The author on her year-long travel adventure.
At this point in your life — a couple to a few to many decades in — coming up with New Year’s resolutions can feel like quite the arduous task. Lose weight? Been there, tried that. Travel more? Have those flight alerts packed and loaded. Meet the love your life? Still wondering where they are! Often times the most impactful — and dare we say it — badass changes you can challenge yourself to make don’t come at the perfect timing of January 1, but rather, when you reach rock bottom and need to find a way to build a ladder. From getting through a divorce or processing the sudden loss of a loved one, to taking a more critical eye to your health and happiness, here are 8 stories from inspiring, confident, and successful women who decided to not only invest in a change, but make the greatest promise they’ve ever made to themselves.
1. “After losing everything, I resolved to stand 100-percent on my own two feet.”
When Devin Graciano’s fiance passed away at the age of 35, her life fell apart. Not only did she feel like she lost her very best friend who was always by her side, but she quickly found herself spiraling down a rabbit hole, turning away anyone — and everyone — who sought to help her. “I completely ran away and shut myself away from the world. It started to weigh heavy on my conscience when I would wake up and realize the life I loved was so far removed. My choice was either allow myself to start mending, or slip away into nothing. I chose to heal,” she shared. “During that time, I had a vision to never let myself rely on others for my happiness and security. The strength and success of my future, as a woman, has to be genuinely built up by faith and steps taken by me.”
Though it took time, the resolution was one she focused on, eventually starting her own company, raising a beautiful daughter, and learning to love herself and others again. “There is no greater reward than to take a painful look in the rearview mirror and see how far I’ve come,” she adds.
2. “I decided to travel full-time.”
Though Jessica Norah had always enjoyed writing and traveling, spending 10 years in college to train as a psychologist didn’t provide much budget or time for booking plane tickets or indulging in creative writing. But in 2012, her wanderlust won over her practicality and she decided to take at least one big international trip each year, eventually seeing Europe, Asia, and Africa. And because the proof is often in the posts, she decided to start her blog, Independent Travel Cats, in 2013. Fast forward to 2015, and her resolution not only helped her earn airline miles, but it became her travel blog became her full-time gig. Today, writing isn’t just a hobby, but a profession she enjoys with her husband, Laurence, a fellow travel blogger and photographer.
“I moved from Silicon Valley to a small village in Scotland which is definitely a different scene. We travel for about six months of the year now, and spend the rest of the time at home catching up on writing, editing photos, social media, networking, and visiting family,” she shared. “I have a much more flexible work life than before which allows me to travel the world with the person I love. I have learned from this experience that it is never too late to change paths, and that I can always do it again.”
3. “I resolved to be more vocal.”
After the United States presidential election in 2016, event planner Leah Weinberg decided she had had enough with keeping her mouth shut and decided it was time to make her voice heard and make a difference. She wanted — and needed — the country to be a better place. “There was a sign from one of the women's marches in January that said something to the effect of, ‘Things must be really bad, even the introverts are here.’ That sign perfectly captured how I felt. Never before had I been actively part of a protest or a march. But on November 8, 2016, everything changed. And I had to change along with it,” she shared. Even though she always donated to several charities, participated in volunteer work, and tried her best to help her community, she realized the vast importance of shouting these things from the rooftops.
“I rarely shared any political beliefs on social media, but I knew that all had to change. I knew that being quiet was no longer an acceptable position and so this introvert got loud,” she explained. “It has made me feel more powerful. And it has brought me even closer with other women who share the same beliefs and concerns and who are actively trying to make a difference.”
4. “I went off antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine.”
A few months away from turning the big 3-0, Brooke Siem was up late watching a rerun of Dateline when a thought occurred to her: she had been on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine for almost half of her life. Though she was originally prescribed following the sudden death of her father when she was 15, she hadn’t reexamined her daily cocktail… ever. Especially since it wasn’t her choice at the time, she decided to begin the process of detoxing and to determine what she really needed to be taking. Then, she was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to travel the world for a 12 months via Remote Year, working and living in 12 international cities. While, sure, she could go through a mountain of paperwork and fine print to find prescriptions abroad, she didn’t want the hassle for her adventure, so she started the difficult weaning process of five pills, one-by-one.
Siem expected high highs and low lows, but she didn’t anticipate a decline in her pain tolerance and a severe sensitivity to light and sound. “I locked myself in my apartment for a week while my nervous system went into overdrive during my Effexor withdrawal, because I couldn’t walk out into the streets of NYC without feeling like I was stuck in a vortex of energy and noise,” she shared. But then, before her departure date, she literally got caught in the rain — and everything changed.
