Sabbatical: What AM I Doing on this Trip?

Sabbatical In Peru

Doing is a fascinating word. Hacer in Spanish. Let’s explore this quickly before we get into a laundry list about how I’m not wasting my life and money away traveling abroad.

I noticed that I have learned to use that word a lot. “Have you done the Inkan Trail?” “I wanted to do Bolivia while I am here.” How does one “do” a country, really? Even sex has turned in to doing. “Have you guys done it?” Haha. thanks for that expression Autumn, a childhood, lifelong friend.

The western world is pretty into this word: To DO. It indicates action and an end goal. It’s got a driving motive to accomplish something. It’s the central concept of bucket list way of traveling: Checking off things from a list, finishing that book, getting the stamp in the passport, posting to Facebook. Bahh… It’s a never ending list to To Dos.

Don’t get me wrong, I freaking LOVE doing, I am a type-A, results-driven kinda lady. Ask people at work, I’m annoyingly into getting shit done. Efficiently, well, and in fullness. I love to complete projects. I get off on completion and doing. This isn’t a bad thing, but it don’t think its all there is anymore.


There is another side to the coin.
I think part of the reason I’m here is to explore this other side. Wait, there is another way to live that isn’t about doing?

I consider this other side is explained in another word. Being or Ser. Existing, in the moment, taking things in, not being action-oriented, where I have to accomplish something. Passively absorbing. experiencing, meditating, observing, relaxing mind and body. Healing. Not being driven by a schedule, a time-table or a motive.

Eastern thought has had a balance between the two. Doing AND Being. Buddhists and Hindus meditate. Even Peruvians can find time to just sit in plazas and walk slowly through paseos, taking in the sound of a river or the colors of the flowers around them. When’s the last time we did that American friends?

Our cultural values have tied identity in with doing.
Accomplishments, accolades, job titles, earning money and stuff. My personal self-worth was um, 100% this for the majority of life.

So, what happens when we lose our jobs, what happens when our income drops, when we get sick, we are a drain on society, or when we are going through a tough time? Does our value as a human drop too? I’d say, most times, we think it does. That’s why I keep meeting people who drop into depressive states when their concept of themselves shifts that they aren’t worth anything because their list isn’t enough anymore. I was one of them. That’s why my selfworth has gone up and down through my life to the point where I thought life wasn’t worth living anymore. Whoa, dark.

People think, “Wow, my company went under, I’m not a CEO anymore, I must be slightly worth less.” “I don’t have a college degree, I’m looked at as lower in society.” “I got fired; who am I?” Our mirrors of our self are lists from Linkedin in or our identity as being a super-involved mom. Doing. Isn’t this dangerous when we consider people are losing their jobs, losing their homes, and not able to finish school because the money isn’t there? Recessions really make us question our value as people, yea?

I’d like to present the idea (not that it’s overly original, but it’s been new to me) Our worth as a human actually just comes from being. Existing. This sounds hippy-dippy. Let me explain.

I have a dog; he’s so freaking awesome, I can’t even handle it. He poops, eats and runs around like a spaz… He can give cuddles and smile at me, but, honestly, he doesn’t have to do anything and I love him. I will love him forever because he’s great. He’s just a dog (the best one ever ;)) and that’s all he has to be. Babies are like this too, you look at their soft, chubby, glowing faces and you know they are worth love. They are just their being themselves and you love them more than you ever thought you could love anything. Nature too; it doesn’t have to make anything for you. It just exists in beauty, peace, and profundity, and I am grateful that it is there for me to just be in, part of it for a moment.


We find it hard to sit still and exist; we consume shows, make plans, and we are constantly busy doing something, anything. We’ve somehow been trained that if we don’t do something, we are valueless. It’s somehow a giant waste of time and resources if we can’t show some sort of a quantifiable result. How many times have we felt guilting if we are not doing something?

We are currently trying to do something, everything, to be something.

I think the opposite of this statement is where truth lies. If we just be authentic and existing in what feels true and good to ourselves (not the vapid kind of feel good in the moment, but in the profound depth of our deepest desires) we will learn to do so much better and fuller for ourselves and I’d even say, the world. (insert do-goody eye roll here)

If we can really be and exist in the fullest, healthiest version of ourselves, we will learn to do better with purpose and fulfilled happiness.

Being who we are, who we are meant to be is the most important thing I can think of these days. The fullest versions of myself. Who is that, I honestly dunno, I’m learning it little by little but honoring each second. And guess what, it is totally different for each person and it changes throughout our life, which I find just lovely. It’s a constant search and ongoing eternal process.

