The Freedom of Freedom


The Wide Open Road

Tuesday I went to Krakow, Poland to handle some business. I’d always wanted to visit the city and planned on staying a few days, or a week, or who knows. The thing is, it rained for 24 straight hours with no sign of letting up. (Forecast said it would rain for the rest of the week.) I didn’t let it stop me from exploring the city, but at the end of the night I was completely soaked to the bone. My shoes were dripping, my pants were heavy, and I was cold. (You know me, I like it hottttt.)

Going to Krakow could technically be considered a “vacation” for me. I’m going to run with that because it helps me make my point. ;)

Growing up I remember going on a few vacations and running into absolutely shit weather. That happens. I’m sure it has happened to you as well. The thing is, when most people are on vacation, they’ve planned, saved, taken time off from work, and allotted themselves that specific time to “vacate.”

When bad weather (or maybe something else) ruins the vacation, the vacation goes on. What else is there to do? Instead of hanging on the beach, you find a museum, arcade, or movie theatre. Instead of exploring the nooks and crannies of a city, you stay put somewhere out of the elements. Not ideal by any means, but what other good options are there?

Freedom = Options

There is an option: attaining true freedom. Freedom is an option that opens up a whole world of other options.

What I wish for you as a Freedom Fighter is the ability to change plans on a whim. To always seek what’s best for you and to not let forces outside of your control dictate your life. If something’s not right, no worries, do a 180. Hit the open road and don’t look back.

Me? I headed back home to Wroclaw 24 hours after arriving in Krakow.

Krakow will still be there next week. Maybe it’ll be sunny and warm and I’ll decide to head back for “vacation.” No need to seek permission or to do much planning. I can just head off one morning when the outlook is positive.

Serendipitously I got this e-mail from Hilary, one of your fellow Freedom Fighters, on Tuesday night:

I’ve been thinking – a lot – and reading your blog for quite a while now. I thought I’d give you the courtesy of an update, as you give us:

After working in California at my job for 3 years straight (many months of double shifts) without a vacation, I decided to be insanely brave. It was a “me or them” kinda thing. I got a divorce; an amicable one. I sold my home, cars, camper, household stuff — everything either went to charity, friends, or the yard sale. I decided it was time to quit my “perfectly good” job, and was laid off 2 days before I gave notice. (Awesome timing, huh?) Then I went to the UK for 4 months, and this is where some of your advice really really came in handy. I was scared to try new things, but forced myself to … now you may laugh, but I didn’t even know how to take a city bus for transport!

Over Easter weekend, I took a short tour to Germany, but was denied entry back into the UK at the port in Calais! Really. I was separated from my tour and detained for 6 hours until the French police could collect me and take me to the bus stop in the middle of the night. The only reason I was given after several interviews, was “we simply cannot believe you aren’t seeking work.” How is it you travel around and no one worries that you are looking for work? [NOTE FROM KAROL: I don’t know. I usually answer questions with just  “yes” or “no.” Although I made the mistake of offering up extra info in Finnland, which held me up a bit.]  I produced my bank records and retirement account even! [NOTE: WTF!] A very nice, well-spoken, middle-class, middle-aged lady!

I had to keep telling myself that actually I had everything I needed, although I only had one really small bag with two day’s worth of dirty clothes. I found a hotel, washed my clothes, did my hair and makeup and tried again, and was rebuffed again at the port. Sooooo, I took myself to Paris by train, walked to the hotel the clerk at the rail station booked for me, and then I had some fun. Never felt so free in all my life. I learned how to do so many things I never knew: Bought metro passes, learned the metro and bus system, learned to use a cyber cafe, changed hotels to a cooler/cheaper one in a cooler/cheaper neighborhood, booked a walking tour, got myself a coffee maker to make meals – my goal was 5 euro per day – bought some clothes (the weather changed), navigated my formerly frightened little self all around Paris for a week and a half until I flew to New York to “couch surf” with family. Pretty proud of myself, gotta say.

So I’ve been thinking — and thinking … I recognized this time is an opportunity to make a huge change, but I just didn’t know how. Started looking for a job that I didn’t want in NY, and when I finally got an interview at my “nightmare job” as opposed to my “dream job,” I had an anxiety attack. That was last week. Today it hit me when I read the blog. So I’m “in.”

After sitting and thinking for two months, well, other stuff too, today I created a website, domain name, business plan, a DVD in the works, and an e-book planned from material I already created, an accountant friend is helping me with the business/tax part, AND I read HTLA twice. Your blog suddenly helped me recognise the opportunity I was seeking!

So, anyway, I thought a little positive feedback was in order – oh, and thanks for the laundry tip, the Dr. B and zip-loc worked a treat – nothing boosts confidence like clean clothes.

Thanks for the support, friend.

– Hilary [NOTE: Web site isn’t live, but there’s the link anyway.)

Thank you Hilary. That is an outstanding story and is a true testament to not only growth, but freedom. Congratulations and thank you so much for sharing! (Yes, I got permission from Hilary to post this.)

