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How Reading Changed My Life: My Story

Last Updated on August 18, 2023 by Louisa

Hello! I’m Louisa, the founder, editor, and head honcho of this website. Thanks for stopping by.

head shot of Louisa

So, you’re probably wondering who am I and what is Epic Book Society.

Well, I’m like you. I’m a bibliophile, a bookworm, a voracious reader, and all the other adjectives people use to describe how much they love books.

But books have been more than just a love for me, they have changed my life.

Not only have they allowed me to become a better person, seek new adventures, and explore more about this world than I ever could have imagined.

I’m not just a reader – I’m also a teacher, a writer, an SEO guru (not my official title, but it best describes what I do for a living), and a digital nomad.

In this guide, I am opening up about how reading changed my life.

How Reading Changed My Life

I studied BA Hons Journalism at the University for the Creative Arts. Yes, I did go to art school and no I cannot draw.

After gradutating, I spent several years working in journalism, public relations, content marketing and SEO editing, before I landed a position at a marketing agency.

And that is where my life changed…

My Story

The alarm blares at 6.00 am, then 6.30. am, and then 7.00 am. Before you know it, you have only half an hour to get to the office and you’re still in bed.

Sound familiar? I would wager that everyone has a day like this at least once in their life.

The problem for me was that I couldn’t afford to have days like this. After about a year of working for a marketing agency, I was made a company director and it was my job to keep the business operating like a well-oiled machine.

Sadly, not a job one can do from their bed.

I knew what was awaiting me in that office; a phone that was always ringing, emails that wouldn’t stop pouring in, and an office rivalry that was like scenes from a reality TV show. 

Jeez, Karen, we know you stole Lisa’s yogurt, just buy her a new one so we can stop hearing about it.

Running a business sucks.

I was 25 at the time and had no clue how to run a business. It was presented to me as a once-in-a-life-time opportunity – and it was.

But the truth about being at the top that no one ever tells you about the downsides.

I was told all manner of positive things about the position. 

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“You’ll earn so much more – you can save for a house.”

“You’re in charge, so you can make all the decisions.”

These were all the perks. No one said there would be cons.

The reality of being in charge was all too much. It took me a full year before I realized I was too young and naive to be running a business at 25. 

I had no idea how to settle arguments, I didn’t feel confident making decisions without a second opinion, I nearly always forgot to order paper, and still to this day, I have no idea what VAT is (the accountant knew and that was enough for me). 

And on this day when my alarm kept going off, and I kept ignoring it, I eventually called in sick.

I needed a “mental health day.”

This is a concept I strongly believe should be constituted as an official sick day.

It should be normalized that people can take time off to nurture their mental health.

But that’s another story.

On this mental health day, I remember getting out of bed at 11.00 am, sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea, and feeling my heart beating out of my chest.

My gut was in knots because I felt so guilty for not showing up at the office.

I kept telling myself they would be fine without me, but anxiety is not so easily defeated.

How a book changed my life…

As I sat there having a semi-panic attack, my eyes glanced over my bookshelf.

It had been a long time since I had read anything because I was always so tired, but since I had a spare moment of the day off, maybe today was the day I got back into the habit of reading.

As I poured my eyes over my collection, I spotted a book I read when I was 16 and absolutely loved. It was called The Beach by Alex Garland, which was, in my humble opinion, ruined when turned into a motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Not only did this movie cause the mass over tourism of the idyllic Maya Bay in Thailand, but it was inaccurate to the book. Where the heck was Jed?! 

But I loved the book. I remember reading it and feeling an urge to be like the main character, Richard. It even inspired me to take a gap year with the intention to travel but was too scared to go alone.

Richard was a carefree backpacker with an adventurous spirit. He meets a Scottish guy in a hostel in Bangkok, who tells him of this ethereal-looking beach no one has heard of. 

If he gets there, he can live off the grid with a remote community of people who also found the beach.

What an adventure. How I wish I could find my own beach and live off the grid!

A light bulb went on upstairs. 

What am I doing?

I hate my job. I realized then and there that while it might be the opportunity of a lifetime, it didn’t feel like an opportunity, more of a burden

It brought me a lot of money, but it didn’t bring me happiness. 

Maybe there are people out there who are career people, who get a kick out of the stress, who love the responsibility – but that’s not me.

I realized then what I needed to do.

I got out of bed at 11.00 am that day, and by 11.30 am I had already quit.

“I’m going to be like Richard,” I said. That will be my purpose.

The Next Day…

When I went into the office the next day, I was incredibly nervous about how my colleagues would react.

Thankfully, they were supportive. They told me they were sad that I was leaving but wished me luck. 

What a relief.

They would be fine without me.

The guilt I felt yesterday was irrational and unwarranted. How many more fits of anxiety did I have over the past year because of this job that wasn’t needed?

I felt like a weight had been lifted. 

Within less than 24 hours of me handing in my resignation, the owner had found a replacement.

I knew there and then that I had made the right decision.

“You’ll never get this opportunity again.” 

“That’s such a risk.” 

“But you’re alone, aren’t you afraid? The world is a dangerous place for a woman.”

These comments may have been true, and also meant to derail my plans and guilt trick me into staying, but I wasn’t going to let them.

I decided to turn these negative comments into positives. I was going to prove them all wrong.

