Cheers.

    • Tom Ewer
      September 19, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Ramkumar!

    • Anne Dorko
      September 21, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks, Ramkumar!

      I’ve read a lot of those run-of-the-mill stories myself, and they just aren’t relatable to me either. I’m glad you feel my story is different and found the advice applicable… it was quite the journey and there were so many lessons! 🙂 Cheers.

  3. Samuel Caverly
    October 3, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    My friends and I try to find a business idea that would incorporate all of our strengths. We want to be our own bosses. We have some money. We want to make sure everything it’s in place. I like you said about failsafes. That’s what keeping us from starting the business. We want to have that back up and right now this is our jobs. In the meantime, we try to come up with a name, a brand identity, a business plan.

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