Bria White is living a dream she never imagined possible. Like a bird flying for the very first time, she is about to embark on a soul-searching journey that will take her around the world for the next year. And, at 57, she is finally free.
“I’m at the point of completely recreating myself,” says this mother and grandmother. “I was a parent day-to-day for 32 years, and I put all my dreams into the kids. I didn’t do anything for myself. In the middle of all of that, I lost me.”
White’s worldwide trek gets under way July 30th, when she will board a jet to Croatia, her first destination of 12.
She will travel the world as a part of a program called Remote Year and work remotely in her role as an information technology project manager for Arizona State University.
Leaving behind her family, children, friends and co-workers, White has sold nearly all her worldly possessions, including her home. What’s left of her personal effects will go to storage. Life as she knows it will start anew.
From Darkness to Light
To fully understand the symbolism of White’s adventure, you need to know something about her past. Eleven years ago, she was the victim of a violent crime that left her broken and nearly dead. She was crippled by fear, as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) enveloped her like a dark cloak.
“When a crime first happens, you don’t realize you’ve had this earth-shattering trauma,” she explains. “I became a shut-in. I became afraid of the world.”
With fear her constant companion, White isolated herself in the safety of her home for years after the attack. She only ventured out when absolutely necessary and relied on prescription medications to get through the pain, anxiety and fear that greeted her each day.
Returning to Life
It took nearly four years for White to reintegrate into society and to return to work. A professional educator with a doctorate degree in educational leadership and provost of a private college prior to the attack, she tiptoed back into the employment waters as a substitute teacher.
Within six months, she began to emerge from her dark cocoon and test her wings. “Something came alive in me, and I wanted to do more,” she describes. “I choose life.”
In addition to her doctorate degree, White holds her undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in computer science. With those credentials, she redirected her career path to information technology.
From contractor to consultant to employee, White moved from Arizona to Illinois to California and back to Arizona, climbing the career ladder and raising her children as a single mother.
With her children grown and her youngest in college, White felt a familiar stir that something bigger was on the horizon.
What happens next can only be described as divine intervention. “I was looking for another project and Googling ‘global management leadership,’ she explains. “Remote Year pops up. So I started looking into it, and the program is perfect! I do my same job remotely, keep my position, keep my salary and travel the world.”
So she applied. And out of 700,000 applicants, White was selected as one of 70 adventurous souls who will work and travel throughout the world for the next year. From Europe to Malaysia and China to South America, she will take part in the experience of a lifetime.
Remote Year provides workspaces, accommodations and the opportunity for business professional to immerse in the cultures and business practices of a dozen destinations around the world.
“I had a choice to do life the same or cash it in,” White says. “I decided to cash it in. I’m selling everything. And I will tell the world that I will be the one to decide what I want to be when I grow up.
So with the support of her family and children, White is chucking it all – including a 7,000-square-foot home that she describes as her “prison” – and traveling abroad.
“The way I look at it, I can stay here and be pissed off that I didn’t go,” she explains. “Or, I can say I am well enough and secure enough that not only can I leave this house, but I can leave this country. I will pay less to travel the world than what I pay to live in my prison.”
Asked how her children took the news, White beams proudly and credits their unconditional support for her ability to make the decision with ease.
“The wonderful thing about my children is they’ve been fully present in my lifetime. They’re acutely aware of the horrors I’ve lived through. And people don’t realize this, but the children suffer more than the victims in a situation of violence.”
She continues, “When I told them I was going to do this, they said, ‘It’s your time. Eat, love, pray, Mommy.’ My son said, ‘I’m so happy for you. You are an inspiration to me. Despite what happened to you, you keep surviving, living and progressing to a higher level.’”
New meaning has emerged since White was accepted into the program. She tells the story of her sister, Shauna Taylor. At 47, Taylor’s health is failing, and she is in desperate need of a kidney transplant.
White is not a suitable donor, which is heartbreaking for her. “I thought I would be able to donate a kidney, but the final test found my kidneys weren’t strong enough,” she says. “Telling her I couldn’t give her my kidney and knowing that she’s suffering every single day breaks my heart.”
Shauna told her sister that one of her greatest regrets was not traveling and seeing more of the world when she was still healthy. “She asked, ‘Will you Skype me in so I feel like I’m traveling?’” Absolutely. White has collected a list of places Shauna wants to visit virtually and will bring the world to her sister for as long as she can.
Walk of Faith
“I may never have the opportunity to do this trip again. That’s why I have to go,” White says. “I have no choice. This is a big faith walk, and God is calling me. I’m making this walk for my entire family tree and carrying them all on my wings.”
White is busy with preparations for her departure in two weeks. From packing everything she’ll need for a year into one suitcase, one carry-on and one backpack to buttoning up her affairs at home, she is counting the days.
She also reflects on her roots as an educator, polishing up on foreign languages (she once spoke Spanish, French and German), and what she hopes to bring back from the experience.
“If you send a young man to travel the world, he becomes a better leader. If you send a mother – a woman – around the world, she increases the capacity of her children. When you send a teacher around the world, you change a generation. All that I am learning and doing, I hope to come back and teach the world.”
July 30th will be the first day of Bria White’s new life. “This trip is like counting the days until I become myself again. I’m so happy I chose life.”
To follow the adventures of Dr. Bria White, go to her blogsite, Remotely Odd. There, she will be chronicling her journeys around the world.