“The rain came suddenly, without warning. As I picked up the pace to get home, I suddenly noticed that for the first time in my adult life, I felt the raindrops on my skin. My body had been covered in a layer of cellophane for so long that the raindrops could never penetrate. As I stood in the rain, feeling the edges of each droplet on my skin, I knew that I could never go back to a life on [those] drugs. As bad as the detox was, and as much as I had wandered into a pit of emotional pain that seemed to never end, if I was just now discovering raindrops, what else was there to discover?”
Seventeen countries and a year later, she landed a book deal about her experience and moved to Vancouver with her boyfriend, whom she met during her travelers. It rains a lot there — but for Siem, it’s a great reminder of how far she’s come and how lucky she is to… feel.
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5. “I switched industries in search of fulfillment.”
After working her way up the corporate progression on Wall Street, Sam Lazar wasn’t unhappy, but she didn’t feel like her personality and skill set was being utilized in the best way. In an effort to discover what really moved her and helped her grow personally and professionally, she traded her salary (and, ahem, bonus) to chase after passion and commission by becoming a real estate agent. The first few months felt a lot like jumping off a cliff, according to Lazar, who was thankful for the support of her partner and family during the transition period. Even so? It’s a resolution she doesn’t regret — and would never change.
“It’s a steep learning curve and you’re learning about coworkers and fellow agents in the city who are successful and you’re wondering how to get up to that level. It’ll feel like the biggest risk in the world for a while, because it’s not going to be instantaneous success. But after a while, you’re going to start working with clients who get you, hitting a stride, and start making it happen,” she shared. “Once you start tasting the fruits of your new career, you forget all about that cliff jump because now you’re swimming in the water underneath.”
6. “I resolved to write a book. And I did it.”
Every January 1st for decades, child and adolescent psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva, M.D. had the same resolution: write a book to be published. Calendars were flipped, days went by — and yet, she never found the time, confidence, or energy to put pen to paper. But in 2016, something changed and she decided to stop waiting for the ‘right time’ and instead cut through the excuses, choose a topic, and well? Go for it. “Writing the book was not going to magically happen. I watched my young son, at 9 years old, breeze through math and science but struggle with spelling. I continually urged him to slow down to practice spelling, and focus on improving his grade. While watching him diligently work at spelling, I realized that I should do the same with my struggles — slow down, accept that I can’t breeze through writing a book, and focus on reaching my stated goal,” she shared.
To make this resolution a reality, she carved out time every day to focus and to prioritize her desire to see her name on a book cover over other demands. She finally did finish and publish her book — and she grew tremendously in the process. “I learned that I can prioritize my desire and still be a good mom, girlfriend, daughter, physician, teacher, and friend. I became a better me. I feel that I am more confident, more grounded, more patient, more loving, and less scared,” she shared. “In fact, I had been in a major rollover car accident about 15 years prior, and since then I had been afraid of rollercoasters. I had loved them until the car accident. Once I made the commitment to write my first book, my fear of rollercoasters vanished.”
7. “I said ‘no’ to a million-dollar business deal and followed my gut."
Entrepreneur Lisa Smith-Putnam was faced with what most would consider a no-brainer decision: the offer of millions of dollars invested in her company. And as luck would have it, she wasn’t just proposed this question once — but twice. Even so, the choice to walk away from the cash was guided by her gut, not her bank account. “I decided to walk away from both of these deals because they wanted me to deny who I was and what I believed. They wanted me to deny the very essence of me,” she shared.
Now, the founder of the magazine Simply Pet Lifestyle, she is able to freely work and follow her passion, without compromising herself, her values, or her dreams. “When you prove that you respect yourself, and you work hard for what it is that you want — even your bad days are good. It is easy to look back on your life with no regrets. I’m true to myself and I listen to that inner voice that leads me back to me, no matter how far away from home I may roam.”
8. "I quit my job to travel the world for a year."
...but now, honestly, probably much longer than a year. While I was relatively happy in New York with all of the so-called check-off items someone would want: a great job, supportive friends, great health — I couldn't shake the urge to throw everything up to the universe to see where it would land. And so, I did, quite literally, as close as I can get to the stars themselves, by setting out on a year of travel via Remote Year. I quit my full-time, well-paying editorial director gig at a burgeoning start-up, I denied renewing my lease, I packed what I had in a storage unit, said some teary good-byes and bought a one-way ticket to Split, Croatia.
Since July, I've lived in Prague, Lisbon, Kyoto, Kuala Lumpur, and Chiang Mai — with countless side-trips to nearby lands, including Morocco, Austria, Italy, Australia, and Indonesia, to name a few. Though I still have seven more months (thankfully!) on Remote Year, the experience itself has taught me so much about what I'm capable of, what feeds my soul, and how vast and grand the world is. I wake up every single day not knowing where life will take me and thoroughly excited and open to where it does. I've relaxed about finding love, I am more confident in my freelance journalism career, and most of all, I'm the happiest I've ever been. Who knew letting go of everything you thought you needed to take a chance on the unknown would be so damn rewarding?