I’m back + what I learned during my ‘vision quest’

I'm back from my 'vision quest' road trip + 2 weeks of living off the grid. Read my personal essay and find out what I learned on jojotastic.com

Hi, guys! I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I’m back from my ‘vision quest’ as my friends came to call it — and also that I so deeply appreciate the amazing support and love that I received when I shared this post. I genuinely didn’t know how you guys would respond, so to be on the receiving end of such kindness was truly inspiring. I’ve never taken off like this and gone totally off the grid. I literally logged out of all of my social media accounts and did not check my email for 2 whole weeks. I had no idea what I’d come back to — would you all be totally over me and my drama and not want to follow the blog anymore? Would my Instagram get hacked and then removed? Seriously, these are the thoughts of a social media addict who knows she has a problem. The first few days were rough because I found myself slipping into what I call The Cycle: see how many likes and new comments are on Instagram, refresh email, see if there are new comments on Facebook, post a few more snaps, think up something witty for Twitter, refresh email, pin a few more ideas for my dream kitchen… The Cycle just goes and goes, so while I was off the grid, I quickly became hyper-aware of it and totally nipped it in the bud. I’ve been back since last Friday, but ever since I’ve been way more cognizant of how and when I use my phone and the internet.

The entire point of the trip was to get away from the noise and clutter of my life and to instead focus on what was directly in front of me: preparing simple meals, setting up camp, navigating to my next destination, befriending locals and inquiring about what to see and do… it was all so simple, yet brought me so much awareness to how I was living my life. I have this tendency to overcomplicate things and rapidly noticed that habit while I was on the road. Most of the time I do this out of that feeling of ‘should,’ as in I should be doing XYZ. During the course of the trip, I simply gave myself the green light to do whatever felt right. If I didn’t feel like making a certain stop along the way, even though I’d planned to go, that was ok. If I wanted to only eat a protein bar for breakfast instead of whipping out the stove and making eggs, that was ok because I had a fully stocked cooler of stuff for an earlier lunch. It was all about whatever I felt like doing at that moment, regardless of what I’d planned.

Now that I’m back, I feel this deep, almost urgent need to simplify every facet of my life. Fewer things, easier meals, simpler plans, uncomplicated interactions with people (and only with the people who matter the most to me). No more shoulds, only wants.

I also realized how just dependent I am on people, especially if I’m not feeling particularly great about myself. So often, I noticed what while I was journaling I’d want to text someone just to get some sort of comfort from them, anything. The reliance to feel better was no longer on myself and that began to frustrate me. I even noticed that I’d reach for my phone to check social media, probably to see how many new followers I have or how many likes something received. Anything for that quick self esteem boost of, “oh, these people like me.” But you know what? That boost is so freaking fleeting. Taking care of myself, however, and truly understanding myself… that’s way more impactful and lasting and real.

It’s been a week since I’ve been back and I do still slip into my habits, especially The Cycle. But in those moments, I am quick to recall the sense of peace that came over me, not just mentally but also physically, when I was able to put down the phone and smell the fresh mountain air. When I was able to actually participate in reality instead of a virtual world that provides a fleeting surge of serotonin. Mountains and rivers provide the true, everlasting boost that my brain needs to make me a happier, healthier person.

I’m curious to see how this evolved Joanna proceeds now, post-vision quest. Admittedly, my first week back has been vaguely stressful. So many emails, so many things to do. But I have a choice and I choose to be calm and only do what I can do.

  • Alexandra

    what a changing experience! thanks for sharing it with us, you’re not the only one. I just am coming out of a few months recovering from a sudden injury and had to pretty much tune out from everything online and work-related to get better. It ended up really clarifying a lot of things for me mentally/emotionally, which I didn’t expect. A wonderful silver lining. Earlier in the year, I found that the practice of spending less than 5 minutes every night writing down what I did that day really helped me to close the book on the day and move forward without carrying all the emotion of everything with me all the time. I can’t remember where I found the original idea, but basically, you don’t write too deeply to start, just something you did and how you felt. Just simple things: got favorite coffee/picked up kids at school/cooked dinner. etc. As time progresses, you naturally start to share more with your self and it becomes a practice, like yoga. I set the goal of doing it for the first 30 days of the year and it was really grounding. Also helped me separate the personal feelings from the work feelings.

    • Thank you so much for this advice! I’m been a long time journaler, but i love the idea of this new type of practice. I’ll definitely try incorporating it!

