I left NYC to live out of a suitcase—and it was the best thing I’ve ever done


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Photo: Melodee Solomon

 A couple of years ago, the voice that every New Yorker has inside them—the one that says, “If I don’t get out of the city soon, I’m going to flip out”—started to get really loud.

I had an almost seven-year-old successful healing practice focusing on breathwork—and workshops that sold out every month. I loved my work and my community and couldn’t imagine leaving something that I had put so much of my heart into building.

So I ignored that inner voice, funneling my anxiety into the daydream about one day owning an apartment in the city and getting my own place upstate. But it seemed impossible to imagine how I could make New York money and potentially live off the grid somewhere.

And yet, I was restless and couldn’t stop dreaming of being able to walk out of my front door and be able to put my feet in the dirt. I felt that my nervous system was getting increasingly battered from the constant flow of adrenaline from screeching subway trains, sidewalk traffic, bar noise, crowds, and just the sheer amount of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) that are concentrated in cities.

In October 2017, I gave up my apartment and left my healing space, my people, and all the structures I had created to sustain my life.

I was working too hard to stay sane and level in an environment that didn’t support me. The push on my soul got louder and louder until one day, I went over to the window, held my hands up to the sky and said, “I surrender. I’m ready to work for you, universe. Let me know where to go and what to do. I’m listening.”

So, in October 2017, I gave up my apartment and left my healing space, my people, and all the structures I had created to sustain my life.

And yes, it’s been a year of intense change—but one of the best years of my life. When I removed myself from city living, I took away all the noise and overstimulation that my nervous system had to work overtime to buffer my soul from. Being in places of deep quiet and beauty have allowed me to find that same peaceful place inside myself.

I’ve learned so much—but these are the three biggest (and most surprising) lessons of all.

Erin Telford
Photo: Erin Telford

Embracing nature gave me so much confidence

This was definitely unexpected! And the boost wasn’t from leaving my comfort zone (which I’ve done a million times) and wasn’t from throwing myself into the unknown (which I’ve also done a million times)—I think it was a by-product of getting comfortable and feeling safe in nature.

I decided to completely avoid major cities so I could be in spaces where I could walk right outside my door and put my feet on the Earth.  I followed my intuition as to where to go, which led me to an unplanned “vortex tour” of the United States. I’ve been drawn to places with a very strong energetic signature, including Topanga Canyon and Joshua Tree in California; Sedona, AZ; Kauai, HI; and Santa Fe, NM.

I started going out into the mountains alone and experimenting with longer and longer hikes, and I fell right into a natural rhythm with this new life. I think if I had left before I was ready to go, it would have been challenging. But my body and spirit were craving this life.  There was definitely a New York decompression period where my nervous system was coming down faster than I could deal with. I supplemented those hikes with a little too much red wine, ice cream, and binge-watching. But everything smoothed out within about three months.

There was definitely a New York decompression period where my nervous system was coming down faster than I could deal with.

By navigating trails (something that was totally foreign to me), pushing my body, and literally walking myself home again and again, I have expanded my idea of who I am and what is possible to grow into.

I had a spinal fusion surgery when I was 11, which really weakened my body. So I have always thought of myself as someone who was a bit fragile. I am now, at age 43, in the best shape of my life. I am strong and feel vital and capable. The mountains have also given me some of the sweetest support I’ve ever known. They are a comforting presence that is beyond the steadiest of the most steady. This confidence shows up in how I hold myself in my life and in my work.

I’m a country girl now—who knew?

After 23 years of living in cities, it’s not my jam anymore. I feel softer and less “hustle-y.” There is an intensity that I’ve held in my body and personality from all the years of sensory assault and living amongst millions of people that ebbed out, through the support of gentle environments.

It can often feel like who we are, what we believe, and how we feel is ironclad. While I believe that we do have a soul essence and an essential self, I’ve learned over the past year that there is always room to grow.

Putting yourself in different spaces and places, listening to new ideas and spending time with people who think very differently than you do, can catalyze major shifts in perspective and how things can be. You don’t need to give up life as you know it to experience these kinds of changes, but it’s incredibly freeing to imagine who and what else you can be in this life!

Erin Telford: Travel lessons from a year on the road
Photo: Melodee Solomon

Go where the love is

It’s so important to be where you are supported on all levels of your being. Where you choose to live (and whom you choose to surround yourself with) can nourish you or break you down. A huge thread of this journey is recognizing the potency that comes from connecting deeply with the Earth.

Along the way, I’ve surrendered some of my need to have control, and I have been provided for in new ways. And since leaving my practice in NYC, numerous invitations to teach at high-profile events like Wanderlust yoga festival have come my way. Getting quiet in my spirit and my lifestyle has allowed me to access my creativity in ways I’ve never been able to before. When I go out on those trails, I hear my guides speak to me loud and clear and downloads come in in a whoosh.

Our location fixes us in a certain way. Our routines, how we spend our time, our priorities, all that “stuff” defines us. When you throw it all on the fire, you get to see what survives.

Truly, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Opportunities have come for me that I could never have imagined. People have showed up in ways they never have. Predictability and stability have never been that interesting to me. This new life of creating as I go has given me so much life force back. I feel both more alive than ever and more peaceful.

Pulling up my anchor from New York has given me freedom from the structures of space, place, and title. People ask me where I live and I say, “Here for now.”

Our location fixes us in a certain way. Our routines, how we spend our time, our priorities, all that “stuff” defines us. When you throw it all on the fire, you get to see what survives. And I’m realizing how malleable an identity is. I can’t wait to see how this trip continues to alchemize me.

Erin Telford is a holistic healer trained in acupuncture, reiki, and herbalism who earned rockstar status as a breathwork facilitator in New York City before she hit the road. Today, she works and teaches all over the US. 

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