The Mochilera Diaries
Aspirations, Musings

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone: Planning for the Future

If you’ve read my About Me page, or any of my blog posts, for that matter, you probably know that I’m drawn to situations that are a little bit uncomfortable.  The situations that push my boundaries and force me to grow and learn new things are the ones I most commonly seek out. What can I say?  Being comfortable bores me.

But there’s a very particular type of uncomfortable situation that I’ve always shied away from. Whenever possible, and for as long as I can remember, in fact, I have avoided making plans for the future.

Obviously I do so when necessary; there was a teensy bit of foresight and planning that went into getting accepted to my dream college or moving abroad to teach English in Thailand, for example.

But in the last couple of years, I’ve had considerable trouble looking past the next year, the next month, hell, sometimes I barely know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.  And for the most part, I’ve liked it that way.  The uncertainty is exhilarating, and it leaves me free to make decisions as I go.  With no commitments, I can easily accept whatever enticing options come along; I don’t miss out on the things I want to do, and I never have the guilt of breaking promises.

I find myself wondering, though, what it is that changed between the me who was confident enough to make those plans like studying Nutrition at Berkeley or making the major life change of moving to a foreign country and the me who now would rather take life as it comes, waiting with baited breath to see if it all just…works out?

Something I’ve come to understand about myself recently as a result of a number of life coaching sessions* is that, historically, I’ve always valued the here-and-now over the long-term.  I’ve made the decisions that lead to immediate satisfaction with little regard to their repercussions down the road.  Perhaps thinking about the future detracted too much from my enjoyment of right now, robbed me of the pleasure of the present moment?

I know for certain that I’ve applied this mode of thinking to my love life–I have a bad habit of getting involved with people knowing full well I have intentions of leaving in a few months, even a few weeks.

My other theory?  That I lost confidence in myself and my ability to plan for the future when, after a four-year degree, a year-long internship, and thousands upon thousands of tuition dollars my dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian suddenly wasn’t my dream anymore.

Or when moving abroad to teach English didn’t resolve the fact that I still had no f*$!% clue what I wanted to do with my life.  It solved the immediate problem of wanting to live abroad and needing a source of income to do so, but I certainly didn’t want to teach English as a career.

Or perhaps the final, lethal blow to my confidence in making plans too far into the future occurred when the life I had mapped out for myself as an English teacher in Buenos Aires fell apart right in front of my eyes.  I had only made the decision 8 months prior and the self-destruct button had already been pressed.

It all left me thinking, “What’s the point?”

My plans never held together or worked out the way I envisioned them, so instead of setting myself up for failure and disappointment, maybe instead I would let things happen the way the Universe seemed to want them to happen.  Maybe the decisions I made (or thought I was making) never mattered anyway.  Maybe I was just fooling myself.

Maybe back then, as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed college student, I knew what I wanted out of life and I went for it purely on blind faith.  Maybe that’s an admirable quality.  I haven’t made up my mind on that just yet.

But now, here we are.  Ten years down the road with little faith left in planning for the future, yet arriving at a point where it’s suddenly demanding my attention.

In case you missed the announcement, I made a hasty decision two months ago to attend a conference this coming April in Costa Brava, Spain.  I don’t regret that decision, yet the anxiety that always accompanies thinking so many months ahead is flaring up inside of me; I’m wondering if this plan will lead to good things or more disappointment.  My track record doesn’t bode well, but I guess only time will tell.

Traveling to Europe is not something I take lightly; living in Spain has been a dream of mine since the ripe young age of 17 when I vowed I would study abroad there during college.  I never could realize that dream back then–my Nutrition major got in the way.

I realized just the other day that this is the reason I was able to make the decision to attend this conference so quickly, the reason I was suddenly able to plan for something several months in advance when I didn’t even know what I was eating for dinner that night; I knew I wanted it. A dream, resurfaced, that was suddenly within my reach.

My other “dreams” may not have played out the way I expected, but in a roundabout (and cruel at times) way, they’ve given me exactly what I needed.  And the last thing I want is to lose faith in my dreams; one of them is bound to lead me in the right direction when the time is right.

With this decision to head to Europe indefinitely comes the responsibility, however uncomfortable, to plan a few things ahead of time.  What happens after the conference?  Where do I go from there?

Luckily, I’ve come to a few conclusions about what I want out of the next six months, even the next few years of my life, that will help me throughout my planning process these next few months.  I’m starting to picture how it will all fit together, and suddenly planning doesn’t feel quite so scary.

A few things I’m sure of…

One thing I know for sure is that I’m tired of moving around so much.  I know this blog was originally started to chronicle my experiences as a backpacker (mochilera), but I’m afraid the term isn’t really the best one to describe me anymore.  When choosing between the life of a backpacker and the life of an expat, life of an expat wins every time.  I want to have a home base, and I want to be there for a considerable amount of time.  I want to get to know a city well.  I want the opportunity to form lasting relationships.  I want to feel like I belong somewhere.

