The Question Every Traveler, Millennial, and Retiree Is Asking

I spent last weekend on the Jersey Shore with three wonderful people, a final trip before my European excursion. Each day was filled with good food, naps on the beach and pure relaxation. On Saturday evening, I left my clothes on the sand and waded into the ocean alone. I ventured deep into the blackness until the warm salty water covered my arms and neck. Up above, starlight shone through holes cut in the construction paper sky and covered the world in a soft glow. I looked east—I’ll be crossing you soon, dear Atlantic Ocean— and out over the incoming tide. Here, in this liquid wonderland, the future felt limitless.

Many of my peers are struggling to make sense of their seemingly limitless future, a time  I affectionately call the Two Year Itch.  It’s been two years since college graduation and the collective plunge into the outside world. The newlywed phase of increased freedom and responsibility has been replaced with a less positive feeling. These young talented minds, taught to speak in tweets and think like CEOs, are currently  treading water wondering why the perfect job, career path or soul mate hasn’t floated by. Many are quitting/changing their jobs, moving to new cities or pursuing medical, law or graduate school. Some are married, more are in relationships and most are divided as to whether “being single” is the best or worst part of their young adult lives. I watch my friends and former classmates lift their heads above the water and gaze back toward shore, internally questioning their initial sense of direction and motivation. Under the dark blue sky, we ask ourselves the same question.

Where should I go from here?Map

This is not a question unique to the Millennial generation in 2014. This is a question for all of us: for every passionate activist, retired employee, single parent and widowed spouse. This question spurs doubt in our choices and fear of the unknown. We question our decisions or refuse to make them at all. Cracking the binding of a blank passport, we have no plane ticket, no itinerary and no planned destination. Time is of the essence and we have everywhere and nowhere to go.

Let’s take one step back and focus on the why. Why are we going? Where do we hope the going is going to get us? Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union, defines the “what” as meaningful independence:

“the ability to pursue your passions and your dreams, secure in the knowledge that

you’re connected to people, groups, and institutions that have your back.”

To me, this goal rings true. I must identify my passions and dreams so I may pursue them. I must surround myself with the people who can make these ideas happen in a supportive environment. The ocean is vast and the stars are bright.

Katelyn’s Five (of many) Goals and Dreams:

  • Backpack through Europe.
  • Live in New York City.
  • Carve writing into my daily routine.
  • Visit Hawaii. 
  • Work at a company with motivated and inspirational people.

Now make your list. Are the jobs, people and activities in your life working toward meaningful independence? If not, it might be time to make a change. Until then, just keep swimming.

A Life Guide to Packing Light

A Life Guide to Packing Light

Pack light.

Have a plan—and keep it flexible.

Carry only the essentials.


Do not accept unmarked baggage from others.

Do not have others carry your baggage for you.

Know when to leave those belongings behind.


If items become too plentiful, give them away.

Accept gifts in return.


Heavy hearts and containers of regret

exceeding 3.4 oz

must be checked.


Bubble wrap your best relationships.

Handle with care.


Do not fear the unknown.


Tread lightly and if you must carry a big stick,

make it a walking stick.

Leave it at the trailhead for the next pair of dusty boots.


You will be neither the first nor the last.


And please, send postcards.

Mount defiance NY (Lake Champlain)
Mount defiance NY (Lake Champlain)

The First of Many by Some

The small turtles emerge from their soft opaque eggs. They push their noses up above the sand and in turn make mad dashes across the beach down to the ocean beyond. They have no prior knowledge of the sea but these turtles’ instinctual need has been weaved into their subconscious of centuries past. This lifelong adventure has finally arrived and as the moon emerges from behind the clouds, a trained ear can almost hear the sound of flippers sliding into the

On Tuesday morning, I watched Tony lug a heavy black suitcase, small backpack and ukelele case down the driveway and into my car. I had offered Tony, a high school friend’s younger brother, a ride back to Northampton and he had graciously accepted. After graduating from Amherst College in May, Tony wanted to make some last minute trips before leaving the country. His final destination: Nepal.

Tony will spend the better part of a year living in Kathmandu, living at a school and teaching Nepalese children. This trip will be Tony’s first time on the airplane. It will also be his first trip out of the country and the first time he will spend 10 months in a place where the primary language isn’t English. A fleet of maiden voyages rolled into one massive vessel.

On the car ride to Northampton, we talked about the experience and value of visiting a foreign country. He asked me about homesickness and culture shock. I told him about the transition returning home and the sad reality that your family and closest friends will not really care about your experience so different from their daily lives. I told him to take pictures and journal often. I told him this trip would teach him as much about himself as the world as a whole.

