Scott Stoll logo world traveler. A bicycle wheel and the globe symbolizes Scott's journey around the world on a bicycle.
Ethan Keister in Norway
Ethan Keister exploring Norway.

Travel: The reset button

Editor’s note: I had never thought of travel as a reset button, but now that our guest adventurer, Ethan Keister, has put it into words, it makes so much sense. I like to press this button often. In a way, travel is like getting an upgrade to your operating system. Ethan is currently in Scotland during his European travels and is writing some thoughtful articles about his trips. It’s making me think. I love that! Most travelers’ stories are just a litany of events. “I ate this. I saw that…” But Ethan has some genuine wisdom to contribute about how you might like to push that reset button when the opportunity presents itself. PS. Please excuse his flattery :) 

Ethan Keister airplane
Landing in Iceland

First off, thank you, Scott, for letting me write a guest article. Scott was kind enough to contribute to my own site a few weeks ago. (You can read that story here: The Unexpected Benefits of Travel.) His contribution was insightful and entertaining, so I hope I can live up to that with this companion post. 

What gravitated me towards Scott’s bike journey was how it started. Without spoiling too much, Scott had just broken up with his girlfriend and lost his job. In essence, it was a rock bottom moment for him. What matters is not how he got into that state but how he pulled himself out of an objectively depressing situation. Scott’s solution was to drop everything and go on a bike ride around the world. That speaks volumes about who he is and a sense of adventure. It also speaks volumes about the benefits of hitting the reset button. 

Most resets come in response to a need to change something. They can be big or small. I’ve come to think of it as a hard or soft reset. You may need only to gain a fresh perspective, or you may feel the need to uproot your entire life. Either way, to do that effectively, I think it is best to physically go somewhere—even for a short time. In Scott’s case, it was extreme, but sometimes hard resets are a necessity. 

While I myself haven’t done such a feat, I have experienced the need to reset in the form of travel. My first hard reset was on deciding where to go to college. I knew I wanted to change my environment and move out of my small, rural New York town. I traveled around the Eastern coast of the US and eventually found my way to the Midwest, searching for colleges. I settled on going to college 14 hours from home, all away from familiar friends and family, to a place I didn’t know much about. I thought Milwaukee, the city I moved to, was in Canada (yes, really). My education and experiences became richer because of it, and I was a little less ignorant than when I had moved away. 

Ethan Keister in the Himalayas
The first big reset after college: Living in the Himalayas.

After graduating college and establishing Milwaukee as my new home, my travel itch had turned into a rash, and it needed to be itched — badly. Much to the chagrin of my parents, I didn’t want to get a job right away. I wanted another reset. I wanted to continue my education, but not in an academic form. Luckily, through serendipity and some dumb luck, an opportunity presented itself in the form of a temporary job doing design work in the Himalayas. I had no intentions of ever visiting India, but the opportunity was enticing and fit my timeframe. I took it, and it changed my life. Those three months living in the mountains made me slow down and take a look around at what I had rather than roaring into a career. I had my whole life to do that. 

When I got back, some time passed. I ended up getting a comfy job at an ad agency in Milwaukee and, for a few years, was satisfied. But COVID hit, and things shifted. Perceptions changed, and slowly, it was revealed how much of a rut I was in, both creatively and mentally. I looked back at my India adventures and knew I had it in me to make another change. My experience in saying “yes” to India gave me the confidence that I could travel long-term and land on my feet again. So for nine months, I prepared and planned to take another overseas excursion, this time to Europe, where through a series of events related to friends and favors accrued, I was able to procure a bed to stay on for a few months. Another reset button had been presented to me, so I pushed it. I quit my job at the end of June, temporarily subleased my apartment and moved my things into storage. 

So, that’s where I am now. I’m currently writing this post in a cafe in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m in the middle of my journey, and while I have a faint outline of what the future holds, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve taken the leap and am in the midst of falling—enjoying every moment. 

Scott’s epic bike journey and my recent European adventures are pretty extreme cases of a hard reset, but I’ve heard other similar stories. Through my stays in hostels across the UK and Scandinavia, I’ve met people of all ages and backgrounds going through a similar state of in-between—people that are brave enough to push that reset button and see what happens, or at least look at their current situation objectively and gain perspective. Hitting the reset button can be a hard choice to make and not available to everyone, but making the right decisions by forming the right daily habits and being prepared when opportunity knocks can make a difference and allow a reset to be feasible, if not available. 

The Scottish Highlands
Exploring the Scottish Highlands.

I think our modern society looks at resets as something to avoid. It means you did something wrong—went down the wrong path. Personally, I think that’s a very one-track way to look at life, and it doesn’t allow for change and flexibility. Traveling is all about pivoting, whether that’s changing trains in Europe or deciding last-minute on a restaurant. But why can’t that skill be applied to life? Why is it just one path? Why aren’t people allowed to change their minds? I’m not saying to abandon your family, pick up and move to Fiji—some responsibilities just can’t be reset—but if you’re unhappy with a current situation, travel can embolden you to look for a different solution or at least a different outlook. Travel sharpens your problem-solving skills. 

I think traveling is an excellent way to dip your toes in the water of what something could be. Whether that’s biking around the world, traveling Europe, or taking a different path to walk the dog. It’s all about intent. The intent to learn. The intent to grow. Intent turns travel into something truly valuable. If intended, travel can provide a reset button.

Read more of Ethan’s Ramblings.

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