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How Psychedelics Helped Me Travel the World

A personal tale of microdosing and self-discovery

JJ Pursell

I won’t sugarcoat it. I’d definitely hit a rut in my life. I was on autopilot with my work and moving through the necessary day-to-day motions of my life. I regularly created to-do lists that I’d convinced myself were priorities but upon further reflection, were just tasks to keep me busy. I was an expert at filling my time, most likely to avoid acknowledging what was missing. I was also really good at creating the list, not doing what was on the list and then berating myself for not having completed it. The truth? I’d fallen off track with myself.

Until we realize it, there is a funny thing that can happen as we move through life. I compare it to being programmed. For me, it was the monotony of my life that really got to me. Get up, brush teeth, maybe eat some toast, hustle to work, come home, eat some dinner, have a little free time and go to bed. Only to get up and do it again. I perpetually wondered, “Is this it?” What I was feeling was a combination of depression, frustration and grief. And despite what appeared as a moderately successful life, I was deeply unfulfilled. Because of this, I started to microdose. 

How I Started Microdosing

In 2020, the state of Oregon where I reside, passed Measure 109. Measure 109 proposed the use of psilocybin for therapeutic use. I got involved in witnessing the build-out of the proposal and as a result, was heavily invested in its future success. As a writer, doctor and researcher, I submerged myself in all things psychedelic. At one point I came across a little book called A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, a book by Ayelet Waldman. I found Ayelet’s experience easy to relate to. 

I’ll admit I had the advantage of having a familiarity with psychedelics before I began to microdose. As a teen, they were an outlet to release and better understand my pent-up emotions. They created a connection to myself, the world and others that many of us teenagers desperately needed. Because of these experiences, I’ve continued to use them as a healing tool. But it wasn’t until much later that I discovered microdosing. Microdosing can be described in many different ways but I think of it as the shifting of consciousness just enough to turn off the autopilot of life. As long as you remain in the sweet spot there is no psychoactive experience but there is a greater ease of awareness. 

I began with the classic Fadiman protocol, continuing for 32 weeks. James Fadiman is considered the Grandfather of microdosing and has been collecting citizen science on its effects for decades. You don’t have to look too far down the microdosing rabbit hole to discover him and his work. The protocol goes like this: 

  • DAY 1: First microdosing day
  • DAY 2: Transition day (no dosing)
  • DAY 3: Normal day (no dosing)
  • DAY 4: Second microdosing day
  • CYCLE: Continue this cycle for four to eight weeks
  • RESET: Follow this cycle with two to four weeks of rest

Albeit subtly, this new addition to my routine shifted me. I downshifted out of moving through the motions and into a gear of presence that I had been missing. When we are in the daily grind, we barely look up, much less notice the signs leading us the right way. Microdosing did that for me. 

The Benefits of Microdosing, For Me

With microdosing, I began to connect the dots between what makes me happy and what does not. By moving toward the former and away from the latter, my life shifted. For me, traveling and immersing myself in different places and cultures has always fed my soul. But the more responsibilities I took on as a “grown-up,” the further I moved away from that. So I moved toward the idea of taking a trip. A big trip. I bought a HUGE wall map of the world and began to look at it every day while drinking my tea. What would it be like to work remotely and travel for a year? That was the first thought. And along with it was the string of insecurities and fears of why it could not happen. Travel can excite, frighten, trigger and calm you all at once and at different moments. Just like essayist Pico Iyer says, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves.” While microdosing had opened that pivotal door, I knew, for me, the trip I envisioned would help keep it open. 

My desire continued to grow and it became evident that if I didn’t follow this instinct I would return right back to where I started. Microdosing can only do so much. If you aren’t willing to address the obstacles that microdosing potentially shows you, then you most likely will remain stuck. My fear of that happening outgrew the fear of making the trip a reality. This led to real conversations about expenses, work, leaving my 83-year-old mom for a year, what to do with my home, finding proper care for my beloved dog and 1000 other details and feelings that you must tease out with such an undertaking. The microdosing supported the momentum and with surprising clarity. Realistically processing these concerns was not easy and often led to doubt, tears and guilt. But in moving forward I discovered what I needed, what was important in my life and what I was holding onto that was holding me back. It was as if the microdosing cleared away all of the automatic programming in my head and opened a path to my heart. As long as I held onto that, I felt safe. 

How Long Does Microdosing Last? 

My microdose regime shifted over time. I realized I didn’t need to microdose every 3 days. For me, the sweet spot was initially every 4-5 days. After a period of time, I became keenly aware when the background noise from my mind was turning up. This became my indicator and I’d microdose for a week or two. As a writer and artist, I particularly found microdosing to be supportive in the creative space, providing me access to release authenticity in my work. 

So, here I am, writing from Athens, Greece, almost nine months later. The noise is quieter away from home. I feel like I’ve stretched, metaphorically. I laugh more with the world and at times, at myself. Through microdosing, I’ve been able to choose to move away from the status quo and toward who I really am. You don’t have to microdose and travel the world, but isn’t life too short not to?  

Dr. JJ Pursell is a compassionate leader who has dedicated her life to helping others. She is a writer, entrepreneur, advocate, and ND physician that specializes in plant medicine. Fueled with good tea and world travel, she strives to connect communities and encourages us to find the best in others. 

Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash


Read More: How to Set Intentions for Microdosing

Read More: This is a Mom on Ketamine

Listen: The Power of Psychedelic Retreats With Neil Markey

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