I distinctly remember my first international trip to Paris and first airplane flight to Tucson. I remember the six months in Denmark, navigating a foreign city as if it was my home and all the countries since then in my journal, camera and memory. My love of travel hatched early and since graduating high school, I spent every year planning my next great adventure.

For some, the first life-changing travel experience happens much later in life or does not happen at all. I can only hope that every person who wants to see a new city, visit a new country or explore a new culture has the opportunity to do so in his or her life. It is not so important when the turtles reach the ocean as long as they make it off the shore. 

Baby turtles on beach.preview

Moving Home

I have returned to my parents home. I have moved all my books, clothing, artwork, half knitted scarves and various kitchenware from my cozy space in Northampton to my parents’  living room floor. From the floor, the stuff has moved to the couch and into  large bins and  smaller bins that are stacked one on top of each other in the hallway of the narrow second floor hallway. I have inserted myself back into the home where I grew up in a way that feels strange and strangely familiar. IMGP2892

And to their credit, both my parents have let me slide back into their world without a fuss. In our family puzzle, my own multi-sided piece fits back in with minimal wedging of grooves and notches. I would be lying if there weren’t disagreements at the dinner table or prolonged silences in the car. I do not pretend that our little yellow house is absolute bliss from sunup to sundown. But I appreciate the extent to which both my mother and father have gracefully accepted the immediate and lasting presence of their unemployed 24 year old daughter back under their roof. [And if they have begun the countdown, it’s 3 weeks and 5 days.]

How often to we treat those closest to our hearts with indifference and exasperation? The rivers of tolerance and grace, which flow from us so willingly with strangers and acquaintances, run dry as soon as we step over the WELCOME mat of our own homes. Those who deserve the most kindness and love  seem to pull the short stick and our shorter temper. The people I care the most about are the people who accept me for my imperfect but truest self. But is my truest self unkind and condescending? I think not.

So I’ll try to take a deep breath before I speak. Treat my parents and my loved ones with the respect they deserve instead of taking their love and support for granted. Transcend daily disagreements. This continued process is one that I am working on every day. Every. Single. Day.

Thanks Mom and Dad.


The Story, My Story.

“Who owns the story, the person who lives it or the person who write it?”

-Roxana Robinson, “The Right to Write”, New York Times

I came across this article yesterday while reading other opinion pieces in the New York Times. The question was largely in context of nonfiction writers taking on a topic outside of their personal experience: the writer of a war novel who never experienced battle or a Caucasian woman writing on predominately African American culture. It was assumed in the article that the writers performed extensive research in order to write about each new topic, taking pains to write as truthfully and honestly as they could. But the question remains. Do these writers own their stories and if in doing so, do they take ownership away from those they interviewed and studied, those who had lived the words on the page?

These questions, as a blogger, stay with me. I am now the very proud owner of the domain name This is my public outlet for my personal story. Here in this magical Internet world, I share my thoughts and my experiences with anyone willing to indulge me for 20-600 words. I wonder about my own legitimacy to share my stories and to includes others who may not have asked to be written about or illustrated in detail. I worry about the way my motivation may be portrayed: truthful expression or creative license for exploitation?

photo (16)Austin was incredible; the city is filled with sun, incredible food and wonderful company. One evening Billy and I were seated at the patio outside Uchi (which would go on to be the best sushi experience of my entire life) waiting for our table when a waitress came to bring us drinks. The three of us began chatting and the waitress told us she was planning a solo trip to Europe–one way ticket to Copenhagen–and we immediately exchanged contact information while I rattled off a number of places I knew she would love. I remember feeling incredibly excited for her, embracing another continent to explore the world with some hard-earned cash. I was confident that it was going to be one of her big life changing experience. And then I realized,

she was me.

One month from today, I will be in Geneva, Switzerland starting my own solo tour of beautiful, historic countries I’ve only seen or read about in travel books and Facebooks. I have my countries in order: Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey. I have begun to (roughly) chart my expedition across these foreign lands: the places my parents honeymooned and my friends have beached and bathed. I have one month and I am totally overwhelmed.

 “Who owns the story, the person who lives it or the person who write it?”

But I think about my alternative. The alternative being not going. The alternative being someone else writing my story.

My motivation for traveling and for writing  is self discovery. It is meant to be neither self-indulgent nor abstract. I write because there are places I’ve been and people I’ve met who deserve to be recognized; these people and experiences have changed me. I write because I don’t want to choose between living my story or writing someone else’s. I want both.


P.S. I want to give a special shout out to those people from Northampton, my old job, and others who have recently begun following my blog. Thank you for your support as I start out of these very exciting and scary chapter of my life. I’ll be bringing each of you with me as I roll my suitcase and write my words.