So with the title of this post, It should be be named How am I learning to be? and what am I Doing to get there. Haha, I know, ironic. I don’t know if anyone would have read that overly self-helpy post.

Well, I’m not rushing, planning or doing things because I think I should do them.

I’m listening to my gut to make choices like what do I want to do. This is kind of a big deal because most of my life I realize I’ve asked, “What does my boss want me to be?” What does my roommate want?” “What does my boyfriend need from me?” “What do my parents expect?” “What do my teachers ask of me?” “How can I be those things for them?” I haven’t really asked, “What do I want?” much at least not in the soul-searching, honest way.

  • That said, here’s what I am doing which, by the way, I see it as a process of being because there isn’t really a goal in mind. I shall start each statement with I AM.
  • I’m Hiking and Spending Time in Nature
    Nature is so highly underrated. Holy smokes. If you’ve been seeing my facebook posts, you well know that I’ve become obsessed. It’s really bad, I used to make fun of “pretty picture” photography. Eyeroll, “What does it mean?” says my inner art critic. It’s f#cking gorgeous is what it means. That’s all.

    I’m Getting Inspired
    I’m taking in gorgeous patterns, beautiful color schemes, textiles, artisan crafts, nature, mountains, inanely delicious food, new words, new thoughts, fresh air, music, rhythm, birds, dragonflies, billions of stars, ancient carvings, ruins, exotic plant life, and anything that crosses my senses.

  • I’m Studying Philosophy.
    I’m reading books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Lila, and cross-referencing Nietzsche, Decartes, Aristotle, Plato, Derrida, Sartre, and Kant. I’m considering what words like areté, quality, purpose and happiness mean to me and mean to the human condition. I’m reading brain science studies, listening to Ted Talks, This American Life, RadioLabs and and trying contextualize what it means to me in a functional way.

    I’m Reading
    Travel books, kids books, books in Spanish, books on collective consciousness. Reading real paper books, Audible books on tape and GooglePlay / iBooks / Kindle digital books. Book list found here.

  • Books

    I’m Learning Music.
    Well, I’m trying, poorly. I’m studying and taking in the basics of the language of music: treble clefts, bass clefts, how to read music, how to harmonize, and how to sing. I’m listening to different kinds of music and to trying to tune in to separate out the components. I’m going out to nature and I’m singing into the mountains like freaking Maria from the Sound of Music. I’m playing music apps that teach you how to play the piano and hear pitch. I’m watching how to videos and music theory videos on YouTube. I’ve always wanted to, so now I am.

  • I’m Writing
    Example A: This post. Example B: Stream-of-consciousness, journal entries with no purpose at all. Example C: Terrible poetry

  • I’m Learning about Poetry
    Again, trying too…I’m hacking together haiku, couplets, free form, rhyming schemes, rhythm patterns. I’m reading poetry, researching the rules, focusing on meter and generally exploring in the word art that taps into the meaning of being. This is something I’ve always wanted to learn, so now’s the time.

  • I’m Practicing Spanish
    I’m seeking communication in a language that isn’t my own and learning a depth of culture through language (sociolinguistics) I’m having incredible conversations, learning vocabulary, writing out conjugations so I don’t sound like a 5 year old when I speak.

  • I’m Enjoying Food, like Really Chewing.
    I’m looking at food as something that isn’t just a fuel but a full sensory experience. Mouth feel, how it changes from the first bite til the moment I swallow. I take the time to inhale exotic aromas, and see food, as in its colors, shapes. I’m trying to not rush through or do other things while I eat. I’m also trying absolutely everything.

  • I’m Taking Photos
    I’m looking at things differently, watching light shift, framing small important details, and slowing down from passing things quickly to seeing things fully. 

    I’m Drawing
    I’m sketching, but not much and with no end goal to show it. Sometimes I got to museums and I sketch patterns that people came up with thousands of years ago. I like to feel the complexity of spirals and geometric patterns under my fingers. I consider how long it took them, how difficult it was to make it perfect, how they only had once chance to make it right when they chiseled it into stone. I trace the symbols of ancient wisdom with my pen to try to understand why snakes, suns, stairs, birds, and were so important.

  • I’m Doing Yoga
    I spent a couple weeks at an EcoPark where we had 2 yoga classes a day. I’m breathing, connecting my brain to my body and sitting in uncomfortable poses for the sake of health, healing and enjoyment. Kundalini, and vinyasa flow. I try do some form of yoga every day.

