Why I Stopped Dreaming of Vacations and Made a New Life Instead

05/21/2015 12:01 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2016

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"Let's move to the mountains."

My husband started saying those words to me over and over for several months. "Sure, let's go," I would say without really believing it would happen.

Then one day it did. And it changed my life.

My 30th birthday was approaching and I was dreading it. Even with the title of Doctor to my name and a well-paying job on the East Coast of Florida, I wasn't content. I honestly believed the day I turned 30 my life was going to tumble uncontrollably down a road of unhappiness. I felt uninspired and unmotivated. 30 was quickly becoming the age of "un."

I was living to make more money to take my next vacation somewhere I could feel more alive. I wasn't living in the moment. It felt like I was stuck somewhere I didn't want to be, in a job I didn't want to have.

Each winter we would take a week-long trip to the mountains to ski, and each summer we would make the trip west again to hike, climb, and explore. Every time we returned home, I would have an adventure hangover. All I wanted to do was go back.

That idea of moving to the mountains kept echoing in the back of my mind, but I was scared of taking a risk. While my life was not satisfying, it was secure. I had always thought that if you just work hard and save for retirement, you will have a good life. And it's true, you can have a good life, but it may not be the life you want. I wanted to be active, be adventurous, and honestly, just be outdoors.

So when my 30th birthday came and went and my life remained as boring and familiar as ever, I decided that it was time to make a change.

We made a list of all the places we might want to live: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and decided it was going to be Oregon. Oregon had everything we were looking for: skiing, hiking, climbing, and a more adventurous outdoor-oriented lifestyle. We were in search of a simpler life of more mountains and less "stuff."

We quit our jobs, sold a lot of our material things (which was a lot harder than I ever imagined), and started figuring out ways to cut costs. We had no jobs waiting for us at our destination, just some passions to pursue.

Feeling nervous and a little silly, I told my family and friends we were moving across the country. I had convinced myself that I needed to change my life, but it took a little more to convince others. "I just think I need to take a risk, to have the life I want," I said, with a lot more confidence than I felt.

We set off for the cross-country trip from Florida to Oregon in search of new adventures.

On that one trip we saw more of the United States than most people see in a lifetime. We visited some Southern classics like Graceland, took a drive along Route 66 to Cadillac Ranch, hiked along Sandia Peak in Albuquerque, made the 1.7 mile hike to the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, walked along the Grand Canyon outer rim, marveled at the Hoover Dam and the giant sequoia trees, hiked the waterfalls in Yosemite, biked the Golden Gate Bridge, enjoyed the spectacular views along the Pacific Coast Highway, drove through a redwood tree, and then gazed at the snow-covered mountains as we pulled into our new home in Oregon.

To me, pursuing a healthy life is about actually pursuing life, not perfection.

Now, a few months until my 31st birthday, I have learned how to live free and active. I have skied the slopes of Mt. Bachelor, hiked the Pilot Butte, visited a breathtaking tulip farm, hiked behind a waterfall, and enjoyed daily micro-adventures right outside my door. Being able to see and experience the beauty of the world makes me truly feel alive.

I no longer want to do the "safe" thing. I want to get outside and explore.

Have I wondered if we made the right choice? Sure! We are essentially starting over in our careers and it's scary. But, it's also exciting and fulfilling.

I have learned that you have to be able to change your mind to change your life. Give up the familiar and pursue the amazing.