I’ve had many people point out to me that they “can’t just hop on a plane and go heal their broken hearts in Italy, Greece or Peru. Who will watch the kids for God’s sake? Who will pay the mortgage?”
I hate the fact that I have been kind of tunnel-visioned as I globe-trotted away suggesting everyone do the same, without offering up an accessible approach to healing. REAL people with REAL life problems (wherever you are in the world), I see you and I hear you. This one’s for you.
There have been three constants in my life the last three years:
…and passport stamps.
Can’t have one without the other two, in my mind, it’s inevitable.
With in influx of love, I inevitably experienced loss and heartache. Love found me in an unexpected state, in a country that is quite literally as far away from home (California) as I could be (South Africa). Love scooped me up in its arms and held me down to the ground after a solid 10 months on the road alone. I think I needed it- the love- looking back, but I resented it at the time. It always has a weird way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it, or when you’re actively avoiding it like I was. When it happens, you can fight it all you want, but I think most of us have learned by now its a losing battle. You can’t help who you fall in love with, or where you do it.
Loss found me a year later and shook me to my core, pushed me over the edge and made me ask all the questions I’d been avoiding. Why am I here? Do I even want to be here at all? If I do want to be here, then how can make the most out of my life? How can be a source of light instead of dark? If this life is so short, then why am I not making it more meaningful? Why can’t I seem to properly express myself in a world of humans that seem to be just like me? There’s nothing like the rug being pulled out from under your feet, repeatedly, to give you a little perspective from the ground up.
READ: “F*%king Perfect” for more on that perspective thing.
Then there were all the passport stamps. In truth, they became the currency by which I’ve began to value my own life. Passport stamps, and long flights to faraway lands, carried me through years of self-discovery and internal work- work that I avoided all the years I lived at home in California. Three years ago, I had a job that I was married to, a boyfriend I wasn’t fully committed to and a body that was malnourished. It was all enough to keep anyone avoiding their real issues, and I did. I lied to myself and everyone else about the depth of the rut I was in, and just kept digging until I hit rock bottom and left it all behind with a backpack and a one-way ticket. I took the extreme, caution-less, route that many can’t or won’t take. I get that.
The last three years have been quite a wild ride (to say the freakin’ least) and I’ve learned a lot about the human condition in the process.
I’ve come to realize that the answers I was once searching for weren’t to be found in places, but in the process. And that the value of my travel experiences always came from the people, not the destination itself. It’s cliche, I know, but it’s true what they say: It really is about WHO is standing next to you, not WHERE you’re standing.
I’ve learned through a lot of tears and pain that LOSS is an integral part of living– it reminds us of the value of things, people, places…everything. You can only truly understand how much someone meant to you when they’re gone- and that lesson relates to experiences too. I’ve been in countries that didn’t feel very exciting at the time, then looking back I see that they were some of the most formative, fun and educational. Case in point? Bratislava, Slovakia. (I’d never even heard of it until I was in Vienna, Austria and decided to make a little detour en route to Budapest on the train, which ended up being one of my all time favorite travel days full of randomness.) I think about that day whenever I am home doing seemingly mundane things, next to people I love, and I consider the fact that I could be making memories without realizing it. You could be making a lifelong memory today, doing things you woke up not wanting to do.
I learned the difference between ME and my EGO.
I’ve realized that all those years ago, my ego set travel goals that my soul executed and took to the next level. Passport stamps weren’t just my new form of currency, they were a mark of my very existence- a gold star that I had kept on going when it felt like I had the weight of the world on my back.
I remember telling anyone who would listen three years ago that I reeeally wanted to fill up my passport with stamps and keep it as a memento. I didn’t fully appreciate and understand why I wanted those stamps in the first place (other than for bragging rights and to get the hell out of the life rut I was in). I set out to see a certain number of countries within the first year on the road, not realizing I was treating actual countries like bullet points on a list. Ridiculous, I know, but you’d surprised how many people travel this way.
When this all began back in 2015, I had no idea what I was in for (obviously). There’s just no way of predicting how a chapter of your life is going to unfold- that would ruin all the fun.
Ultimately what I’ve learned over the course of the last 3 years, 36 countries, 2 breakups, 1 death, a cancer scare and buckets of shed tears is this:
Life is beautiful AND chaotic, no matter where you are in the world.
You can be in Bali, or you can be in Michigan, dealing with the same painful issues. Maybe the underlying message of everything I’ve learned is that when you’re dealing with life’s ups and downs, if you put yourself in a state of openness or “seeker mode” as I like to call it, there’s a lot of light to be found, and if you can recognize the value of your own life from wherever you’re standing, you’re miles ahead of the average person who just exists without really living.
I didn’t just travel the world. I learned how to live more fully, and I could have learned that lesson at home had I ever taken the proper steps and put myself in the right circumstances. Joke’s on me, I guess, but I don’t regret a single thing.
So, Normal People with REAL lives who can’t run off to Spain, I hope you’re smarter than me and have learned all these lessons without all the flights and passport stamps. I hope you see the beauty in your life, and explore that space a little bit more everyday.
You don’t have to fly to Europe for all that (but it does help).
Are we connected on Instagram yet? I hope so!