  • i love this post and feel happy for you. What you’re doing is important – we have one life, one self. It is a good idea to take the time to actually experience what that means. One thing I find helpful is to have a list of 5 or fewer big, personal priorities. Things like “be a good friend”, “be a good daughter”, “be as creative as possible”, “health/movement”…stuff like that. But a very limited set, chosen with great intention. It’s kind of amazing how figuring out what your real ingredient list is helps to turn down the volume on all the other stuff. If you’ve got the biggies taken care of, other areas don’t seem as urgent…you can live at peace knowing you’ve got the truly important things squared in your soul. Anyway, that’s what’s worked for me. : )

    • WOW, I love this advice. Definitely going to give this a try. I’ve also been journaling more than ever before and listing out 5 things for which I am grateful each time I write. I think it’s a similar sentiment where it helps me to maintain more perspective about the bigger things in life — even if the thing for which I’m grateful is a small little bit of my day.

  • Lisa

    Yay! I feel like sometimes I just need a reset. It’s felt a little less that way since I moved out of Philly and left my job, but still. I’m so glad you got one! I also find myself checking Twitter and Instagram when I’m supposed to be writing my Morning Pages. Such an annoying compulsion.

    • I totally suggest taking a break and hitting the reset button.

      And what are morning pages??

      • Lisa

        They are a concept from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way! I went through it when I first left a very, very terrible job to take a step back and start learning web development. It gave me a little bit of structure to my day. Morning pages are one of the practices she has you start… it’s writing three pages longhand each morning. My “morning pages” now, several years later, are much more infrequent and often more like “brunch pages” or “late afternoon funk pages.” I use them as a tool to manage anxiety and clear my head if I’m feeling scattered and ineffective in my work.

        • Oh wow! I love this idea, especially as I chug my coffee first thing in the morning. Thanks for sharing!!

      • Lisa

        They are a concept from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way! I went through it when I first left a very, very terrible job to take a step back and start learning web development. It gave me a little bit of structure to my day. Morning pages are one of the practices she has you start… it’s writing three pages longhand each morning. My “morning pages” now, several years later, are much more infrequent and often more like “brunch pages” or “late afternoon funk pages.” I use them as a tool to manage anxiety and clear my head if I’m feeling scattered and ineffective in my work.

  • Heidi

    Oopsie re typos ;)

  • Heidi

    Wow! I believe you are older than your years. I learned much of what you have shared (and a whole bunch of other ‘stuff’) when I was metaphorically, yet truly in another physical way, ‘kneecapped by major illness in 2002. I spent 8 years learning to be with just “Me” all day most days while Mr was a t work and all my friends still worked full-time. After about 3 years, things started to make sense. Having been a State manager of youth programs, running my own business consulting in Australia and South-east Asia, doing volunteer work and n e v e r resting; it was a cruel awakening. Today, I am waaay happy about what I did, what I still do, who I have been and am in the world and really like who I am. This last bit, the “like” bit, needs to come from us, intrinsically, from within. This took me more than a decade of hard work and insights to achieve; like, as in, wah-really GET IT! everyone keeps telling me to write a book to guide others on the way to get ‘here’. Having been a freelance writer, I toy with the idea, but, I dunno….still thinking I guess.
    So. Lone story short Joanna, you are doing so great, as you, right now. Just BE. We are all so much more than hwat we DO, even though that is the way the world simplistically judges us at face value. You are doing GREAT at what you do too, so, just, be.
    With love, Heidi :) x

    • i LOVE LOVE LOVE this. thank you so much for your amazing words and encouragement <3

    • i LOVE LOVE LOVE this. thank you so much for your amazing words and encouragement <3

  • Everything about this is so true…I turn to social media when I am bored, anxious or struggling…not just when I am happy and want to share the fun! It’s a tricky balance to find with ourselves. Wishing you well on continuing success in finding what works for you!

    • glad i’m not alone in this! thanks for that reminder :)

    • glad i’m not alone in this! thanks for that reminder :)

  • Addie K

    Beautifully said and a needed reminder for me too. I am going to keep this post visible on my phone browser so I can reread it.

  • Addie K

    Beautifully said and a needed reminder for me too. I am going to keep this post visible on my phone browser so I can reread it.

    • so glad you found this post helpful! <3

    • so glad you found this post helpful! <3

  • Amanda O’Shannessy

    Love this. So proud of you!