Nickname: JMac

Age: 31

Where are you from? Atlanta, GA

What do you do for work? Before our trip around the world, I worked in communications at a hospital in Chicago, IL.  While my background was in marketing and healthcare, I've always had a love for food and travel.  Our trip around the world was pivotal in helping me refocus my career to better align with what I'm really passionate about. 

Since we've returned, I started my own food tour in Denver, CO, and now run a weeklong cooking vacation in Tuscany once a year.

At the floating markets outside of Bangkok.

At the floating markets outside of Bangkok.

Why do this now?  Because I'm gonna die someday!  That's dramatic, but true.  Working at a hospital, I interacted with a lot of people who were sick and dying.  It really puts things in perspective.  I'm not going to be around forever, this has been a bucket list item for both me and Nate for a long time.  We always imagined it would be something we'd do after we had kids and they grew up, but when we started talking about quitting our jobs to move out of Chicago, the idea to take a bigger break to travel the world seemed like even more fun.  Although taking a break in my career scares the crap out of me, I think I'll always have time to work, but I won't always have time for this.

On the cliffs in Lagos, Portugal.  

On the cliffs in Lagos, Portugal.  

What did you hope to get out of the trip?  Before traveling, I felt stuck on what I wanted to do next work wise. I've been working since I turned 15.  In college, I did the prerequisite Internship in My Field.  I bought a black suit and learned how to send thank you notes directly after an interview.  One month after graduation, I accepted a full-time salaried position complete with 401k and dental.  Eight years and four jobs later, I started to step back and ask myself, "Wait, is this really what I want to be doing with my career?" The trip helped me refocus my career on what I love- food and travel.  Now, after a year of living small and seeing lots of other possibilities, I run my own food tour in Denver and host a weeklong cooking vacation in Italy.

Where have you traveled before? I've been to Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Portugal, China and Thailand. 

What do you like most about Nate?   Nate's a blast!  He's easily one of the goofiest people I've ever met.  Plus, he's always down to try new things and loves living outside his comfort zone.  Being around Nate is like being around a really excited, positive big kid who will most definitely join you for [sky diving, standup comedy trying, road tripping, sensory deprivation tanking, eating all manner of things].  On a more serious note, he's also a good and kind man.  He takes care of his family and is fiercely loyal to his friends.  

What places were you most excited for?  I was really excited to see Cape Town and Peru.  I also LOVED Thailand when we visited initially, so I'm sure I will love southeast Asia.  

What part of this trip scared the shit out of you?  So many things, actually.  Compared to Nate, I'm the worrier in the relationship.  My biggest concerns were long-term negative effects of a career break.  I worried about not finding work, or running out of money, or having to move back in with my parents.  But that didn't happen!  The trip largely taught me that we can live on less and still be very happy.  This has opened up a world of possibilities work wise. 

Kayaking off Railay Beach in Thailand.

Kayaking off Railay Beach in Thailand.

What's your craziest travel experience?  In college I spent three weeks on a student trip to China.  It was mass chaos.  At one point, I was in an airport standing in a sea of 300 students trying to line up for a domestic flight that we were crazy late for.  Someone passed around a plastic bag, and we were all instructed to throw our passports in.  Meanwhile, my friend was violently ill and ducked down to puke into a bag in the middle of the crowd.  No one noticed.  

Weirdest thing you've eaten?  Dog (*cringe).  It was actually pretty good.