[flashback early May 2014]
BeepBeep, BeepBeep. A text message.
I feel groggy from a night of turbulent dreams, yet awake enough to move my body. I take a look at my phone. It’s a message from my mom:
“Better regret the things that have gone wrong than the things you haven’t done at all! ☺ xxxlvu”.
I immediately recognise the reference to our conversation three days earlier. I carefully opted that I might want to leave the country for a while to travel around.
I said that one of the things I still want to do in my life is to travel for a while by myself.
She immediately embraced the idea: “You were never meant to live an average life. You wouldn’t be happy that way.” Her words sounded a lot more convincing than the way I felt.
A couple of years back, when I wasn’t sure what direction to take in my life, I went to India for half a year. I think she was more terrified about the whole thing than she admitted to me back then. I just turned 18 and was barely out of high school. Everything turned out for the best though and I came back as a stronger person. I think this past experience made her able to respond to my current longing for travel in the open way that she did.
[Flashback mid-May 2014]
I’m in a Serbian restaurant, explaining to Joran one of the many things that is holding me back to travel. “I can’t just leave M. right now, given the circumstances.” He replies: “Might be, but I don’t think that’s the real reason you’re not travelling.” He is right. He knows me too well.
At that moment I see clearer than ever that the only one holding me back in following my dreams is me.
The thing is, I would love to travel for a while by myself. I have lived abroad for a couple of months before, but mostly on one set location. I have travelled by myself, but usually just for a couple of days. The adventure that comes from travelling alone speaks to me. It seems like a valuable experience that I would love to have. No one to rely on, no one to be there when you feel alone, no one making you feel more at ease, no one to make your decisions of where to go and what to see. It’s something that seems scary yet delicious at the same time, something brave and beautiful. Something that will help me grow into a more mature woman.
In my preparations to lecture in Denmark, I was talking to Adam about what assignments to give his students to help them be creative, playful, and follow their dreams. One option would be to let them write a bucket list, let them pick one item they want to accomplish first, let them write down the first ten steps to take, and make them do the first step by tomorrow. The idea inspired me to write down my own bucket list as well. I was trying to inspire others to follow their dreams, but was I truly following mine? Which of my dreams was I actively working towards? How can I teach this to others if I don’t even follow my own advice?
[flashback June 2014]
Another day, another conversation. I am talking to my friend, drinking a beer in the first summery weather. She says: “Sometimes people get trapped in their own securities.” She is so right. Although I don’t have many securities at this point in my life, I do have some. I hang on to the idea that at least I am working towards my future, with the projects I’m my investing time in. I don’t know where it will lead me, but at least I know I am using my time working towards my ambitions. Leaving that behind to embark on a YOLO-adventure, spend my savings and come back without any progress on where my life is going just seems like the irresponsible thing to do. But my friend is right. I perceive my time working on my ambitions as my ‘security’ and it’s holding me back to live my life the way I would most want to. There might be space for both, but right now I know I being terribly harsh on myself is part of my everyday struggle. Even though I don’t have a regular job, I wake up in time every day to work towards my goals. That would be a good thing, if only I wouldn’t be so constantly disappointed in myself for not accomplishing those goals faster.
They say that there are three things you need to travel: time, money and energy. When you are young you have the time and energy, but usually not the money. When you have a job you have money and energy, but not the time. When you are old, you have the time and money, but not the energy. It’s called the travel paradox.
I have the time to travel. I have the energy to travel. I say I don’t have the money to travel. But in fact I do have some savings left that I could use to do so. So far that money has been off-limits: I don’t touch my savings because without it, what safety have I got left?
That non-negotiable attitude towards my savings has changed. It has been replaced by a new, nagging, feeling: if not now, when? When again in my life will I have no children to take care of, no expensive mortgage to pay every month, no job that requires me to check in every day?
If not now, when will I start living my dreams? There will always be things that scare me, always be things that will hold me back, always reasons why it would be the ‘less responsible’ thing to do.
But that’s not the life I want. I want an abundant life. I want a life full of adventure, of exotic travels, meeting new people, following my dreams, taking risks.
My life is worth more than the world tells me. Nobody can keep me from creating beautiful things and living courageous adventures. I refuse to give up my dreams just because this world tells me I need certain securities to be a worthy member of society. A career doesn’t define you. I am worthy, not because of what I do or have, but because I am me.
Experiences shape who you are. So I want to make sure I choose the experiences that will help me to develop into the person I want to be.
I read my mom’s text message again. I think of what Joran told me earlier: “I think you already decided this is what you want to do, you just need to get in terms with it.” I feel uneasy to admit it to myself, but I know, I have decided. I’m gonna do this.
[flashback September 2014]
The decision: 1. Leave soon, but potentially not be there when M. passes away, or 2. Wait until the beginning of next year and postpone my travel plans for a couple of months, but be there till the end.
In three and a half weeks time I will leave to travel around Asia for about three months. I’m gonna travel through Cambodia, Laos, China and Nepal.
I’m excited, thrilled and terrified.
One moment I think backpacking by myself will bring me adventures beyond my wildest dreams and help me grow in ways I can’t imagine. The next moment I am certain that this trip is the worst idea I’ve ever had.
I have many fears and they are very real. But I also know I don’t want my insecurities to limit me to live life fully.
In my mixture of feelings, I do feel blessed.
I feel blessed with a mom who encourages me to follow my dreams even though the very thought probably still mortifies her. I feel blessed with a boyfriend who makes room for my desires, hugs the fear out of me, and will join me in my last 2 weeks of my adventure. I feel blessed by the sum of meaningful moments that have contributed to my decision and process, but which are too plentiful to list in this one post. feel blessed by all the people who love and support me in everything I do, no matter how crazy my next plan is.
I feel blessed by the amazing opportunity that lies before me.
I hope you’ll be part of my new adventure…
[image source 1, 2 & 3: Death to the Stock Photo]