Hi! I’m Leslie, I’m a 37 year old funeral director-turned-travel writer, and my whole life has been leading up to my new nomadic lifestyle.
I was not what you might call a ‘normal’ child. I taught myself to read at the age of three by studying the piles of old Good Housekeeping magazines behind my mother’s recliner. Other children felt alien to me and I spent as little time around them as possible. Every day I rushed to my grandparents’ house after school and sped through my homework so I could spend the rest of the afternoon reading the encyclopedia. My uncle’s old 1959 Golden Book encyclopedia, no less. What it lacked in actual in-depth information it more than made up for with an abundance of color illustrations. Laughably hokey and dated now, but at the time they were pure hand-colored magic. I never tired of reading about all the places I was going to go one day, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. I kept packs of tracing paper handy so I could recreate the country maps into my own imaginary travel guide.
I was a purple-haired 16 year old the first time I left the United States. Three years of high school French class allowed me to travel to Belfort and Paris with a school exchange program. The student I stayed with was a terrible match, I had multiple panic attacks, and got the worst case of food poisoning ever, but Paris was magical and I never wanted to leave. My fledgling wanderlust was born.
When my AP English teacher assigned the task of writing a list of things we wanted to do before we died, it was the easiest A+ I ever turned in. Italy. Scotland. Haunted Irish castles. Watching the sun rise from the Great Wall of China. Standing on Antarctica. Long after graduation, I kept that sheet of yellow legal paper, and kept adding to it. Soon it became a notebook, and then a Google Doc. My list replaced the old retro encyclopedia volumes as my daydream fodder of choice. The more I daydreamed, the more anxiety I felt about not actually DOING anything on the list. Following a brief marriage in my early 20s that left me convinced I was squandering the best years of my life, I vowed to start checking things off my list as soon as I possibly could. Unable to prioritize a list that was well over 300 items by then, the Random Bucket List Picker was born. I left my travel fate in the hands of an online algorithm for that first trip and every one since. I only plan one trip at a time, and fire up the random picker when the current adventure is over. Maybe not the most efficient way to do things, but it certainly has been a lot of fun.
Over the last 9 years or so, my random list of adventures (now well into the 600s with no sign of letting up) has sent me hot air ballooning over breathtaking Burmese kingdoms, tracking wild mountain gorillas in Africa, exploring ancient temples in Indonesia, riding a train across Canada, and myriad other unforgettable experiences. In that time, nearly every story I’ve told, photo I’ve shared, or social media update I’ve posted has been met with the same response from friends, family, and coworkers: “You should be a travel writer!”
As it happens, being a travel writer is really all I’ve ever wanted to do. I don’t know why it took me so long to take the plunge, but here we are. I’ll be blogging all of my upcoming adventures here, and making up for lost time with some great stories that have, until now, never seen the outside of my stack of travel journals.
The positive response I’ve received from friends has encouraged me to take the plunge and quit my day job to become a full time travel writer. I’ve been a funeral director for 14 years. I love what I do and I think I’m really good at it, but it’s time for a change. The stress of this job is making me physically ill, and it’s time to do what I love full time, instead of cramming my adventures into short breaks from my usual 70+ hour a week schedule. I’ve set my retirement date for the end of March 2017 and I’ll be a nomad almost immediately thereafter. I think having been a funeral director for so long is part of the reason traveling and telling people’s stories comes so naturally to me. I’ve spent my entire career listening to the sweet and heartbreaking stories people seek me out to tell me, and sharing stories is one of the best ways we bond with each other as human beings.
Thanks for following along on my journey!