On sanity and adventure

11 08 2011

By Whitney



We have heard that question often throughout our planning for this 6 month sojourn through Asia. Why would we quit excellent jobs “in this economy”? What are we going to do when we get back? How could we possibly afford this? (the last one is a simple answer: be employable and live way, way below your means!)

Leaving is never easy. Leaving a guaranteed job that would take me to the place I want to live most in the USA is even harder. But sometimes, there is more at stake than the obvious. For someone who has not taken a breath since starting college, it’s time to step back and get some perspective. Time to take space to pursue my interests outside of work. Time to give myself rest. It’s something that hardly any Americans do – it isn’t ingrained into our culture to draw boundaries and take the breaks we need. We are the only industrialized nation to not guarantee vacation time, for example. We are in the top three nations ranked for most daily hours worked…on Earth.

If you don’t fight for your right to remain sane, nobody will hand you the opportunity. You are your own advocate. You will likely spend 40+ years working – do not be afraid to take 6 months away from the treadmill of life!

Beacon Hill, one of Boston's most beautiful neighborhoods. Luckily the things we love about Boston - beauty and walkability - are hallmarks of the San Francisco area!

Still, leaving such excellent opportunities is a tough pill to swallow for this type-A scientist who sacrificed so much to get to MIT, and then to my first “real” job. I currently work for a department that discovers and develops antibiotics for drug-resistant bacteria. Who are the scientists working alongside me to save our lives? They are people from every continent, speaking dozens of languages, devoted to the science. What an honor to have worked my way up to be in the company of such strong people. You don’t make it to this level of science without an impressive display of sheer determination and drive – a trait I’m happy to share with my labmates from the last decade of my life.

So, why leave such a place? Why walk away from a lab trying to find drugs for infections that kill 10x more people in the US than AIDS does, yet receives 10% of the funding? Such an uphill battle surely deserves all the scientists and resources we can throw at it.

Simply put, I want to better understand the world that we are trying to positively impact. What am I trying to save? Whether in environmental microbiology or infectious disease microbiology, I have spent my adult life trying to gain a greater understanding of the world around me. But, it isn’t enough. To really reach my goal, I need to take a break. I will be a better scientist – and human being – for all I will learn and experience in this adventure.

So, it is time to say goodbye to Boston. This is a place where my biggest personal revolutions have happened. I arrived by myself with just a car and a few belongings. I am leaving with a confidence in myself I could not have imagined almost 7 years ago. Between traveling all over the world for my research, meeting my husband, rediscovering my photographic talents, learning how to navigate the sometimes brutal reality of city living, and generally figuring out that I can do anything on my own – my time in Boston has seen exponential personal growth.

Here’s to adventure – may we never stop growing and learning!

Boston's historic State House where the forefathers threw off the reigns and blazed a new path...




11 responses

11 08 2011
Amy G

Yay! I’m so excited to follow your adventures around the world (or at least Asia for now). With your attitude, opportunity will always find you. You are smart and brave to experience life like this and so very lucky to have each other to share it with! Keep us posted and post pictures so us lemmings can live vicariously!

11 08 2011

Thanks Amy!! I’m so glad we’ve reconnected and that we can follow each other’s adventures! (We will have a guest room available in Berkeley on the other end of this, by the way…!)

11 08 2011
Stephanie Blankenship

Love you guys and I hope you have an amazing time and I hope to get a fraction of post cards from all the amazing places you are visiting!!! I would give anything to have an opportunity like this! Other than marrying Phil, this is one of the best decisions you have ever made. 🙂

11 08 2011

Phil says: “Awww that’s so awesome!” :-). Lots of postcards – if we can figure out how to send them in places with totally different alphabets ;-P

11 08 2011
Heather Daly

So so so excited for you! This is the opportunity of a lifetime and an experience that you’ll never forget – and one I can’t wait to hear about. Many safe travels. Let the adventure begin!
Love to you both.

11 08 2011
Chris Vanderwerff

Whitney and Phil,

I am a friend of Whitney’s cousin (so you have no idea who I am) and stumbled across her link to your blog. This is such a great adventure and sounds like you truly deserve every minute of it. You couldn’t be more right on how Americans view vacations and time off. I can’t wait to watch your travels as well. Be safe and enjoy!

11 08 2011

Hi! We’re so happy that you are following our blog :-). Thanks for the well wishes!

11 08 2011
Andres G.

Road trip!!!

11 08 2011

Great first post! I really look forward to following your travel adventures. Thanks for setting this up and sharing it with us.

20 08 2011

What an inspirational first post! I will miss you guys but I am looking forward to hearing about your adventures! GOOD LUCK!

22 08 2011
the Wrens

Boston is a better place for having known you both. I am happy for you both! You will however be missed terribly. I think Phil should start playing an MMO again so that those of us far afield can get our regular dose of BLADOW!

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