In February 2014, Randi Delano left her stable New York City life to travel the world. In Part 1 of this ongoing AWT Diary, she reflects on the events that prompted her to cut her material ties and embrace the life of a wanderer.

Moving through the motions. A marionette performing on someone else’s stage, in someone else’s costume, to someone else’s choreographed routine. That was me for ten years, until I finally embarked on the path that led me to quit my job, pack a bag and hop on a plane with a near-stranger to travel the world for a year, finally free to dance on the stage of the world.

I grew up in a tiny town in Texas that most people have never heard of. For as long as I can remember, my dream was to escape. As soon as I found a way to do so I packed two suitcases and moved to New York City without a job, apartment or much of a plan.

Within six months I was renting an apartment on the Upper East Side and working in the marketing department of one of the most prestigious private equity firms in the world. Living in New York City was like living in a foreign land with constant new discoveries to stimulate and energize me. I was hooked, willing to do whatever I had to do to be able to stay there.

Though I was fortunate in that I was able to realize my goal of leaving an unfulfilling existence in small-town America where I felt like a complete outsider, the constraints of my job soon made me feel like an outsider all over again. I was not free to express myself or my true opinions and ideas. There was a code of conduct I had to adhere to. I had to speak, dress, and act in a certain fashion and do what I was told to keep my job and continue living in New York.

About eight years after I first set foot in New York City I decided my life had to change yet again. It was no longer worth sacrificing my freedom by doing a job that I was not satisfied with in an environment I didn’t feel comfortable in.

I became more and more drawn to people I viewed as being free—artists, travelers, entrepreneurs. I also started reading books like The Motorcycle Diaries and Wanderlust. I was becoming more and more dissatisfied with life and more and more miserable. I had a deep desire to travel, but feared my anemic bank account would never allow me to experience the same freedom as my new friends. I felt trapped.

Then I met someone who completely changed my life. He was a traveler who kept a blog, a collection of adventures set in foreign locations, some of which I had never heard of. What made his travels so remarkable was that he did not have a bloated bank account, but rather an impressive budget travel resume. And he was planning to leave on a year-long journey in just a few months.

I made the decision shortly after meeting him that I would find a way to travel as he did—cheaply—and to all the places I had been reading about and longing to visit. In a few short months I had saved money, quit my job, donated most of my belongings, sublet my apartment, and was free to explore the world.

The person who showed me how to change my life ended up becoming my travel partner and mentor, website co-creator and friend. We have spent the last 13 months on the road together, visiting four continents and 20 countries and taking 12 planes, seven trains and 38 buses on our journey. We have no plans to stop.

Photo credit: Just a Pack