I didn’t grow up traveling, but I think that the itch to go was always there. College was my chance, and I left Texas for Florida at the age of 17 – moving so far from home (and getting on a plane for the first time!) was life-changing and, looking back, it was also the first of many times that travel would serve as a “refresh” button for me.
A series of art history classes opened up the world a bit for me and left me with a bigger travel itch. I couldn’t study abroad because I had a running scholarship, so I decided to graduate a semester early and use the money I saved on school to backpack Europe with a teammate. It was a true budget travel experience, and at the time it was the adventure of a lifetime as well as a major refresh. I returned home with the confidence to get out of a dead-end relationship and move to Austin, promising myself that I’d go somewhere more exotic and more challenging with a year.
Unsurprisingly, “within a year” didn’t happen. Three years later, I was still in Austin with a “real” job, a running injury and a creeping realization that an endless routine of sitting at a desk and going to happy hour was not my thing. I’d heard things about teaching English in Asia, and after months of browsing internet TEFL forums and a few too many drinks one night I registered for a program in Thailand. Soon afterward I met my now-fiancé Gabe who – coincidentally! – was being laid off and planned to backpack SE Asia. Three months later I boarded a plane alone for Phuket, which was terrifying and liberating for this introvert whose total travel experience amounted to six weeks in Western Europe! Gabe joined me a few months later; I taught for one semester and then we traveled for the next seven months, learning an incredible amount about ourselves, each other and the world in the process. During that time I had no expenses back home – my lease had ended, I’d sold my car and I’d never owned a credit card – which, combined with budget travel skills and a teaching stipend meant that I didn’t touch my savings at all.
I’d hoped that a year away would lead to a lightbulb “this is what I’m going to do with my life!” moment, but instead found myself in Malaysia near panic with just two weeks left. Then with one week to go, I was out for my morning run, pondering what it was that I truly loved to do. The answer was obvious – running! So, I went to the internet café and emailed a training organization in Austin about volunteer coaching, just to learn the ropes. They not only said yes, but it turned out that they needed full time help and my skills as a graphic designer were exactly what they wanted. I was working within a month of returning home – it was now 2009 – and it was a perfect lifestyle gig. I got to design, coach and had enough flexibility to focus on my own racing too, but after several years that travel itch was back and it certainly wasn’t getting scratched with little weekend trips.
In 2012, I raced the US Olympic Marathon Trials and afterward Gabe and I took a short trip to Morocco. Around a campfire in the Sahara, I mentioned how amazing the landscapes were for running but that I wasn’t sure if it was safe, or if I’d look crazy. Our guide assured me that it was fine, and that I should come back and go running – he’d even drive his car and give me water if I got thirsty. THAT was the lightbulb moment I’d wished for years before! I told him that I would, thinking that I could convince a few people that I coached to do a running vacation. My boss loved the idea and told me to go for it. The next thing we knew 20 people had registered! It was supposed to be a one-time thing – at that point we really had no idea what we were doing – but we didn’t really have time to worry about that. We went for it, the trip was amazing and everyone wanted to know where we were going next.
Long story short, we named it Rogue Expeditions, eventually quit our “regular” jobs and now, five years later, we’ve created and led more than 40 running trips all over the world while getting a crash course in how to start, run and grow a business. Not only do I get to make a living doing my two favorite things – running and traveling – but I also get to help others discover the power and magic of travel. It’s not all glamorous of course, but I wouldn’t trade the experiences, lessons and relationships that it’s brought me for anything.
I’m now 33 and this is an adventure in progress, but if I’ve learned anything so far it’s that if something or somewhere is calling you, go for it. Say yes. Then figure it out from there! There is always a way to make it happen but there is never a way to get back the time you waste wondering “what if?”
Allison and Rogue Expeditions will be the logistics team behind our first ever She Hit Refresh Retreat! April 14 – 20, 2019 we’ll be taking twelve women to Morocco for a week of inspiration and introspection – no running involved. For more information or to join us click here!
Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from the She Hit Refresh group. We hope that by sharing their stories of change and travel we can expose the unconventional paths that thousands of women 30 years and older have chosen. There is no one way to live a life, just your way.