Another thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to give up on learning Spanish just yet; this means staying in Spain is the option that makes the most sense, for now.

A third thing I’m absolutely sure of?  (I can’t remember the last time I was sure of so much!)  I don’t want to stop traveling, and I’m beyond excited to start discovering Europe.  My hope is that being based in Spain will allow me to travel within Europe fairly inexpensively while still having a place to call home.

Cheers to the future…

For the first time in what feels like an eternity, I’m feeling confident in my decisions and at peace with my plans for the future, regardless of the outcome.

I’ll be heading home to Washington at the end of March for a few weeks before embarking on this new and exciting chapter–I already have the flights and everything–which means I need to make the most out of my remaining days here in Colombia.  I want to take advantage of every opportunity, spend time with the people I care about, and leave with no regrets.

So cheers to the future…I like the way it looks from here.


*Frank Macri is a life and travel coach helping people who want to build off the beaten path lifestyles.  Our sessions have helped me gain a clearer understanding of what’s keeping me from achieving my goals and have been invaluable to me as I try harder to get organized and plan for my future.  If this sounds like something that might benefit you, I encourage you to schedule a Discovery Session (free!) to see how Frank might be able to help you reach your full potential.
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  • Reply Polly January 13, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Oh man, how exciting. I wish you the best of luck in finding the future that’s the perfect amount of planned and totally spontaneous!
    Polly recently posted…Why Moving Abroad Was the Best Decision EverMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:33 am

      Thank you Polly! It would be awesome if I could have a nice balance between the two…I’m definitely not ready to give up being spontaneous or going with the flow but a little bit of structure/advance planning will be good for me, I think! 🙂

  • Reply Chiara January 13, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I wish I could be more like you! I plan way too much, sometimes I feel I’m missing out on the here and now because I’m so busy thinking about what to do next and what to plan. I need to take a leaf out of your book I think 🙂

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:34 am

      Haha well a word of caution…not planning at all (like I have often done) doesn’t always go so well! But a little bit of spontaneity can be a good thing 🙂

  • Reply Daniel January 13, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Makes perfect sense to me! I am all for being an expat over a traveler. Good luck!

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:35 am

      Thanks so much, Dan! Any plans for you to make your next great escape?

  • Reply Laura January 13, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    You may remember me from your CT life. I have been following your blog to see what you’ve been up to. I wanted to tell you that you are so inspiring and I think you are one of the most confident and independent women I’ve ever had the honor to call my friend. I hope you find what you are looking for. If you are ever in the New England area, I would love to catch up with you. I miss you! Good luck on your upcoming adventures! Love, Laura “hates clowns, steam, and ladybugs” Willets (Biesadecki)

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:39 am


      How could I forget Laura “ladybug hater” Biesadecki? (I see you are Willets now, congratulations on the marriage!)

      You are so SO sweet for saying all of that! It feels awesome to know that my fellow Dietitians don’t totally begrudge me for giving up on nutrition…it just wasn’t for me and it took me a long time to realize that. I really hope it’s going well for you!

      If I ever find myself back in New England I will most definitely look you up. It would be wonderful to catch up after so long! In the meantime, thanks for following along with the blog…it really means the world to me! x

  • Reply Local Adventurer (Las Vegas Blog) January 13, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    i can definitely relate to this. i don’t know if it’s because my plans fell through.. but i went from one extreme to the other. i had a five year plan, etc back in college, but now i can barely plan the next day either. it makes me extremely uncomfortable, so if anyone wants to plan anything with me.. my husband is almost like my personal assistant and figures out my schedule for me, bc i just don’t like thinking about schedules and plans. i know it’s something i can work on also. i also wonder if sometimes by letting whatever in life happen, if i’m not fighting for something hard enough. anyhow, love reading your posts. i always find them so relatable. 🙂
    Local Adventurer (Las Vegas Blog) recently posted…13 Remarkable Species of Jellyfish at the Monterey AquariumMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:45 am

      Aw man, I wish I had someone to play personal assistant to me and make all of MY plans! There’s a good reason to get married if I’ve ever heard one 😉

      Interesting point about feeling like you’re not fighting for something…I guess I do finally feel like, by making these plans, I am finally being proactive and fighting for the life that I want. I just didn’t know what I really wanted until recently!

