“Today I walked into the office with a briefcase and I walked out with a backpack, never to return again.” Those were the words I penned tweeted 13 months ago. A few minutes later I was on I-85 on the way up to North Carolina, yelling expletives at the giant South Carolina peach, which actually looks more like another rounded object that has a crack down the middle. I left with no intentions of ever returning. The next day I was spending the night in the Charlotte Airport, the first of what would become several nights in airports over the following months. I in effect had a laptop bag and backpack to my name for the next 9 months. It was the most significant point of my life. I had become a quitter. It was the best decision I ever made.

What was it that I actually quit? Everything. No, really. Already separated and going through a divorce, I effectively hit the restart button on life. I left my apartment, quit my job, sold and gave away most of my things. I quit my life. At some point I had evidently signed up for this 55-year plan of going to school, immediately followed by getting a “real job in the real world”, then following by seriously dating and getting married, with kids to follow shortly thereafter, and then everyone lives happily ever after. Call me the American dream dropout.

I’m sitting in my sister’s kitchen, thinking about what I want to communicate in a week and a half at San Francisco’s Meet, Plan, Go to 100+ travel lovers who are considering taking a similar leap as me.  A lot has happened in one year, from crossing borders to feeding monkeys to volcano hopping to moving 2,500 miles away to becoming a full-time freelance writer. And it’s been the best 12 months of my life. I am doing exactly what I want to be doing right now. And I’m doing so because I quit. I quit the life that wasn’t right for me. I was living the life of someone else — what was expected of me and what I “should” be doing, and not what I wanted to do. Yet despite quitting the race I was in for so long, I wake up every morning with such a strong sense of satisfaction and freedom like I’ve near had. Quitting helped make me a winner at the one thing that matters at the end of the day: life. Call me cheesy, but I’ve become successful at the things that matter to me and without material things to show for it like titles, money, awards, and homes.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, join me on October 18 at 5:30 at the Sports Basement in the Mission. I’ll be joined by other travelers who made similar leaps and will be sharing their stories. We’ll be talking about topics that include: How to budget for traveling long-term, which destinations are cheaper, how to support yourself while traveling, and much more. If you’ve ever thought about traveling more than just a few days at a time or you’re at a season in your life when you’re ready for a career/life transition, then this is the event to help you start planning your dream trip and give you that break you so badly need.

As I mentioned, I’ll be joined by other experienced travelers, each who have something different to offer. After a divorce, Kristin Zibell left her corporate life to travel abroad for two years. Several years ago, Sherry Ott left her job in corporate IT and has been traveling ever since, including one of her greatest adventures, when she recently completed the 10,000-mile Mongol Rally. Our host, Sarah Lavender Smith, and her husband Morgan, took a year off from work to travel with their two kids, teaching their children while on the road. As you can see, our San Francisco Meet, Plan, Go panel comes from all walks of life, but what we share is our love for travel and how it changed our lives. Now, we’re inspiring other travel lovers to go.

When you come to the Meet, Plan, Go San Francisco event on October 18, you won’t just be getting something, but also giving something. Proceeds from ticket sales go to San Franciso-based nonprofit the AFAR Foundation, which sends underserved high school students to study and volunteer in destinations around the world. The Sports Basement will also be providing appetizers and drinks and a 15% discount for attendees. Buy your ticket today and be inspired to travel, while also giving students the opportunity to travel who might not otherwise have the chance.