How 5 Years of Travel Changed My Life

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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.

Ayngelina Brogan
2010 at the airport – wearing adventure clothing I foolishly thought I might use.

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.

regret the chances we did not take

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.

Carnaval in peru

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?

kim mance ayngelina brogan
Although its fun, the answer is not in happy hour.

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.

Finding Happiness

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.

Dave Mottershall Ayngelina Brogan

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

Join the Conversation

  1. A Cook Not Mad (Nat) says:

    Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it takes a while but eventually everything becomes clear. Speaking of hippy dippy … 🙂

  2. This was a great read, and so honest and inspiring! I especially love and resonate with the very last sentence.

  3. Imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t pack it in and take this chance 5 years ago? These roads can be very bumpy and long but I’m happy you have found a smooth road to travel on.

  4. I thought you were crazy when you set off on this adventure but I have witnessed the transformation and end result. Crazy isn’t so bad in the end.

  5. Will Castillo says:

    Thank you for sharing this Ayngelina. Very inspiring! Travel did the same thing for me too and I feel very blessed because of that. Keep up the amazing work!

  6. Congrats Ayngelina on 5 years of travel and all the discoveries along with it. Travel is one of the best conduits for internal learning and discovery of self and others – it has been said so many times in so many different ways but I firmly believe that travel helps those who seek it – for whatever reason – to get more out of life, to escape, to find out what direction you should go in life, you name it really!

  7. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Travel (or maybe really the time for introspection and freedom that comes with it) has taught me not to settle but to also be more flexible and open.

  8. Alana - Paper Planes says:

    I assumed that traveling and moving abroad would help me figure out what I was going to do with my life and it has in a way, but not with the clear direction or epiphany that I expected. I’m glad to hear someone else say they don’t know what they’re doing but are also content and feel like they’re moving the right direction!

  9. Congrats! I think change is the hardest thing we do, but it’s always worth it in the end! One of the things I like to think about that helps me when I’m worrying about my future and where it will all take me is to picture my life as a movie. If I were watching a movie, I wouldn’t want anyone to to tell me the ending, so why not look at my own life the same way?

  10. Congratulations on 5 years! And food or no food, I loved how honest you were in this post. Being content and at peace is not an easy place to get to. I’m so glad you were able reach that place!

  11. Shareba @ In Search Of Yummy-ness says:

    Thanks for sharing your story with us! Sometimes travel seems so glamorous, it’s interesting to see the flip side of it. And I totally get what you’re saying about the whole “what the fuck am I doing with my life?” question. I feel like I’m asking myself that question every week! I’m glad that things have settled down for you 🙂

  12. I LOVE this post. Your honesty is refreshing in a world full of ‘look how great travel is’ stories. I have always wanted to travel, and I did when I was younger, but never appreciated it or did anything meaningful with it. Now I regret my impetousness and i feel like if I travelled now I would do so much more with it.

    However, life happens, and you have taken all that’s happened to you and turned it into an incredibly positive and inspiring life and you keep inspiring others. So thank you for this post!

  13. I totally relate to the ‘running away’ aspect of travel, and of coming home too. It’s sometimes really hard to block out the inner monologue and just be happy. God on you for being honest with yourself!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think the challenge is that we perceive running away and being selfish as bad, but there’s a time and a place for everything.

  14. I think that what we need changes throughout our lives. For me at the moment, I need to do another long term trip so I am setting off in June for a year. My fiance isn’t joining me and although I will miss him dearly I think that travelling solo for a while before meeting with my friend a few months in will be good for me.

  15. Laurel @ Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel Blog says:

    It’s been so much fun seeing how your life has changed so much in the past 5 years (can’t believe it’s been that long) and watching your evolution. I’m glad you’re content. You’ve worked hard to get it and deserve it.

  16. For have been 5 years you reach your right path to choose your own desire or happiness i wish could to that. 🙂
    Its very Nice! Great Post! Another Interesting topic on this blog 🙂
    Keep it Great ! 😉

  17. Diana Edelman says:

    THIS is probably my most favorite thing you have ever written. I have never identified with a piece about five years of travel and reflections more than this piece. I like to think that I am just a little behind you in terms of where you are in life, but I am just so happy you are there. <3

  18. So much to love in this post, but I especially like what you said about being in the moment and not knowing what’s next. It’s hard for me to practice that, but I do try because having kids has forced me to slow down and just be in the moment with them. As you said it’s about being content, not happy.
    And congratulations on everything you’ve been through and accomplished these past 5 years. I’ve enjoyed following along 🙂

  19. Ashley Baxter says:

    Letting go of expectations is so hard but such a huge relief. This post really resonated with me and I thank you for sharing it.

  20. Claire @ Zigzag On Earth says:

    Thank you so much for writing this piece. It resonates a lot with me.
    I am currently seeing a coach and doing a lot of work on myself and this helped trigger a haha moment for me.
    Stop chasing the lightbulb moment when I will find out my ultimate purpose. But know what I enjoy and what is meaningful for me and intend to do that everyday while being present.

  21. Such a beautiful post. I think many travelers (and especially those who’ve chosen to remain nomadic, myself included) will relate to these sentiments. You start out with the idea that travel will reveal to you in some grand, dramatic way, exactly what it is you’re after. But it doesn’t…it unfolds slowly. Ebbs and flows, like you said 🙂 I’m happy you’ve found your happiness, that’s what’s most important, anyway!

  22. Congratulations for 5 years Great travelling! Its really amazing work..i really inspiring to read your post.
    Thanks for sharing this

  23. Paris Airport Taxi says:

    In my opinion, every individual should do what he or she wants to do so there is no chance left with us to regret the things we didn’t attempt to do. Every single moment of life teaches us something for the betterment. By the way nice post on your journey of 5 years and also your decision for exploring the world was not left fruitful as it makes to meet you the person Dave . Thanks for sharing it with us.

  24. I love this. I think a lot of travelers get this way, thinking, what the fuck am I doing? I know that I am a home-base kind of girl. I need travel, but I also need somewhere to put my books and know that the sheets are 100% clean haha. I didn’t know you before travel, but I knew you in the first year of travel and I can definitely say that I have watched you move into that place of contentment and the me to we transformation. I love it. I love you. And I miss you!

  25. Sounds like you went through a few phases. This is a real good read as I’ve taken a similar path with time hopefully it will work itself out.

  26. Eileen Reilly says:

    I think I always thought like I had to run away too but I have finally see that I can work with what I have and where I am. I love travel but it can burn you out. I am in the process of starting a new life and I feel more content too. I’m healthier and excited about each week. I’ve started a tour business in Toronto focussing on the east and west end of the city and taking photos of the participants (solo travellers, couples etc.) along the routes. So I am sharing in other peoples travels, using my past for research and history, enjoying the outdoors and focussing on my true love of photography. Thank you for the great article!

  27. Traveling for about 5 years, that would be so interesting and great. I am inspired to travel too after reading this one. I know every starting is not that easy but I know somehow, it will also change my life and the lifestyle I am living right now. This is seriously an inspiration. Looking forward to read more of your travel posts. Thanks for this one.

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