Hello again! I’m back from my unintentional period of silence. My travel pace quickened, and I enjoyed every moment, in the moment. I didn’t even think to press pause and sit down to write, but now that I’m in Mexico City for 2 weeks (que lindo!!), I have more time to reflect and do just that. My trip is also coming to an end next month, and there is so much I want to say and share about my journey!
I recently hit 10 months of solo travel. 10 months! That is a long time, right?! When I set out on my trip, I didn’t have a return date, but I kind of assumed it would be around 6 months based on budget. I picked up some good habits early on (thanks, Hannah!) so I lived well under $30/day all in. Ultimately, I decided to go home in June for a variety of reasons, but I really don’t see my life abroad ending any time soon. I actually want to move to Mexico later this year…More on that as it unfolds. ; )
As I sit and reflect on my time from Ecuador to Mexico, I realize how much I’ve learned, and I want to share these tidbits. Maybe some of them will resonate with you. If not, that’s ok too. : )
1. Money isn’t everything
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this my entire life, but in the United States, we are given mixed messages. Money = life. Money = success. Money = happiness. That the people who say that money isn’t everything only say it because they don’t have money. But I do and I will, so it IS everything. But really? Once we’ve surpassed the basic levels of necessity and comfort, how much more do we really need to make us happy? I think we easily get caught up in what everyone else in our bubble is doing. It can feel difficult not to compete, especially once we’ve had a taste of it. Don’t get me wrong. I still love a fancy dinner, new shoes, and a glass of good wine every now and then, but that isn’t everything nor is it necessary every single day. I am still so very happy when I’m taking public transportation, chatting with the locals in foreign countries, and trying street food. I’m happy when I’m making new friends, journaling, or listening to a podcast. I am still happy when I’m not shopping at Nordstroms (my fave department store! #respect) or paying $50 for a sit-down dinner. As long as I am safe, comfortable with myself, and in good company, my heart is full. Now, I’m not saying the finer things in life aren’t worth enjoying. I’ve just realized that the more I used to fight for salary and status, the less directly it correlated to my happiness. I was very happy living a simple, bohemian lifestyle this past year. Let’s call it a shift in perspective.
2. Worrying about the future is pointless
I have a bit more anxiety than the average person, or at least before this trip I would say I did. Sometimes traveling alone can be scary. It’s definitely a little stressful figuring out logistics from place to place in a foreign country, and sometimes I would work myself up so much over something that hadn’t even happened yet. What was I worrying for? It’s so much nicer to do a little upfront planning, live in the moment, and then trust that everything will work out. I also stopped stressing over what seemed to be everyone else’s question…”What do I want to do next? What do I want to do with my life??” How about this. I want to do whatever will make me happy right now. I don’t know what that will be 1, 3, or 5 years from now, and I am OK with that. There is no need to worry. In a more practical sense, if you have a job and a family to support, of course you need to think about the future. I’m just saying, don’t kill yourself worrying about tomorrow. Do your part to plan and then trust in the process. As Gabby Bernstein would say, the Universe has your back. (Definitely read her book if you haven’t already!)
3. I can be happier with less
This kind of goes with the money isn’t everything point. I’ve been living out of a backpack, wearing the same clothing, rarely applying makeup, and hardly making a purchase outside of food, lodging, and transport. Am I sad that I missed the latest movie in theatres or didn’t buy those adorable flats? Nope. In fact, I’m hardly even thinking about those things because I am spending my time and money on things that matter to me even more right now…travel and experiences. I know that travel and cultural immersion fulfill me, so I am going to embrace this realization. The experiences and memories I’ve made will certainly last longer than a pair of new jeans. (I actually do need a new pair of jeans, though, so perhaps that was a bad example!) Also, think about the saying “less is more.” I’ve really found that to be true on my travels, and I’m not just talking about materialistic things. The less complication there is in life, the better. Keep friendships that matter, but don’t worry about overexerting yourself to please everyone. Slow down, and enjoy the simple things in life. A kiss from your lover. A giggle from your child. Whatever that means to you. Less stress and less drama leave room for more of the good things to enter your life.
4. Speaking the truth is liberating
When I first set out on this trip, I was really worried that people would ask me why I started traveling. Luckily idgaf what people think much anymore (another thing I’ve learned on this trip!) but in the beginning, I was afraid of looking like an Eat Pray Love cliche. “Why did I decide to travel? Well it was a chain reaction really. It first started with my divorce…and then that lead me to realize that I wasn’t happy in my job…so I thought, why am I continuing to do something that doesn’t make me happy? I SHOULD BE HAPPY! We all should…And now here I am! Ta da!” It turns out that sharing my story in one form or another actually allowed me to heal. At first it was scary, but once I realized that people weren’t there to judge me, and I could stop placing judgement on myself, I let it flow more freely. And it felt good.
5. I am not defined by my past
I spent a lot of time journaling and reflecting, and travel was like a form of therapy. Good news. I learned that the past does not define me. Nor does it define you. I think we can all learn from it, pick up the pieces, make a beautiful mosaic, and move on to make whatever we want out of this life. I am grateful that I had the time, resources, and opportunity to do this for myself because I really needed to get out of my head.
6. I need to live an unconventional life
I have met so many amazing people from around the world, and I find it fascinating to hear about their lives. No one lives the same life nor has the same dream. If you told me that I was going to fly home to San Diego in two weeks, move downtown, and work in a corporate 9-5 job, I wouldn’t get on the plane. That is not going to work for me right now, and I know it deep down in my soul. It took me a while to get to this realization since I’ve been programmed to think I need to behave and live in a certain way, but I’ve come to terms with what I want to do next, and it doesn’t involve a house, husband, kids, or heels. (Ok, maybe heels sometimes!) I don’t have the full picture of what it entails yet, but I prefer it that way. “The old Asia” would have had an issue with not being able to see a particular linear path in life. “The new Asia” (as my grad school friends have recently called me) is less uptight and way more fun! In short, I have learned to go with the flow. Now who has got tickets to Burning Man?
7. My intuition knows what’s up
This is a big one. Historically, I have had a hard time trusting my intuition. I would drown it out with rationalization and a busy schedule. But you know that feeling you get sometimes deep down inside, maybe in the pit of your stomach or in the tightness of your chest? The one that is screaming at you to do something different, but you just don’t want to hear it because change would be too hard? That, my dear friends, is your intuition waiting to be heard. I meditate now and I’m still learning how to respond to it, but I am on the right path towards making the right decisions for me now…not based on what I think I should be doing because other people are already doing it. I think this is also called becoming a grownup.
8. I can do it all by myself!
Yes I can! Sí, yo puedo! After spending nearly a decade in a relationship, I wasn’t exactly sure what it would be like or feel like to live a solo life. Guess what? It is liberating! I’ve learned that I can travel the world on my own and find happiness in myself and in my ever-changing surroundings. I can explore new places, make new friends, take a dance class, sing Reggaeton, swim in the ocean, survive crazy bus rides, you name it. I can make my own decisions and I am free to do whatever I want. Basically, I can run this town! (Cue music. I still heart Jay-Z. That much hasn’t changed.)
I’m sure I have learned so much more that I haven’t been able to articulate yet, but I think this is a great start, and I will be sure to share more insights as they come to me. (That list will also include practical things, like how to travel without a phone plan and what to do with the toilet paper in Latin America!)
Have you ever had a life-changing experience that caused you to think about life differently?