Her Story with Michelle Malloy: From Corporate Cubicle to World Traveler and Dream Life by the Beach
So many of us have had a similar dream - The one where we leave behind our cubicles and spreadsheets to take an extended trip around the world, experiencing all this planet has to offer.
For this week’s Her Story Spotlight on Michelle Malloy, she did just that and turned her audacious dream of traveling the world for 8 months into a reality that has completely transformed her life in the best way possible.
You will love this story because I know we all have big dreams of some kind, and sometimes we may think they’re too crazy or that it’s too late to pursue those, but Michelle’s story will show what’s possible in a short amount of time if we want it enough to take the action to make those big, crazy dreams really happen.
There’s a quote that says some version of, “Our life is a reflection of the choices we have made. If we want a different result, we need to make a different choice.”
Below, Michelle shares how she made a new, but very scary, choice to leave behind her decade-long career in the banking industry and how in just a little over a year, that choice gave her a phone full of photos and countless memories from around the world, and that eventually lead her to a new home with a beach not far away, pursuing her passion and living a life that better reflects her version of a dream life.
Meet Michelle! - Fun Facts:
1. I have a cat named Isabelle Marie aka Izzy, both my pride & joy and alarm clock.
2. I'm obsessed with cooking, nutrition, and herbs which is why I'm studying Chinese Medicine.
3. I got really into watercolor painting when I was living in an ashram in Kerala, India and now its my favorite creative outlet.
4. One of my favorite things to do in life is watch the sunset on the ocean and I'm happy to say that I do this once a week.
5. I have 2 modes - energetic explorer and supreme sloth. They both make an appearance on a weekly basis.
Where you can find her: Los Angeles, CA
Let's start with where you are right now - You're 4 months into your studies of Chinese Medicine and a new life in the middle of LA. What are you loving most about where you are now? What's a day look like for you?
This might be cheesy, but I still feel like I'm living in a dream. I love living in LA, the sunshine, the ocean, the mountains and the warm weather all make me so happy. I love that its mid-October and I still have plants growing on my balcony. There is so much to do in this city, the amount of restaurants, neighborhoods, hiking trails, etc., that I haven’t done yet makes me so excited. I’m such an adventurer, I love to explore and try new things and I feel like I’m in the perfect place to do so.
The best way to describe how I feel now is free. I used to feel like there was so much that I dreamed of doing that I wasn’t doing, and now after traveling for 8 months and grounded here in LA, I feel free and on my way to reaching my dreams.
Even though I still have 3.75 years left of school before I will be an Acupuncturist, it just feels right on so many levels. Of course, I'm stressed being back in school, but I don't mind it because it's something I'm really passionate about. I love my classes and I love even more that I will be able to make a difference in people's health in ways that Western Medicine fails.
I'm planning to do a concentration in nutrition and specialize in women's health and mental health. I want to help women heal and learn to listen to their bodies, feel empowered by their cycles and all the amazing things their bodies are capable of. I'm halfway through my second quarter and I'm already giving out advice to friends based on by prior knowledge in nutrition plus everything I have learned about Chinese Medicine, so far.
How is this different than where you were a little over a year ago?
A year ago feels like a completely different life. I felt so trapped sitting at a desk for so many years, I used to stare out the window and dream of seeing the world. I loved all of my friends there, but I had this unsettling feeling that I wasn't really in the right place and wasn't doing what I was meant to do in life and that feeling got louder and louder as time went on.
I was working 45+ hours a week in my finance job, teaching yoga 3 days a week and doing Reiki sessions all to save money for my travels and for school. I was rushing around going from one thing to the next without any appreciation for the present moment.
You just celebrated your year anniversary of leaving for your trip around the world - What were the events and thoughts that lead up to taking the leap to quit your job and go? How long had you been thinking about it?
I had been thinking about it for years, I had always regretted not doing a long term trip after college. About 5 years ago, I went on a trip to Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia and I completely fell in love with Asia and my 2 week trip just wasn't enough. I knew that I wanted to do a long term trip. There was always something that kept me from doing it, a job, a relationship, etc.
Finally in summer of 2016, a relationship ended and I was pretty heartbroken and I decided to make some major changes in my life. I cut off 8 inches of hair (this was soooooo liberating) and decided that I was going to travel the world and move to the West Coast and I wasn't going to let anything stop me.
At that point, I didn't know what I would do when I came home, but I spent the next 7 months on a mission to figure out what I was going to do next. Once I decided to go to Acupuncture school, everything just flowed.
I knew that I wanted to work and save money until October 2017. I put my condo on the market that June and I received an offer 2 weeks later. I was originally planning on going to India first, but my intuition told me it wasn't right, so a month before I was supposed to leave, I found a different volunteer position at a resort in Bali, where I ended up teaching yoga for a month. It was the perfect place to start my trip and it just worked out perfectly. I worked with an amazing group. I felt like once I made up my mind and trusted my gut everything just worked out.