      So glad you find my posts relatable! That’s probably the best compliment I can get 🙂

  • Reply Ashley January 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Planning for the future also makes me seriously uncomfortable, and I can relate to so many aspects of this post! Wishing you the best of luck in Spain!
    Ashley recently posted…Cage Diving with Great White Sharks: Am I a Hypocrite?My Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:46 am

      Ha, it must be a generational thing, I feel like most of my friends feel the same way! And thank you, I can’t wait for Spain 🙂

  • Reply V January 13, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Okay. So this post was really fascinating to me. Mainly because I am so opposite of this. I’m always planning for the future, so much so that I don’t enjoy the present moment. Something that I really want to change about myself. I really try hard to be more conscious of the present moment rather than letting it all pass me by while I’m busy planning for the next thing.

    Travel safe. I can’t wait to see where it all takes you.

    V recently posted…1 YearMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:48 am

      The other extreme! I think we could both benefit from some kind of balance…planning for the future is definitely a necessary part of life but living in the moment is so important too. It’s not easy to have both, that’s for sure!

  • Reply Justine January 13, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    I can completely relate to this. Whereas all of my friends have always had grand plans for the future, I was always the person who could never envision what would come next month, let alone next year. Since I was 18 I feel like the only thing I ever really planned in advance was my next trip. But lately I’ve definitely felt the urge to try and plan a little more. While I am all about living in the moment, living like that last year left me so full of anxiety. I think it’s great that you’re feeling content about your future plans. I for one am super excited to see what Europe has in store for you!
    Justine recently posted…Making the Most of My Time in JakartaMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:54 am

      Great keyword, ANXIETY! Not knowing what’s coming next for the last few years has left me feeling anxious to the max, and I think I’m just finally starting to get tired of it. I need some stability and I need to know what to expect, at least a little bit! Can’t wait for Europe, it’s seriously a dream come true!

  • Reply Joella in Beijing January 14, 2015 at 2:04 am

    Very exciting- going to Spain seems like an excellent choice to me! Interesting to hear about the life coaching as I’ve never heard from anyone who has done it before. I’m really glad it it helped and you have some exciting times ahead!
    Joella in Beijing recently posted…A Surprisingly Warm January Day In BeijingMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:52 am

      The life coaching has been really interesting! I didn’t really know anything about it until I started working with Frank, but it’s been a fascinating and eye-opening process. I’m learning so much about myself! Not all of it is good but I guess that’s kind of the whole point, finding your weak points and working to improve them. If you have any more questions or are interested in it for yourself, please do let me know!

  • Reply Rachel January 14, 2015 at 4:29 am

    Congrats on finding a little clarity and being able to plan at least a little into the future. I struggle with this as well, as thus far all of my plans have just left me, well, planning my future travels. I’d love to spend time in Spain.
    Rachel recently posted…The 6 Course Tasting Menu at Pitiona – A Fancy Dinner at One of Latin America’s Top 50 RestaurantsMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera January 14, 2015 at 5:55 am

      Haha yes I guess that’s the one thing I’m usually able to plan…travel! Or my meals. I plan much of my life around meals… 😉

  • Reply Sky January 14, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    We are so similar in this sense. When my big life plans went out the window, I just stopped making plans. Everything I’ve done lately has been impulsively, including my plane ticket to Costa Rica. But, like you said, sometimes the decisions to just make are the best ones because you act on what you REALLY want, not on what you think you should want.

    Best of luck in your journey!
    Sky recently posted…That Time I Became A Total FangirlMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera January 15, 2015 at 10:31 am

      Totally right, Sky! I hope the decision to go to Costa Rica turns out to be a great one for you! Good luck to you too!

  • Reply Miquel January 15, 2015 at 10:12 am

    What a great post. I can relate to this do much. Cheers to your future!
    Miquel recently posted…10 Reasons I TravelMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera January 15, 2015 at 10:32 am

      Thanks so much, Miquel! Cheers to the future, indeed! 🙂

  • Reply Lavi January 27, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I love your insights into your life and future, Leah! I teach English in Madrid; have you thought about the English language assistant program with the Spanish government? I really love living in Spain and having the opportunity to travel all over Europe but I’m not planning to renew with the program because I want to head to South America – just the opposite of your plans! I’m also dealing with the squirmy feelings of not being sure what exactly comes next, but it’s also exciting. I think things have a way of working themselves out, so don’t worry! I might also be heading to Costa Brava for the summit, so maybe I’ll meet you there! Cheers 🙂
    Lavi recently posted…Snapshots of a European ChristmasMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera February 24, 2015 at 4:12 pm

      Hey Lavi! Don’t know how I missed your comment for so long. Have you decided whether you’re heading to TBEX yet? Would be great to meet you there! I’m not really looking to teach English anymore, so no, I hadn’t considered that program! I know that it’s always an option should I choose to do so, but I’ve heard it can be harder to make ends meet as an English teacher in Europe (as a freelancer anyway). Your plans to head south sound exciting! I really do love South America, but I think it’s time to move on 🙂
      La Mochilera recently posted…8 Things to Consider Before Moving to Medellín, ColombiaMy Profile

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