What about you? Are you gonna let other people/events dictate your life? Or would you rather follow Hilary’s lead, grab life by the throat and strangle that mofo into submission? (Highly recommended course of action!) ;)


  1. Awesome stuff Karol and Hilary!

    Traveling sure is life-changing, and fun. I’ve been camping a bit too long here in Spain. Soon comes the time to change things up I feel.

    Hasta luego! ;)

  2. Awesome story! Congrats Hilary on finding freedom! And this was a nicely timed post for me. I was just writing a piece last night (for another site I’m working on but isn’t live yet) about how my goal is to shape the events in my life, rather than letting them shape me.

  3. I recently took my girlfriend to London for a weekend, and the Iceland volcano made sure to interrupt our flight plans. However, we made the most of it and had fun waiting in the ATL airport for our flight to Heathrow. I think travel is less about executing your plans and more about just doing it.

    Wow, Hilary’s story is awesome! I got so worried when she said she was going to interview for the nightmare job. I’m so proud of her for attacking it full force! Rock on, freedom fighters!

    • “I think travel is less about executing your plans and more about just doing it.” That is a great point Casey! Thank you. :)

  4. Such an inspiring story Karol and Hillary!
    Hillary, the stuff you’ve done would have scared the pants off many. I guess at some point you passed that magical threshold before which you ask, ‘What is the worst thing that can happen?’ and then you took the step forward! Good luck! And thanks for sharing, Karol!

  5. Karol – it is good to know you are a positive inspiration. Keep up the good work here.

    Hilary – you go girl! Make a wonderful new life for yourself.

  6. Hi Karol,
    I am new to this blog and I am trying to read everything. One thing that seems to stand out to me is that you seem to have conquered so many obstacles but your dislike of cold weather? I would like to offer a small tip on how I have conquered my dislike of cold weather I attained from other people, I say attained because I did not always live in Michigan and when I first moved here a long time ago I actually liked the snow and cold weather. Then the more I spent time around other Michiganders with their complaining and hating the cold weather I started to do the same. One day I realized that and decided to change my outlook, and try to find something good about the weather no matter how bad it seemed. To my surprise as long as I keep this in mind every day is a good weather day! last winter I challenged myself to see how low I could set my thermostat and this summer I am not turning the air conditioner, so far I am loving every hot muggy day :) so perhaps just being mindful of your outlook might help? :)
    I love, love your blog!
    thank you!

    • Hey Rosa,

      Thanks! Glad you love the blog. :)

      I grew up in Metro Detroit. :) (will actually be back there for a bit in October)

      Cold weather is something that I have not been able to conquer in a mind over matter sort of way. My body gets cold when it’s mid-60s. People will tell me how warm it is while I’m shivering. It has been that way my whole life. So you can imagine that growing up in MI was torture. ;)

      The beautiful thing is that there are so many warm places to visit on this planet that I will never exhaust my travel options. :)


  7. Hey Karol,
    If you are not super busy and don’t think I am weirdo. I would love to meet you and pick your brain for a few minutes when you are back in Michigan.
    stay warm!

  8. Several years ago I was about to move to the Czech Republic with my Czech girlfriend, and at the last minute (three days before my flight), she ended our long relationship. And so, I exchanged my flight ticket for a flight to Argentina and flew there the two days later. I’ll never forget my first night in Buenos Aires, thinking about how quickly my life had changed.

    Of course, my time in South America was incredible and I formed some friendships on that trip that proved to play a major role in the new direction of my life.

    It is definitely all about being open to a change in plans, even a drastic change, if the circumstances require it.

    Wonderfully inspiring post and story Karol and Hillary!

  9. Incredible story! I’m so happy for you Hilary. It is so hard to break from the template lifestyle for so many reasons. This is pure action and pure awesome. As for travel. One of the problems with the traditional vacation is the time constraint. The traditional vacation consists of having to start and end on a specific date and therefore is much more rigid than it should be. Dealing with misfortunes is a great quality as they come up unexpectedly, but sometimes when a “vacation” is too rigid in form to begin with, it is set up for failure from the start.

    • Thanks Mark.

      Yeah, that’s exactly what I was getting at. The very nature of “vacation” is rigid and under a time constraint. :)


  10. I remember one well-planned trip to visit my parents. Suddenly all my plans were disrupted because my flight got canceled. The next flight that I was offered was only in a week. I just went to the airport and asked to put me on any flight – so here I was heading for London (have never been there), from London they put me on a flight to Warsaw, where I had to stay in the hotel for one day before I finally got on a plane to take me to my final destination. I should have felt annoyed, right? No way! What an adventure! Even though I just got to see different airports. But the whole idea that you get on a plane that will take you somewhere and you don’t know what happens next… That WAS real freedom! Instead of flying from A to B, I made a bunch of stops in between. It all happened by chance but one day I will have the guts to do such a thing on purpose – go traveling without a final destination in mind.

Comments are closed.