I know so much happened over your 8 months of traveling you could probably write a whole book - Can you give us the highlights? Where did you go? What did you learn from each one? Which one surprised you the most? Did you have a favorite?
I traveled through Japan, Bali, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, India, UAE, Italy, France and Spain. One of the biggest things that I learned throughout all my travels was how much I didn't trust myself, let alone other people. I was always second guessing my intuition and questioning other people's motives when they went out of their way for me. Other cultures around the world are much more community based where people just give each other things and go out of their way to help others just out of kindness and it was hard for me to accept at first.
As an independent woman, I prided myself in not needing anything or anyone, but I really learned to start letting my guard down and trusting my own intuition and other people. I realized the more I trusted my intuition about people, places, and things the more I was guided to the right people and places.
I think that I also needed to question whether I would ever come back to the U.S. to truly feel free. I thought that when I got Bali that all my stress and anxiety would just magically fad away, and when it didn't I had to come to take full responsibility for the fact that the causes of my stress and anxiety were internal.
In India, I fully stepped into my power because there, as a woman, you have to. I tell myself now, because traveling through India alone for 2 months, that I can do anything. After leaving India, I went to Italy, with my guard up as an independent woman, and had to relearn how to receive. The men there are such givers, carrying bags opening, doors, holding umbrellas, cooking. I resisted it at first after being in India for so long, but I eventually learned to appreciate and embrace it.
The Camino de Santiago in Spain [a 500 mile network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe] was such a experience, there are so many layers to that experience. I've never experienced such compassion and generosity between people in my life and it made me want to be a better person. I got the symbol of the Camino, a scallop shell, tattooed on my left wrist because I always want to be reminded of this experience.
What's a challenge or something hard you encountered that you weren't expecting and had to figure out?
I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, which was an amazing experience that takes a little over a month to hike 500 miles. You walk about 15 miles a day with people from all over the world, stay in hostels, have community dinners and drink wine together all while traveling through mountains and small towns in the north of Spain.
This was at the end of my trip and I remember praying for guidance and requesting that if there were any other lessons that I needed to learn before going home if they could be shown to me.
Around week two, my left foot started to hurt, which I ignored because I didn't have time for a rest day. About a week later after doing a few very long days on an injured foot, my left foot swelled up so much that I could barely walk. I had developed plantar fasciitis and tendonitis in my left foot and was advised to take 2-3 days off. To say I had a meltdown was an understatement.
I was meeting my sister, brother in law and niece who I hadn't seen in 8 month in Madrid the following week so, I had to choose between seeing them and finishing the pilgrimage. I felt like I had set out to do something and I had failed. The thing about the Camino is that the pilgrims are the best community of people in the world, the friends I met were really there for me during this emotional time and had me ask myself some deep questions about why I felt that I need to walk the rest of the way and who was I really letting down by not finishing?
I decided to bike the remaining 60 miles and have my backpack shipped to the next hostel each day and stayed on pace with my friends. This was so liberating, once I realized that I could write my own rules on the pilgrimage it set me free. I'm a pretty independent person and this journey made me realize how much I needed to not only take care of others when they needed me, but how sometimes I needed to rely on others for help. I ended up making it to Madrid on time, and I ended up getting to finish the pilgrimage on my own terms.
When did you decide you wanted to go back to school to practice Chinese Medicine?
I have always been obsessed with nutrition and natural medicine for as long as I can remember. I've read so many books, blogs and watched so many episodes of Dr Oz.
Six ago, I thought I wanted to be a Nurse Practitioner-Midwife and I started taking the prerequisite classes to apply to a program in Chicago, but I volunteered at a hospital and realized it just wasn't right for me. I felt really frustrated because I didn't really know what else to do, so I continued working in finance.
I then got my yoga teacher certification and completed all Reiki levels.
The turning point really was a trip to a yoga festival in Sedona in March of 2016. The night the festival started, a friend and I were hiking and I slipped and fell sprained my right wrist. I was in so much pain that I couldn't do any yoga during this 4 day festival. So, instead of yoga I did all the nutrition, aromatherapy, breath work and meditation courses that the festival offered. I happened to meet so many acupuncturists in these courses from all over the country and they just had wonderful things to say about it. It just felt meant to be and that was the weekend I decided to go to Acupuncture school.
I had ALWAYS been interested in learning Chinese Medicine, I think that I needed to feel confident that I could have a successful career and that is really what that weekend in Sedona gave me.
You've grown up in the Chicago area. Despite traveling the world for 8 months and experiencing new places, what was it like to actually move to a new city and put down new roots?
Traveling is quite different than settling down roots. When you go into a hostel in a new location everyone is a traveler and wants to connect and experience wherever you are together. Also, it feels much less vulnerable because you know when you leave that place the people you have met will no longer we a part of your everyday life.
Other then college, I spent 32 years of my life in Chicago. I knew so many people and had so many friends there. I’m not going to lie - it was a very scary moving to a new city by myself not really knowing that many people. I'm used to having a big social network and I didn't realize until I moved here how important my community of friends was to my happiness and confidence, which I know is totally normal.
