Let’s just say it wasn’t the response I expected.
I was checking in to the Snowmansion Hostel in Taos, NM. I was 24. It was my first time travelling solo, my first time in a hostel, certainly my first time following that little inner voice—the one that kept murmuring go to Taos and go alone, go to Taos and go alone.
The man checking me in—dreadlocked, wiry, deeply tanned—glanced at my too-blonde hair and my too-neat outfit. I didn’t quite fit with the road-weary hippies playing board games in the lobby. “So,” he said casually, “what are you doing here?”
The question caught me off-guard: I had absolutely no idea. “Well, I, um, I just quit my job…” I said. His equally tanned and dreaded wife looked up from her seat, and they both broke into raucous applause.
“Good for you!” she yelled.
They knew nothing about me. No idea what my job was, why I had quit, how I planned to pay for food in the near future. They just assumed that anyone quitting their job was always, always a good thing.
This was Taos. Over the next several days, I got the same cheers and applause every single time I told some new person I had recently quit.
This news in LA, where I was living at the time, was met with concerned stares and immediate questions about what else I had lined up. I had been working in the cutthroat film industry, and if one was lucky enough to get one’s feet on that ladder, one did not—did not—simply step out again into open space. This news in the Midwest, where I was from, was met with immediate concern for my sanity, my rent, and my bills. And, of course, the added confusion, as my job came with a sort of empty prestige. “But you got to meet Bill Murray!” wailed my mom into the phone, as her future supply of dinner-party celebrity stories vanished in an instant.
And I didn’t exactly know why I quit, except that I was unhappy, and I could tell the job was wrong. And I certainly didn’t know what I would do next, or where the money would come from.
There were no savings. There was no cushion. There was this week in Taos, and the great unknown beyond that.
But, I think because I had listened to it, the universe opened up for me. In the course of a week as a solo-traveller, I met some of the most amazing people I have yet known. I was offered a job. I was offered a housesit, and then another, and then another. And I stayed. My whole first year in Taos I made less than 10K in income, but I did it while living in a string of rustic, rambling adobe homes and the particularly spectacular mansion of a Coca-Cola heiress. I was never deprived for a moment, and my time there, characterized by many hours of soul-searching, led to my decision to become a therapist.
But first I had to let go, and listen to that little voice. I see this often in my clients—we all hang on to situations that stopped working for us a long time ago. I see the deadness in my client’s eyes when they talk about a place they’re stuck—and the bright white glimmer when they let themselves name, for just a minute, that whispering dream they have not yet pursued.
We all have that little voice. Yours might not care less if you go to Taos, alone or otherwise—but what is your Taos? Where is your leap? Where is the place that your spirit is waiting for you to go? There are places you can arrive at—maybe when you sit down to write, or picture yourself teaching, or let go of a painful friendship, or apply for cooking school—places where you rejoice a little bit, and your spirit says yes, yes, you’re finally here. I knew you’d come. I knew you’d make it.
So where can you rejoice a bit, even today? And what must you let go of to get there faster?
Katie Read, MFT provides mental health therapy and counseling in Roseville and Granite Bay, CA. She loves working with individuals and couples. Please visit her at www.katiereadtherapy.com.