Voices from the Road

How I lost my job and found my true calling on a cross-country road trip

It all began when the startup I worked for couldn’t raise a new round of funding, which resulted in a mass layoff. I was shocked, but it was always something I expected working in the startup world, so I’d grown accustomed to the risk. Following the layoff, I began applying for similar roles in other companies, but something inside me was having an adverse reaction to the idea of falling back into the grind. I didn’t know what to do, so to clear my head I went on a long walk along the Brooklyn waterfront in New York City, where I was living at the time.

It had rained that morning and people had just started coming out onto the wet pavement. Halfway through my walk it clicked: Why not travel? I spent the rest of my walk talking to my brother and some of my close friends to run my plans by them, not so much for permission but more to see if I was being completely ridiculous. 

It was a week before my 40th birthday, and I rushed back home and set in motion what would be one of the most epic adventures of my life: I was going to start with a road trip across the U.S., then spend 3 to 6 months on every continent as I made my way around the globe. I was excited. I was nervous. I was scared. But most importantly I was clear on what I wanted to do: Follow my dream.  

A man in a hoodie stands in front of scenic mountain vistas

Dreams come true

A few weeks later I had sold most of my belongings and put the rest in storage. I packed my Tesla and set off for a cross-country road trip. My plan was to drive north to Acadia National Park, then cut across the country via the northern states, down the Pacific Coast Highway and back across over the southern states. My goal was to do this all in 4 months. 

I’m fortunate to always be surrounded by friends and family (and strangers in New York City), so I found the first few weeks of being solo rather difficult. It was a combination of getting used to being alone and also, in the back of my mind, trying to figure out what to do about my career. Staying present was a challenge, to say the least.

The Tesla Model 3 is a great car for road trips. I never had range anxiety and loved that I could use the Camp Mode feature to transform the car for the night. The trip wasn’t necessarily harder or easier as a result of an EV but it did take a bit longer because of the charging breaks—which were very welcomed, especially on days when I drove for more than 10 hours. 

I had a general plan in terms of route, but wanted to explore various cities and national parks. I started from the Washington, D.C., area and continued through Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming before it got too cold. Then I continued on through Oregon, California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, and back through Virginia. 

As people caught wind of my journey, I was overwhelmed with how many people from all walks of life reached out. Some wanted to meet up, some wanted to join for a bit, and others opened their homes to me throughout my travels. Surrounded by so much love, I never felt luckier. When I wasn’t staying with family or friends, I slept in a tent, camped in my car, or got an Airbnb or a hotel room.

Feeling accomplished

I was seeing some of the most beautiful sights in the U.S.—both natural and man-made—and those moments were only interrupted by spending quality time with people that loved me. This time spent with them made me realize how many amazing people I have in my life. These relationships that I have built and nurtured over the past 40 years are my proudest accomplishment. 

A man sits inside a hollowed out core in a massive tree

I also met some amazing strangers, one being a friend of a friend who I ended up sailing with for 1 week on Puget Sound; another, a high profile life coach for CEOs who I had morning coffee chats with during my time in the San Francisco area. 

What was supposed to be a tour of the U.S. ended up being more of a tour of my life. Connecting—and reconnecting—with family and friends is what made my trip special. As much as I loved spending time with them, I also started to enjoy being alone. The long hikes, the never-ending drives, and the silence were all things I started looking forward to.

Throughout this road trip I learned a lot about myself, both from self-reflection and from the people who made my journey so much sweeter. I learned to be proud of myself and grew confident that I can accomplish so much more than I already have. Following this dream fueled my desire to follow my biggest dream. A dream so far out there that I always dismissed it as just that, a pipe dream: to become an actor. It became clear to me that this wasn’t just a dream—it was my calling. 

A man stands with arms outstretched as he's surrounded by unique red rock formations

Back to school

I decided to apply to acting school. I told friends and family about my plan and to my surprise, the support was once again overwhelming. Someone even said, “You should have done this 20 years ago.”

I continued traveling and eventually sold my car in December to begin the international portion of my trip. I went to Germany and Austria and then flew to Mexico. At the beginning of the year, I got accepted to acting school. It starts this summer, and I’ve never been more excited.

Daryush’s trip

Meet the Roadtripper

Daryush Assar