  • I’m Meditating
    There are lots of versions I have been practicing. I let thoughts come in and out with judgement, scan my body and release tension,  picture the life I want, and use guided meditation podcasts. I try to empty out all thoughts and quiet my racing brain and set myself up for relaxation and deep sleep by doing progressive relaxation. I chant icaros and mantras from time to time when it feels right.

  • I’m People Watching
    I’m taking in the beauty of humanity. Watching kids chase birds, old folks smile with a knowing crinkle in their eye, a lady enjoying an ice cream cone, a couple lean in with gentle kindness.

    I’m Interacting with People
    I’m having conversations with locals, travelers and anyone who crosses my path who is open. I have so much to learn it’s just stupid. Little tidbits of wisdom that I get from people has been unreal. Seeing through their eyes that life is worth living, hard or beautiful has been water to my thirsty soul.

  • I’m Observing Community Interactions
    I’m watching how people connect to each other, how people talk in the streets, aren’t afraid of their neighbors, leave their stores wide open, and support families. I feel like we’ve lost this in cities and I’m pondering why.

  • I’m Resting a Workaholic Soul
    I’ve worked since I was 12. Babysitting, cleaning houses, taking out dogs, bagging groceries, being a buffet hostess, pushing carts, loading cars, working retail, being a cashier, being a waitress, working at a movie theater, being an assistant, interning, designing, freelance hustling, working multiple jobs at a time and helping start a company for 10-16 house a day. Now I’m trying to get over the pressure of working late that has happened in American culture.

  • I’m Writing a Business Plan, or 3.
    Ideas have been formulating, crystalizing and I’m taking the time to think through, pitch and do impromptu focus groups with people I meet. It’s amazing how even though I left the business world for a stint, it’s still very much part of me.

    I’m Posting Crap on the Internet
    Shameless, self-promotion? Sure, let’s be honest, I’ve been in marketing for 10 years, It’s part of how I roll, I guess. I’m also so full of myself that I think, maybe people who are tired of spinning in circles: working // to buy more // to work more, will see this and think, maybe I can take a break too. After all, it worked for Megan and she’s the biggest workaholic, consumer I’ve ever met.

  • I’m still American, I’m still a business person, and I’m still pretty OCD/type A. BUT I’m working to try to find the other side. It’s funny, because it’s still a giant list that’s keeping me “busy” and it’s obviously doing something, but I’d like to think there’s a new perspective in how and why I am doing it all.

FYI: What I’m Not Doing:

  1. Partying – Other than some drinks with Chileans in Mancora, and a night out with some cool hippy kids in Lima, I’ve given my liver a much needed break.
  2. Watching TV –  I haven’t turned one on in 3 months. It feels amazing.
  3. Being scared of traveling alone - I get a lot of looks and funny questions. SOLA?? (meaning alone girl)  Yes, Sola. I haven’t died yet, I think I’ll be okay.
  4. Feeling lonely - Being alone has been surprisingly fulfilling, and I meet tons of great people on the road. This was a shocker to me.
  5. Judging myself or others - It’s easy to make snap judgements on the road of other people and their lifestyles, but I’m doing my best to take it in without assuming anything.Not a bad view

Ok, ok, Share if you Must

8 Responses to Sabbatical: What AM I Doing on this Trip?
  1. Laura Reply

    Megan your blog is so inspiring!

    It honestly hits me to the core. Not only are you currently in one of the best places I’ve ever been to so it’s fun to see it again thru your eyes, but this post really shows the true nature of travel, a fresh perspective to re-balance/re-focus your life.

    I will continue to live vicariously thru you with your photos and words!
    PS. Did you drink that hot purple corn drink yet? Yum yum yum.

  2. Adrian Reply

    Awesome pics. Certainly inspiring me to think about where I’d like to explore in the near future!

  3. meganyoungmee Reply

    Laura, YES. I drink so much chica it’s stupid: they also make Mazamorra a dessert :) YUM

  4. Cindie Reply

    You seem to be having a wonderful time! I am so proud of you! Thank you for sharing your journey with me! It has always been an honor to know and work with you! I miss you! I am jealous! :-)

  5. Alex Reply

    Great post, Megan. I’ve also been contemplating taking a similar trip myself after reading Vagabonding by Rolf Potts.

    I have a dog too and I’m wondering if you’d share what you did with him in your absence? That would probably the most challenging aspect of getting away for a while for me…

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