Travel changed my life.
The person I am today is dramatically different than who I was 5 years ago. I may not seem so different on the outside but inside I’ve changed completely.
I am content.
And that’s a very different feeling from being happy. Five years ago I’d say I was happy but I wondered why I couldn’t just be content with the status quo and routine like everyone else. I had everything that was supposed to make me happy. A boyfriend, great friends, a career that made more money than I could spend.
It wasn’t enough for me. I kept wondering if there was something more.
Five years ago today I jumped on a plane, with a one-way ticket to Mexico and no clue what I was going to do with my life.
Many people think this was a brave move, but really I felt like an animal backed into a corner. I was in the starring role of a life I didn’t want. Everything seemed great on the outside but my spirit was screaming to escape.
I feel guilty about sneering about my old life, one that others dream to have. But it wasn’t meant for me.
My life wasn’t really mine.
So I did the only thing I knew how, I ran.
It didn’t solve all the troubles in my life. I spent most of the first year crying. I hadn’t really cried before and I think I made up for it with 32 years of crying in Latin America. I cried for the relationship I left, cried because I should have left it sooner, cried for all the awesome things I was seeing and people I was meeting, cried for not doing it sooner.
I was wandering aimlessly through villages, cities and countries. Dramatic highs and lows, but always wondering when I’d find where I belonged. It was painful and exhilarating.
It was the first time I really felt alive.
I latched onto the nomadic lifestyle. I changed. I became more confident. More understanding. More emotional – yes still crying but not as often. It was liberating to just travel, meet new people and when I didn’t like how things were going I just moved on.
After two years of wandering travel started to lose its shine and I wanted more. I left to travel because I wanted to be inspired to change my life but I still didn’t know what I wanted it to be.
Where was my lightbulb moment? Shouldn’t it have come by now?
The longer I traveled the more frustrated I became. I burned out from travel I realized I couldn’t wander anymore. I needed more. I tried to move back home, keep a base and have a travel-centric life. But home was hard. I experienced post travel depression which is actually just flat out depression. I just felt torn between two worlds yet I belonged in neither.
I was pushing for an epiphany. Where was my place in the world?
I still had no idea.
The question that rattled me was “what the fuck am I doing with my life?” When would I know?
So I did the only thing I knew how, I ran again. Back to South America. Hoping that it would provide the illumination I needed.
And while it wasn’t an immediate solution, returning to a country I had already visited helped open my mind to new ways of thinking. This time I was able to relax. People had no expectations of me and so I let go of my own expectations. Instead of constantly wondering what I was doing next or where I was going I was just able to be in the moment.
Sounds kinda hippy dippy but it’s true.
Instead of discovering the meaning of life I discovered there’s no answer to that. The quest of really knowing what to do is futile. We all feel pressured to look like we have our shit together but really everyone feels some insecurity and self doubt, hoping to make the right decision.
I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I learned to stop pressuring myself to advance, to figure out life, to be something. I don’t know where I’ll be in five years. I’m not going to pretend that I do.
Without the pressure to have an epiphany I am able to be happy and content with life as it is. I can let go of the need to always be in control and not be afraid to be vulnerable.
And with this I was finally able to move from me to we. It took a long time to find Dave, I often joked that I was a spinster at 35 but I’m grateful for the time I spent wandering alone. I wouldn’t have been ready for him, for our relationship, five years ago.
Now I’m ready.
And so the last five years of travel taught me every tear I shed was part of me learning to let go of the need to control, the need to uphold expectations, the need to put a happy shiny face on for others when I was feeling dark.
I no longer search for that light bulb moment to discover my purpose in life. Instead of a lightbulb it’s more like the tide, it ebbs and flows but never stays the same.
I don’t regret any of the wandering. I ran away from my old life, and travel helped me find my new one.
Quote Credits: Lifehacker