Today’s post is from Thomas Mark Zuniga, though he usually just goes by Tom or TMZ or Traveling Golden Trout. Tom is a 25-year-old tutor, aspiring author, and restless wanderer. Currently residing in Orange County, California, but probably wandering elsewhere before too long.  He blogs regularly at, writing about traveling and trials, faith and frivolity. You can tread with him on Twitter @thomasmarkz.

The first time I changed – really truly deeply changed – I drove 2300 miles across the country. Adventured westward for five consecutive days to escape an old life of twenty-three consecutive years. To start a new life.

My family is great; I love my family. Could not be more blessed by a mother’s love and home-cooked meals, a father’s wisdom, and a couple of younger siblings who I regard more as friends with every passing year.

But there comes a time for every wanderer to awaken. To pack up his Mitsubishi Galant and leave.

To change.

A year removed from my college graduation, I was beyond ready for the thrill and influx of a new adventure and a new life. So ready, in fact, that by the time I packed up my Galant, said my goodbyes, and drove away, I realized something. Something startling and suddenly horrifying.

I was actually changing. Changing unlike ever before. Changing far more dramatically than a year-long move to college or a summer-long study-abroad venture across the ocean.

After twenty-three years on the east coast, I was relocating thousands of miles away – thousands of miles away to a state I’d never even visited. Erasing everything I’d ever known about life and starting over with a fresh blank page. Inserting myself into an untouched story, complete with unmet characters amid a vastly foreign setting.

The realization hit me before I’d hardly escaped my parents’ driveway, and the tears that followed erupted from somewhere completely untapped in 23 years.

An era was ending. Ended. Just like that.

No longer would I benefit from a fatherly roof or motherly meals. I would have to provide those for myself now. Would need to secure more than jobs and finances to survive in this brave new world.

Would need to find love. Purpose. Belonging.

For the next two years, changing would be difficult. But a change far more significant and tear-inducing and beautifully life-altering than any other change I’ve yet to experience. Change that led me into such fulfilling work I’d have never otherwise fathomed for myself. Change that eventually introduced me to my first genuine church family.

And yes, change that taught me to pay the bills and successfully cook meals that don’t involve a man named Chef Boyardee.

I’d like to say my 2010 move from Georgia to California was because I intentionally wanted to be as dramatic as possible. To drive as humanly far away while still remaining within the confines of the Great 48. Turns out I just made the right friend at the right time in the right place, and thus California entered my story.

But change is more than locations. Change is more than making different friends or fastening shiny new license plates.

Change is more than time zones.

Change is waking up today and doing something different from what you did yesterday. Something inherently opposed to the actions you acted, the thoughts you thought.

Beliefs you believed.

Regarding my cross-country move, change involved releasing the lie my story was purposeless – my life, directionless. Change involved accumulating, embracing courage. Massive amounts of courage.

Change meant deeply depending on my faith for the first time. Depending on hope. Depending on love. And the hardest of those is love.

This change ultimately brought me into purpose and community and belonging unlike ever before. Drastic change from my previous twenty-three years of living and breathing and assuming irrelevance.

Drastic change that just so happened to occur three time zones over from all I’d ever known.


COMMENT: Not all of us have moved across the country, but every one of us can relate to being changed. When have you had a similar experience in your life and how did it change you? 

Don’t forget to check out more great words from Tom on his blog