Ghosts of Sabbaticals Past

Sometimes, when I walk past the hallway closet, I swear I can hear my hiking boots whisper.

We used to be your daily companion, don’t you love us anymore?”

You see, I have neglected my hiking boots in recent months. It’s been about eight months since I last paid any attention to them. They lay there patiently, covered in a mixture of caked-on sand from Namib dessert, muddy speckles from Kilimanjaro, dusty patina from the Great Wall, reminding me of this adventurous woman I had become during my career break.

I came home to New York City in November of 2011 after 9 months of travel that took me through mainly Africa and Asia. New York is home for me and I can honestly say that I appreciate this city so much more now than I did before. The assortment of cultures in New York is the reason why.

My new career is in real estate- I’m not someone that particularly enjoys sitting in a cubicle for 9 hours a day. I need to be moving, meeting people and doing something. Besides, I have always been fascinated with the variety of homes in NYC and I enjoy meeting new people, so this career is an ideal choice at this stage in my life. However, it sadly does not require my hiking boots at all!

Thankfully, here in New York,  I can be reminded each day of what a great international city this is. When I stroll through Harlem and spot the Kilimanjaro Restaurant on 116th Street- and I feel an amazing sense of pride. Climbing “Kili” is no longer just an item on my wish list, I was actually was there in the flesh and I climbed it!

On the West Side I see the mural of an elephant in the Natural History Museum subway stop, I reflect first on how completely out of scale it is and then that the mural simply does not do any justice whatsoever to the true majesty and grace of an elephant! But for a split second or two a can feel as though I’m in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. I know the thrill first hand of being just inches away from one of these creatures, and for a few minutes I feel that I’m there.

Now I understand so clearly why people call it a travel bug. I definitely have it and can’t kick it- nor do I want to. I have become determined to find a way to make a trip like this happen again. Why? Solo long-term travel gave me the ultimate sense of freedom. I finally felt alive for the first time in a long time. As a traveler, I could let go of any and all pretense and be myself in the truest form, without the makeup and suit and fancy handbag. It forced me to push my limits mentally, physically, psychologically, and even gastronomically!

It’s as if I had grown wings for nine months and could truly fly. That’s a great feeling! It was not hard for me to decide that I would need to structure my life in a way that would allow me to travel long-term again at some time in the future. Solo adventure travel is way too exciting to only do it once in a lifetime!

While I work in real estate, I have decided to invest in reshaping and redefining my blog InternationalButterfly.com. I am also working on a small business idea that would enable me the freedom to perhaps not travel for nine months at a time, but that would allow me to take a one month journey from time to time. My ultimate goal for this phase of my life is the location independent lifestyle.

Perhaps I’m just experiencing adrenaline withdrawal, but I find that I’m a curious person. I need to explore new things- not just within this city but also on a global scale! I am determined to create a mobile lifestyle that will allow me to work from anywhere on the planet that has a half decent Internet connection.

I look forward to the day when I can strap on my hiking boots once again!

Sonia Virtue was born in London, but has lived in New York since the age of eight. After 15 years in sales and marketing, she saw her daughter off to college and took a career break in March 2011. She spent 9 months traveling from Nairobi to Cape Town, Portugal, Spain, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.  You can read about her travels at  InternationalButterfly.com.

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