Two years, 68 flights, 54 cities, 19 countries, 17 buses, and 14 trains later, packing up my life every few weeks has taken its toll and it's time to feng shui, hygge, and nest the shit out of my new apartment in Denver. That doesn't mean I'm putting away my passport forever though! There are still plenty of adventures planned and tickets purchased, they're just round trip now instead of one-way. I'm still freelancing and taking full advantage of the flexibility working remote gives me, just with more intention. It's time to refocus on myself and the people and things that are important to me, while building some epic plans for the future. So until the next flight, here's some self-reflection on what the past two years have taught me:
It’s always worth it to say “yes”. Yes to that last minute flight. Yes to that cute guy. Yes to jumping out of planes and off of boats. Yes to invites from strangers (as long as they aren’t creepy). Yes to changed plans. Yes to things that scare you. Yes to new adventures. In the past two years, I have never regretted a time I’ve said yes. I’ve made some incredible friends and lost some too, fell in love and had my heart broken, did things I never thought I could or would do, challenged myself, pushed my boundaries, and left my comfort zone. It may not have always worked out perfectly or how I hoped, but I always learned something – about myself, about other people, or about the world. And I wouldn’t change any of it. Each of those moments have helped shape my goals, dreams, and plans in one way or another. Without those moments, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, sitting here writing this. And I think I’m pretty awesome (most days), which is really all that matters.
Sometimes you outgrow people – and that’s ok. Whether you’ve known someone for 2 years or 20, it’s human nature to constantly evolve, learn, and grow and it’s unrealistic to think that our relationships with others can or will stay the same throughout these changes. Think about it – are you the same person you were at 22 as you were at 26? At 26 as you were at 30? The answer is most likely no and if you’re not the same, then others likely aren’t either. Or maybe the issue is that you've changed and they haven't. Sometimes these changes happen in tandem, but more often they happen separately, especially if life takes you to different corners of the state, country, or world. As we experience these changes, our opinions and values shift and no longer necessarily align with the people we once connected with. Sometimes these dynamic changes challenge you to think outside the box and beyond what you know, providing the opportunity for a new perspective. But sometimes they cause tension, friction, and can lead to more confrontations than productive discussions. If it’s the latter, then it's ok to question how the relationship serves you or if it’s run its course. And if it has run its course, then it’s ok to walk away from people who no longer play a healthy or beneficial role in your life. Shout out to Lauren Paul for that bit of advice, everyone should listen to her episode on the Unspoken podcast.
But sometimes your bond grows stronger. Experiences help shape who you are and shared experiences are the perfect catalyst to guide relationships deeper than just superficial encounters or daily routine. 30+ hours in transit isn’t easy under the best of circumstances – you’re inevitably tired, cranky, and every muscle in your body probably aches. You’ve likely skipped one or more meals and the 'hanger' has started to set in. There will undoubtedly be at least one crying baby or child kicking your seat; one of you might get sick from some bad fish or too many edibles; maybe your luggage got lost during a transfer or you missed a connecting flight; or maybe one of you broke your knee cap because you slipped on some rotting fruit and now you're stuck waiting for surgery at the hospital, instead of getting mezcal-drunk and dancing the night away (yes, all of these have happened). Being forced to handle these situations brings out a person's true character, when they’re at their most frustrated and vulnerable, and can bring two people closer if going through it together. Sharing similar but separate experiences can also help form deeper bonds with others. Deciding to travel solo isn’t easy and the mental, emotional, and physical challenges that come with it will not only change you, but how you view the world, good or bad. It can be difficult to understand for someone who doesn't know what it’s like to be completely lost in a foreign city without any understanding of the local language, or be unexpectedly denied your boarding pass because of a required vaccination, or even something as simple as having the confidence to sit at a bar alone. But those people who did take the leap not only understand the struggles, but also appreciate the value of those surprisingly wonderful moments; when the kindness (or pity) of strangers means a waived airline fee, or sitting alone at that bar ends in an invite to all-day boat party. But it’s not all about travel either. Sometimes it’s the shared experience of heartbreak, of loss and grief and mourning, that can bring people closer together. It’s a friend you haven’t seen in 5 years flying cross-country to spend the weekend with you when you’re feeling your lowest. Or daily check-ins, words of encouragement, and screenshots of quotes to remind you how strong you are. And while neither of you would ever wish this for the other, you’re infinitely grateful that you don’t have to go through it alone. Whether its reconnecting with friends from high school, an old roommate or coworker, or that awesome feeling when you “click” with someone new, a shared experience has the ability to transform relationships and strengthen bonds.
It’s ok to be vulnerable. For some reason, our society has placed a negative connotation around the concept of vulnerability, making us shrink away and treat it like a weakness. But vulnerability is in fact the exact opposite; it’s the most accurate way to measure courage (shout out to Brene Brown), because what’s scarier than having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome? Vulnerability is saying I love you first, it’s trusting that someone won’t hurt or use you, it’s taking a risk on uncertainty, and it’s having faith – in yourself, in others, in whatever god you believe in – without any sort of guarantee. Vulnerability is not running away when things get hard or staying because they’re easy, it’s not burying your emotions, it’s not rational or calculated, and it’s not playing it safe. Vulnerability is brutal honesty and it’s fucking scary – but it’s better than getting to the end of your life and wondering what opportunities, connections, or relationships you missed because you were too scared to be all in.
Constant travel isn’t sustainable. As someone who has spent the past two years living out of a 50L duffel bag, it’s exhausting. The initial momentum that kept things exciting in the first 6-12 months starts to feel draining. You find yourself slowing down, spending more time in fewer places, and wondering why you tried to squeeze in so many plans. While I was lucky enough to meet some really awesome people and form some really tight bonds, the ratio of genuine connections to superficial is deeply skewed. Even though I fully enjoy my alone time, you start to miss being able to text your friend a last-minute invite to happy hour or even just have an authentic conversation without running through the usual list of shallow backpacker questions – where have you been, where are you going, how long have you been traveling for – that lack any real substance. Constantly being on the move also prevents you from truly being present. You’re continuously looking towards the future – your next destination, where you’ll sleep, how you’ll get there – while also reminiscing about where you just left – what’s that guy doing now, did you leave too soon, is this new place going to live up to the hype or will you hate it? All of these distractions form a constant stream of thought that can keep you from appreciating the current moment and being completely present.
I’m incredibly lucky. I’m fully aware of how fortunate I am to be where I’m at today – from the things I’ve been #blessed enough to experience, to all the places I’ve seen and people I’ve met, and to have done it all while achieving financial stability and becoming completely debt-free. None of the above came without risk, struggle, stress, or moments of doubt, however. It definitely wasn’t always easy and it’s important to remember that social media is only a highlight reel, not the full picture. I’ve busted my ass to get where I am today and have proven to myself that anything is possible with enough determination, passion, and strength. But I’m not lucky because of my experiences or achievements, I’m lucky because of every bullet point listed above. I’m lucky because none of the things I’ve done or accomplished over the past two years would have been possible without the incredible support of the people I love, friends and family, both the one I was born into and the one I’ve chosen to surround myself with. I’m lucky because I’m now able to fully appreciate what having a “home” means and am lucky enough to be able to create one for myself. I’m lucky because I’m not afraid to show up or say “yes,” because I’m lucky enough to know that what's on the other side is always worth it.