No Matter Where I Am - Julie Zukof The 5 Percent Club

I was tired of having a bad year. It had been about five of them. A serious break-up. Getting burglarized and moving. A toxic relationship. My grandfather passing. My grandma passing. Feeling unfulfilled in my job. Another breakup.

I tried to escape it. Or what people call “going through a transition.”

And I needed to figure it out. I started with a list of what I wanted to accomplish.


There’s nothing like deep, profound loss to make you realize the importance of creating purpose in your life.

I took a four-month sabbatical alone to Central and South America. I mean I say this like it was easy….it wasn’t. I gave notice, I slept on a friends couch for 2 months because I had given up my apartment. I literally got rid of most things I owned. I read travel books and ‘The Alchemist’. I was confused and scared.

I departed with a backpack and a one-way ticket to Guatemala until they made me choose a random return flight before they let me through the gate.

I traveled Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, & Colombia.

I took an intensive Spanish course.

I stayed in $7/night hostels.

My monthly budget all-in was $1,500.

I got bed bugs (twice).

I was scared, and felt lonely.

I also felt more fulfilled than ever.

And when I felt just so lonely (two weeks in) that I was about to give up, a few special Israeli’s lifted me and made me believe I could keep going.

I loved, I laughed, I cried.

I made best friends.

I surfed in three different countries.

I climbed Macho Picchu with my brother.

I slept on a hammock, on an island, in Colombia, with no electricity.

I stayed on Lake Titicaca under seven blankets spooned by hot water bottles. I sledded down an active volcano in Nicaragua.

I tried to overcome my fear of scuba diving in Honduras. I failed.

I learned Spanish. And Hebrew.

I went on a seven hour hike in the rain.

I returned wanting to move to Israel. So I did, nine months later. And for six months, I had another life-changing experience being completely out of what’s comfortable. I signed up for Hebrew class, got an apartment, joined a triathlon team, got a job, made friends, and really felt at home. I broke my arm racing, and was there for a war, but nothing was stopping my happiness. Until I was brought back to New York suddenly by the news that my grandma’s cancer had progressed. And two extremely difficult months later she passed. This could have spurred a spiral, another bad year, and a series of sadness. It was an extremely sad, paralyzing time for my family for many, many, many, months. I was tired, exhausted, of the flashbacks of having a bad year.


I wanted to have a good year already.

And with that decision came release and happiness, and something I knew she would have wanted for me. I made vision boards, I spent time with happy inspiring people, I realized happiness was a choice, a mindset, an outlook.  I realized how important vision is and that today is your life and to live it. I found professional fulfillment in consulting, building fitness, fashion and lifestyle brands. I created a home that I loved. I spent time with family and friends, doing things that made me happy. I got a dog. I met an amazing man. And I still travel. People ask me “are you here now or are you leaving again?”

They mean physically of course, but when you are living on autopilot, no one is really ever “here”.  It’s when you are living your happiest most passionate life that you are “here” – no matter where you are.


  • beecoming

    What a great example of how to transform a life from bad to brilliant! Kudos to you! Thanks for sharing! (RR’s friend and colleague).

  • Page Powell

    Love this! It’s a great reminder to choose to live happy. Thanks Julie!

  • Gina Soloperto

    Brilliant, Julie. Thank you for sharing!

  • Adi Tamir

    Wow Julie, I didn’t know a lot of that. I am with you 100% – you must be passionate to live! It gets harder with age and more commitments but as long as you are aware of the need for keeping up the energy, the excitement, the wanting to feel and experience new things, you will always “be here”. You can say that Israel is one of those places where there is always passion, energy and renewed purpose all the time. I guess the inspiration came to you from being there. Keep up the Energy!!

  • Charlie Aughenbaugh

    That’s beautiful Julie, your courage is inspiring.

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95% of life is spent on autopilot.

Then there’s the other 5%.