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Tam’s Jam: Making decisions without exact clarity (May 2022)

Tam Pham
Tam Pham
8 min read

Heyo! I’m back with this month’s issue of Tam’s Jam: my curated collection of resources and lessons around living a meaningful life.

I just spent three weeks in Mérida, Yucatan and I am currently on my 2nd week in Mexico City. The adventure that travels brings has made me feel so alive. I’m learning Spanish, meeting new people, dancing bachata/salsa among many other little moments like navigating a new city. 💃

Visiting a local cenote nearby Mérida. Absolutely breathtaking!

After being isolated for what felt like an eternity, this sabbatical from work was exactly what I needed to fuel my soul again.

I’ve met several expats who have had a similar journey.

Some have quit their jobs like myself. Others are trying out remote working for the first time, taking a sabbatical with a plan to return back to work, or starting their own online business.

This may be a big generalization but the vast majority of the travelers I’ve met had realized two things in their lives.

  1. What they had going for them was no longer what they wanted.
  2. They didn’t know what they want to do next. So they hit the road.

Making decisions without exact clarity is what this issue’s about. Let’s dive in.

Let’s start with #1.

Whether it’s a job, relationship, or life situation that you are experiencing, our bodies often know what the right thing to do is before our thinking brain realizes it.

Your heart rate may increase. You stress eat. You dread the task at hand and wish you were doing anything but this.

You want to run. Far away. To gain as much distance from this situation as possible.

Has anyone else felt something like this? Or just me?

If you’re anything like me, you tend to overstay your welcome in these contexts because your thinking brain justifies why settling for good enough is OK.

  • Even though I’m unhappy with my job, it pays ok and the hours aren’t that bad. I should just stick with it.”
  • “Being with this person is probably slightly better than being by me during this pandemic, even if I know I would never date this person in a normal timeline.”
  • “I know I don’t want to work in the field that I’m studying anymore but I should finish school anyways... just because.”

Whenever I hear myself or someone else says the words, “I should...”, I try to dig deeper. Why do you feel like you should do something?

We usually say “I should...” to keep the status quo. To justify doing things we don’t want to do in order to appease others. To meet society’s expectations and not often our own.

But what’s the cost?

  • Spending an extra two years in a relationship just because you’ve been together for X years... even though you know that there is no long-term future with this person.
  • Spending a decade of your life climbing a career ladder even though you know deep down that you don’t find meaning or joy in your work.
  • Spending every weekend with your college buddies even though you know that your friends are no longer serving you in your new stage of life.

Whether it’s a month, a year, or a decade... “wasted time” adds up.

While I’m not a fan of stressing over the optimal way to spend your time, I can’t have the big items in my life completely out of alignment.

For the people who have the capability to change, why don’t they? Well, that’s easy.


It’s extremely scary to leave a job, change a relationship, move to a new city, [insert your fear here]. That shouldn’t be revolutionary new to anyone.

However, I believe most people put too much emphasis on how difficult the change will be without fully grasping the consequences of what happens when you don’t make any change.

What is the cost of spending an extra 5, 10, or 20 years in the wrong relationships, jobs, or friend groups?

What would happen to your life trajectory if you’ve spent that time getting closer to the things that you actually find meaningful?

This leads to #2: “They didn’t know what they want to do next. So they hit the road.”

There’s a big misconception that you should/can make a big change only if you know what you’re going to do next.

But I believe this misses the point of why we want to change in the first place.

We make the change we need to make because we know that is not what we want in our lives. We do the difficult thing and leave that job (or whatever context applies to you).

Now you have the most important thing in the world: time.

Time to journal and reflect. Time to explore and experiment. Time to wander. Time to daydream. Time to do nothing.

Museo de la Gastronomía Yucateca, my fav restaurant in Mérida where I've spent time journaling.

The people I’ve met along my travels often had no plan on what’s next when they hit the road.

Call them irresponsible or reckless. But guess what? They figured things out along the way.

  • They finally had time to research a new field they always wanted to explore.
  • They met someone in their travels that have given them perspectives on what work and life can look like instead.
  • They’ve explored old and new hobbies with more time to play.
  • They walked, ran, biked, hiked, and explored their surroundings.
  • They’ve experienced something new and wonder, “What else is out there in the world?”

For those who have never experienced this, it is a WILD feeling to wake up in the morning with a clear calendar and ask yourself, “What do I feel like doing today?”

