Lost Girl of the Week: Kim Merritt

Lost Girl of the Week — By on December 1, 2010 at 6:00 am

This week’s Lost Girl, Kim Merritt, has discovered that the plans she laid out for herself at a young age may no longer lead to the life she truly wants. While trying to jump start her career in New York City, Kim has discovered the importance and liberation of free-spirited travel… and is looking for a way to do more.

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I’ve grown up with a plan my entire life. I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and sought out schools for journalism all through high school. At any given moment I could tell you how I’d be spending the next 10, 20, even 30 years of my life. That was, until the financial reality of moving from small town Ohio to New York City set in. So, I enrolled full time at a community college in Ohio and held both a full time and a part time job for over two years.

Almost three years later I had saved enough money and taken enough classes to transfer to school in New York. I was going to one of the most well-known ad schools in the world; life was going to be perfect from now on!

For two and a half years in New York I worked as an intern at a small advertising agency, and a retail job on the side while attending classes full time at night. I knew that my prolonged intern experience was going to look great on my resume and help me to land a legitimate job right out of college. At least, that was the plan.

I had been working so much through college that I wasn’t taking the time to meet friends and make connections. Unlike myself, everyone at my school seemed to have come from a rich family. They had free time which allowed them to create the most elaborate, amazing projects every week, and they quickly surpassed me in every class. And their summers abroad in Italy and Spain only made them more appealing to prospective employers. I on the other hand, have never been able to save enough money to travel outside of the country (aside from the Caribbean), even though I’ve tried to visit Western Europe every year for eight years. Come graduation, I was one of the only few who hadn’t landed a full time job, or at least another internship.

Nine months later, I landed my first temp-to-perm position at a real, albeit small, agency. I quit my dead end internship which had now turned to administrative work, and embarked upon the world of advertising. My first ad ran two months later, and I was on cloud nine. But this wasn’t the big break I was waiting for. Due to the economy, the job ended six months later and left me unemployed for the first time in my life since I had turned 15.

I began to question my path. I wanted to write for myself, in my voice. I had been thinking about launching a travel blog for a while, so I figured what better time to do so. Then, as if it were a sign, jetBlue offered their All You Can Jet pass for $499 the very next day. I bought it without hesitation, and spent the next two weeks designing and developing my new travel website to document my journey: www.justvisitingblog.com.

Three weeks later I was on the road. I spent 37 days traveling the country and the Caribbean. Since I was unemployed, I managed to do it cheap by subletting my apartment and crashing on friend’s couches all over the country. I saw Houston, Portland, Seattle, Montauk, San Diego, LA, the Pacific Coast Highway, San Francisco, Montego Bay, Naples, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Toledo; all for under $900 total (airfare, food, drinks, and lodging). Ever since I can remember I have been traveling on a less than desirable budget, this was just the most extensive trip yet. All throughout college I’d somehow managed to take 5-7 trips per year at least, while sacrificing daily meals and new clothes for plane fare. Nobody ever understood why I would stay in on a Saturday night just to put money towards my next trip, but to me, traveling is the one thing that fulfills me more than anything else.

So here I am at 25 years old: living in New York City for over four years, unemployed with no health care, and sharing my one bedroom apartment with a boyfriend. I have a ton of acquaintances, but no one I can actually call a friend. It’s rare that I meet anybody who shares my interests. Actually, it’s rare that I meet anyone with a passion for anything besides the bar. For the first time in my entire life, I don’t have a plan for any aspect of my life. I have truly never felt so lost.

I want to take a break from all of this planning and spend some time traveling to figure myself out before I waste more time in any career that I shouldn’t be in. I’ve hit a point where I have nothing keeping me in one place. No matter how down I may get, I’m never happier than when I’m sitting on an airplane, looking out at just how small and beautiful the world below me looks. Oddly enough, traveling is the only thing that calms me and gives me peace of mind and stability right now. When I bought the jetBlue pass, it was impulsive. Each day had no itinerary. And yet it was the most amazing, liberating feeling, which made me only want to do it more. I felt new levels of inspiration I hadn’t felt since first starting college, and for the first time with anything, I felt a commitment to my travel blog.

Aside from still applying for advertising jobs, I’m taking a travel writing class and starting yet another unpaid internship next week, this time at a travel magazine. I don’t have any spare money, but I search Craigslist every day for random jobs to help me get the money I need to travel. If I’m going to be unemployed, I’m going to take some time for myself and see what’s out there in this beautiful world we live in. I need to experience and learn more before I can develop another plan. I grew up on frozen pizzas and McDonald’s in the Midwest—it’s time to experience other cultures.

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    7 Comments

  • Kirsten says:

    I can really relate to a lot of Kim’s story! Wish you the best of luck Kim! Thanks for sharing Lost Girls.

  • Diana Nguyen says:

    I hear you on this one,Kim! Good luck with everything!You seem to be a planner, so I think things will work out for you (career- AND travel-wise). I’m curious – where will your next trip take you?

  • Kim Merritt says:

    Thanks Kirsten & Diana, I can certainly use all the good luck wishes I can get! My new plan is to not have a plan—at least for now. We’ll see what happens!

    The other day I ALMOST bought a 3 night package from JFK to St Lucia for only $172 (airfare AND hotel), as a Christmas present to myself. But I decided to put the money towards a replacement for my 8 year old laptop instead. I’ll be heading back to Toledo for Christmas, but other than that I don’t have anything planned—gasp! I’m holding on to a few free flights from Spirit right now, so I’m sure I’ll be visiting St Maarten or St Thomas once the New York winter gets too harsh. I can only hope to land a full time job in the next few months so that I can finally treat myself to a trip overseas. First stop, Paris!

  • grace says:

    Hi Kim, firstly just wanted to say thanks for sharing your story! It sounds all too familiar and one that I think so many girls can relate to. I’m Twenty years old and a Public relations and international studies student in Sydney, Australia. I’m going on exchange for a year starting January to Spain and I cannot wait! You’re article was a great read and in case you didn’t already know – you have a great voice throughout your writing. Keep at it, defy expectations and live the life you want, not the one people tell you you should. Good luck with everything & once again thanks for sharing Kim!

  • Jacqueline says:

    KIM!!! This is incredible! We have a lot more in common than I thought 🙂 keep truckin, lady. Small town girls always end up doin big things!

  • Kim Merritt says:

    Thanks Grace! I definitely spend whatever free time I have working on my writing, so it’s great to hear compliments and words of encouragement. May I ask what part of Spain you’ll be studying in? If I do make it over to Europe this spring, I’m thinking about visiting 5 cities- one of which will be Madrid or Barcelona, but I’m still taking suggestions! Maybe we could even meet for coffee if we end up in the same city!

    And Jackie, thank you as well! I knew there was a reason I came up and spoke to you at Manny’s that one day- other than the fact that you were rooting for the Wings! Thanks for spreading the word about this post on Facebook too! I’m determined to make a name for myself some day!