I find it beautifully ironic that I stumbled upon this travel writing contest the day before a significant anniversary in my life. It’s an anniversary I share with my significant other: nature. February 12th will forever be my “quit-aversary,” that is, the day I quit living someone else’s life and started living my own.
After the bulk of a decade working in law firms, I couldn’t stand the feeling that I should be doing something else, somewhere else, any longer. On February 12, 2013, I walked out of my office on the 33rd floor in downtown Chicago and never looked back. The next day, I hopped a flight to Costa Rica. This journey signified a huge turning point in my life. It’s where I felt closest to nature, and at 30-years-old, finally discovered what I’m passionate about.
During my time in Costa Rica, I discovered a passion for animal conservation that I never took time to realize I while pushing papers around a cubicle. This inspiration came to light as I spent time observing and photographing howler monkeys in their wild habitat. For the first time in years, I found the ability to look outside of my own insignificant preoccupations and see the larger picture of what matters in our universe.
As my Costa Rican adventure came to a close, I began putting my passions to work through my writing and volunteerism. I began writing about animal conservation causes on the petition activism site, Force Change. I am a full-time freelance writer now, and I contribute to several other publications related to the environment, sustainable travel, and natural health. I document my travel adventures and lessons learned along the way on my blog, Alyssa v. Nature (http://www.alyssavnature.com/). I have Matador U’s travel writing program (completed May 2012) to thank for bolstering my journalism skills and helping me build a new career on my own terms.
Since November, I have been working with Chicago Canine Rescue, a local no-kill shelter in desperate need of volunteers. Last month, I traveled to Louisiana to visit Chimp Haven, a chimpanzee sanctuary that provides homes for primates rescued from inhumane research laboratories and private homes. I plan to participate in Chimp Haven’s on-site resident volunteer program later this year.
Costa Rica holds will always hold a special place in my heart, as it brings out my passions in a way no other place ever has. It inspires me to step outside societal expectations and live a life that I’m proud of living. As a freelance writer, I don’t make a lot of money, I don’t have any employment benefits, and my family still doesn’t really understand what I do.
However, my inspirational journey has opened my mind to the plausibility of long-term travel and the potential it holds for volunteerism and personal growth. Over the past year, I have to explore some of this nation’s most beautiful and inspiring places in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. I’m excited to see what 2014 will bring and what new places will inspire me to make the most of my time with no regrets.
About the Author: Alyssa is a Chicago-based freelance writer and outdoor adventurer with a restless spirit and an odd obsession for gnomes. Propelled by the force of her trusty Jeep, she loves camping, climbing, kayaking, and snowboarding at America’s most inspiring places.
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