In 2017, Julie Copenhaver quit her stable job working at Baylor and decided to travel the world. She purchased a storage shed and packed up her life in Waco, the place she had called home since college, and traded in her life for a dream many would find daunting.
The seed was planted at a small event hosted by Baylor’s Career Office, where she listened to a panel of three women who had built successful careers centered around their passion.
“It was that epiphany moment of hearing these women talk and saying to myself, ‘I can do that. Why am I not doing that?,’” Julie said. Julie’s passion was photography, and her heart was yearning to see the world.
Julie remembers one of the first thoughts she had. “People are doing this. This is something that’s not just a pipe dream. This can happen.” Two months later, she sat in a Christmas service and listened to the message which described how the wise men chose adventure. “Christians have to be fearless when it comes to following Christ… and this [dream] to me, I felt called to do it. I felt God was saying, ‘This is your time. This is something you have to do.’”
Julie stepped away from her quiet life and chose adventure.
“I had a full-blown panic attack because I was quitting my quite lucrative job, and setting out all by myself on this adventure with really just no plans but jump. Jump and the net will be there. There’s definitely been fear. But the essence of fear and the essence of perseverance is that you have to step through that fear,” Julie said.
Her travels haven’t been without their dangerous moments. For instance, take the day when she almost ran out of gas on the edge of a cliff in New Zealand. Or, the time when she lost her phone in Casablanca, and relied on a cab driver to help her track it down, despite everyone telling her that it was not a wise idea for a solo female traveler to travel through the streets of Morocco’s largest city.
Or, the night she was strangled in the Red Light District in Amsterdam.
After meeting a few other travelers in a hostel, the group decided to hit the town together. They were having a normal night out when one of the men in her group snapped and attacked her in an alley. She fought tooth and nail until she was able to escape into a nearby crowd and ask for help.
On dealing with the potential dangers of solo travel in unfamiliar places, Copenhaver said, “You go with God and you go with your gut.”
More than anything, she’s learned first-hand that most people are willing to open their doors and let you come in.
Julie has always been independent, but throughout her adventure she has learned that it’s okay to rely on other people. In her career, she tried to do everything herself, but now she believes life is created to have help from others. She is a huge advocate for study abroad programs, which she wasn’t able to partake in during her time at Baylor. To Julie, experiencing other cultures and seeing a little bit of how other people live, is a lesson like no other.
“You can read about it all you want. You can watch movies. You can ingest all the research as possible. But until you actually go out there and live it, you don’t really know,” Julie said. She would never replace her experiences, both the ups and downs, for anything. She recalls being at her desk job looking out the window and thinking “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something out there. There is a huge world out there, and I’m not doing my life justice or giving myself a glimmer of hope of what I really want to do with my career with what I know I can do. I’ve got to go out there into the world and find it.”
And she did.
* Copenhaver worked at the Baylor Line from 2009-2013, before taking a position at the university.