Not “What should I do?” or “What do I need to do?”

“What do I feel like doing?”

This question is about listening to your body and following your intuition.

This exact realization happened to me back in 2018 when I traveled to Chiang Mai. It had been my 5th month of traveling and working remotely.

After I’ve experienced the “first times” of hostel living, partying, exploring, sightseeing, hiking, etc. I got all of that out of my system which left me a lot of time and space to myself.

I don’t even remember how this thought came up but when I woke up one morning in Thailand, I asked myself, “What do I feel like doing today?” I didn’t feel like going to another temple or honestly meeting any more travelers.

For some strange reason, I really wanted to play chess.

This was an old hobby of mine that I loved but never played anymore because it required a significant amount of time to study to get to the next level.

After finishing my "work" work every day, added with the benefit of being in a completely different time zone, I had the time and space to watch long chess lectures and play chess online.

A friend asked me, “Why are you across the world watching YouTube videos about chess? LOL”

I just felt like doing it.

I didn’t plan it. I didn’t go into my trip with an agenda. It stumbled on me only because I had a lot of time and space to explore my curiosities.

I’m extremely happy it did because this led me to pursue a 7-month chess sabbatical which has been one of the top five experiences of my life.

In only the last couple of weeks, I met someone who moved to California to work in the wine industry and later worked in Peru as a Spanish translator. Another who became a teacher for indigenous communities. Another who quit the corporate life in London to figure out how to make her own online business.

Traveling around the world and having a life epiphany can be such a cliche. But having uninterrupted time and space, along with a new environment, can lead to personal breakthroughs.

You finally have more opportunities to be open and curious about yourself and the world without the stresses of normal day-to-day life.

Traveling helps, but you don’t need to go across the world to discover yourself. That’s quite drastic and I actually don’t recommend it to most people.

However, I notice my friends who make big decisions without any space in between tend to make “safer” decisions... that don’t make significant progress toward what they really want.

They go from a toxic company to a slightly less toxic company. But what they don’t realize is that their industry or the work they are doing or their current lifestyle may not be what they wanted in the first place.

They are making 5% improvements in climbing a mountain that they might not even want to climb in the first place.

There are a million other mountains you can choose from. It’s ok to stop hiking and wander around if you feel unsure or if you simply want to explore.

The point I’m trying to make is that after you make the difficult decision to change something in your life, you don’t need to know exactly what happens next.

Life is messy and that’s the point. That is what makes life worth living.

Life would be atrociously boring if everyone knew their paths at birth and we just checked off the boxes like robots.

The journey of not knowing what’s next and exploring and experimenting and failing and making progress and meeting people who are also figuring it out is the thrilling part!!

This all may sound like generic life advice but in full honestly, I write this for myself because it's a lesson I'm constantly relearning.

Living an unconventional lifestyle means that I have to do the hard work of writing my own playbook of how I want to live my life.

I write this to help me be more aware of contexts where I’m overstaying my welcome and not doing anything about it.

I write this to help me be ok with not knowing exactly what’s next on my journey because I will figure it out, just like I’ve done before.

If any of this resonates with you, I’d love to hear where you’re at and any questions you might have. Thanks for reading.

🙂 Before you go

🛫  Upcoming travel:

  • 🌮 Mexico City — Now - sometime in June. Say hi if you’re in the area!

📚 My books:

All books are available on Kindle, paperback, and Audible (narrated by yours truly). 😇

Products I love:

  • 📔 Want to feel happier every day? I’ve been using The Five Minute Journal over 6 years and I love it (my 2016 review). Use "TAM10" to save you some moolah and get your copy.
  • 🌏 Want to learn a new language? I’ve been using iTalki to learn Spanish with teachers from Colombia, Mexico, and Costa Rica. They have 150+ different languages to choose from with an average lesson costing just $8/hr. If you want to get speaking practice with a real human, this is your opportunity. Get a $10 credit once you deposit $20 if you sign up with my link.  Disfruta. ✌️

Last but not least, if you enjoyed this issue, why not share it with a friend to show how cool and smart you are? You can forward this email directly or send them here to sign up for the next edition. 🙏

Thanks for reading! See you again next month.

With gratitude,


Tam's Jam

Tam Pham Twitter

I'm a writer and bachata dancer currently bouncing around Latin America. Trying to make the most out of my one wild and precious life.

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