It did take me a couple months of living here to feel grounded. I was bouncing around the world for 8 months then I just stopped. And I was definitely processing all the events that occurred on that trip for my first few months here and processing that my life in Chicago was also over. I realized that I never did that before I left on my trip. So much change happened to me within my first few months here. I started school for the first time in many years, so things were more than a little crazy.
Now after 4 months, I feel much more settled and I've met so many great and welcoming people since I have moved here.
You got a lot of comments about being "lucky" that you got to quit your job and travel the world as people followed along your journey on social media. What would you tell someone else that's wanting to make a life change like this?
I hear this a lot!! It's actually kind of annoying because it undervalues all the time, effort, sacrifice and courage that it takes to make a major life change. As if the opportunity to travel the world just fell on my lap one morning. I created the opportunity because it's something that I really wanted!
Anyone could do it if they want it badly enough. I made a lot of sacrifices to make this happen. I worked 3 jobs for a year to save money before I left. I sold the condo that I worked hard to buy at 27. I said no to so many social events the year leading up to leaving. I took so many courses, classes, read so many books and tried out so many things. I allowed myself to fail and be wrong about what I thought my right path was supposed to be before I ever decided to go to acupuncture school, but I was determined to find my true calling.
Even when traveling I stayed in very modest places, it wasn't all glamorous, and its still not, but all of this is worth it to me because I feel like I'm getting to live the life that I really want this way. I'm a true believer that if you want something with your whole heart and for the right reasons it will work out. It takes a whole lot of courage, and it can be really really scary to jump into a new life, quit a job and really leave your comfort zone, but none of it is luck. The interesting thing is how people people told me I was lucky for traveling or for figuring out what I really wanted to do, but not that many people asked how I made it happen.
My biggest advice for people who are making life changes is to ask people who you are doing something similar to what you want to do how and why the decided to do it instead of thinking that they have something that you don't. If some else has done it, then you can too!! Its never too late and no you will never be truly 100% ready. Most people who make major life changes are scared shitless and don't have everything figured out in life, but they are okay with that and have faith that everything will work out.
What advice would you give to someone specifically wanting to do an extended trip like yours? What resources/books might your recommend?
Do it. You won't regret it for a second. There are so many things that you learn about the world and about yourself while traveling, especially alone, that you just can't learn inside your comfort zone.
Sure its scary, its crazy scary. I was soo scared at the beginning and I had several meltdowns when I was scared, but I soon realized that the world isn't to be afraid of, its to be explored. People are much kinder and open-hearted then you could ever imagine. So many strangers helped me! I have so much more faith in the world now then before I started traveling.
The key to long term traveling is just learning to spend less money. It’s a marathon, not a sprint , like a weekend or week trip. Get comfortable with a limited amount of items. Get comfortable with staying in hostels, they are actually really fun and are the best way to meet people and you can find really nice ones. And no, they are not just for people right out of college. Most of the solo travelers that I met were in their late 20's and 30's and staying in hostels.
Read blogs of backpackers who went were you want to go. I learned much more from the long term travelers that I worked with in Bali then I ever did reading a book.
Also, have a rough idea of what you want to do, but don't have a plan. Some of the best places that I went I heard about from other travelers and had never heard of prior. Places like Pai, Thailand or Otres Beach, Cambodia are huge backpacker destinations that you won't find a whole lot of info on travel websites, so be open to suggestions.
Any interesting natural remedies or healthy tips you could offer this group of women that you've found to be really interesting/helpful?
I could literally go on for hours!!!! -
Drink peppermint tea for PMS.
Eat Chia seeds and jujube dates for anxiety and stress.
Drinks should be room temperature or warmer.
Women should make sure they are getting enough iron and vitamin D, especially in Winter. I would take a D3 supplement.
Add more veggies to your diet, even if you think you are getting enough, add more!!
When you go grocery shopping, buy veggies of all different colors and that should take care of most vitamins and minerals. There are so many great blogs these days with recipes that make veggies you refused to eat as a child taste awesome.
Make your own bone broth and drink it daily. This is a great source of sooooo many vitamins and minerals - send me a message if you want my recipe!!!
Try to eat with the seasons, eat warm and nourishing cooked foods in the fall and winter. Chai tea is a wonderful warming herbal concoction to heat up the body when the temperature drops.
Just breathe, even if you are busy, close your eyes and breathe for 10 minutes everyday.
What's ahead for Michelle Malloy? What are you looking forward to post-grad school? Thoughts on what you might be doing and where?
I have 3.75 years of acupuncture school and I would like to focus on nutrition, Women's health and mental health. Where that takes me, I'm not sure! I do know that I will be enjoying long walks on the beach at sunset with my cat Izzy.
Lastly, if anyone has a question about world travel and/or natural medicine what is the best way to get in touch?
I would love to answer any questions you have!! Shoot me a message on Instagram @Shellythemedicinewoman or email me - firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s show Michelle some love and comment below to let her know about a key takeaway you got from her stories of traveling around the world and taking a scary leap into her big dreams!