I won’t lie, I did panic for a good five minutes, but that was all I was going to let it.

I had already missed an opportunity to travel before, I wasn’t going to let it happen again.

So I may have to go alone, but I knew I couldn’t ask any of my friends to quit their jobs and do the same. 

The hardest part of becoming a solo female traveler is deciding to do it. Everything else comes easy.

From panicking to packing

After five minutes of panicking, I started to box up all my things. I booked a plane ticket for exactly a month’s time (because that was the notice I had to give).

I donated all my belongings to charity, sold my pottery wheel and my car, and was already living out of a backpack a week before my flight.

Materials can be replaced, but memories can’t.

It all happened very quickly.

Meanwhile, my friends, family, and colleagues were convinced it wasn’t really happening. I could tell they thought I was insane giving everything up. All because I read a book about an ethereal beach. It was even fictional.

But before they knew it, I was on a plane…

The first stop…

I decided my first stop would be Sabah in Borneo. I had always wanted to see Borneo and see orangutans in the wild.

It wasn’t exactly a beach, but that didn’t matter. For me, the purpose of traveling was to explore places that no one else had visited. I wanted to see places I had only ever seen in National Geographic Magazines.

I admit that I felt a little nervous on the plane. I was scared I wouldn’t meet people, that I would get lost, or run out of money (even though I had saved a substantial amount from my job at that point).

When I eventually did get to Borneo, I met other travelers in my hostel from all walks of life. Some were younger than me, some were older, some were on short breaks, and some were traveling for years. But we all had one thing in common – we all wanted an adventure.

I finally saw orangutans in the wild and realized I had made the right decision. Sure, I was “successful” before, but I never had a wow moment like I did when I saw orangutans.

I hiked my first mountain, Mount Kinabalu, and reached the summit on my 25th birthday.

I traveled to mysterious places in The Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and visited Japan and Taiwan where I was introduced to a culture so far removed from my own. 

I met a lot of cool (and sometimes crazy) people along the way, and never once felt like I was in danger as a solo female traveler.

When it was time to restock my bank account, I started teaching English in Hong Kong and realized I absolutely loved it. I spent three years teaching until a call for adventure beckoned me away again.

I journeyed to South America, to the rainforests of Brazil and the craggy snow-capped peaks of the Andes in Patagonia.

This is what life is really about. 

The adventure continues…

It’s been five years since my mental health day.

I didn’t really have an end date to all this when I left. I don’t think I, or anyone, expected me to leave for this long.

And the truth is, I have no intention of going back.

I may have given up the “opportunity of a lifetime” but I have better opportunities coming my way.

I realized how I let other people’s opinions dictate what I did back then. I would never have taken the job if I knew what was really in store for me. 

I used to be filled with anxiety over things I didn’t need to worry about. Things that were out of my control, even.

Since I started traveling, I’ve not felt any anxiety.

What travel has taught me is that no one else’s opinion matters but yours. You can get caught up in the rat race, and maybe you love getting that big sales win, but for me, the real opportunities are out there across the ocean.

Sure, you could earn a lot of money but what’s the point in having money if you have no time to spend it? 

Are you really successful if you hate what you’re successful at? What even is being successful? 

I say success is achieving fulfillment. That’s what travel gave to me. 

How reading has changed my mental attitude

Since picking up that copy of The Beach, my values have certainly changed my mental attitude, especially over the last five years when I started traveling full time.

My mindset has become more spiritual, a heck of a lot calmer, and even though my future is uncertain, I’m totally ok with that.

For many women, and men for that matter, traveling alone seems a scary and far away thought.

But this is just your mind conditioning you to stay where you’re comfortable.

If you take a leap of faith, book a plane ticket, and don’t look back. I can assure you that the best adventures are yet to come.

louisa mountain climbing
I always say, anything is possible if you have enthusiasm…

And the next day… Epic Book Society

I know that my story is unique, but I do feel that there are other people out there that feel a connection to literature in the same way that I do; or perhaps have read one particular book that has changed them forever.

I created Epic Book Society as a place where I can share book recommendations that will hopefully be inspiring or entertaining to others.

But I didn’t want to just create a book blog.

I wanted to create a place where book lovers can connect with one another. Where we can share recommendations for books to read and share our thoughts on particular novels. Like an online book club, but more.

The society is open to everyone – I do not discriminate against anyone by gender, race, age, or otherwise.

If you love books, then you meet the only requirement to become a member of the elite Facebook group!

Since the beginning, Epic Book Society has been featured in many reputable news outlets, including Yahoo!, Spy, Go Banking Rates, Times of Israel, Apartment Therapy, Metro UK, The Career Gappers and more…

You can also read more about how reading changed my life in an interview I did with Authority Magazine.

Headshot of Louisa

About Louisa Smith

Editor/Founder - Epic Book Society

Louisa is the Founder, Editor, and Head Honcho of Epic Book Society. She was born and raised in the United Kingdom and graduated from the University for the Creative Arts with a degree in Journalism. Louisa began her writing career at the age of 7 when her poetry was published in an anthology of poems to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee. Upon graduating university, she spent several years working as a journalist writing about books before transitioning to become a Primary School Teacher. Louisa loves all genres of books, but her favorites are Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy, and Young Adult Fiction. Read more Louisa's story here.

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