It has been a few days since I arrived back to the States, and it is time for some reflection. What did I gain from my ten months of traveling? Was it just a fun time of visiting places, doing new things, making new friends? Or did I get something more, something that will forever change how I live my life?
Before I left for China last July, the first country of 22 I would visit over the next ten months, I had grand hopes for how this trip would change me. I knew that my perspective on how I should live my life wasn’t making me happy. But I had no idea how to change this perspective.
I hoped that going out into the world on my own, without the influences from American society, without the pressures of having a successful, high-paying career, without anyone but me telling me what I should do each day and how I should do it, I would discover what it is I really want to do with my life.
The thing about experiencing a change in your outlook on life is that you don’t really realize it as it’s happening. My dad asked me shortly after I got back if I had any revelations while on my trip. I thought and thought, but I couldn’t think of any big revelation I had that had brought about a huge change in me.
And yet, I feel like an entirely different person.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still me. And I still love the same things. (Unfortunately, a year without material things didn’t make me less materialistic. It just made me really miss my stilettos, my skinny jeans, my Chanel, and my Civic. But I also appreciate them much more now.)
When I left, my life seemed like a narrow tunnel that I had to follow to reach some obscured happiness way in the future. I would (try to) constantly move forward in my career, working myself up the corporate ladder to some level of success that was undefined. I would (try to) find a good husband, buy a nice house, have some kids. I would take vacations when I could get away from work. I would see my family on the major holidays.
It would be a great life, an enviable life. But it just wouldn’t make me happy.
Somehow, somewhere between shrieking over leopards in the African savannah, flinging myself off a one hundred meter bridge with just a bouncy cord connecting me to solid ground, having confusing conversations in Spanish that sounded to me like gibberish, and scaling volcanoes and ancient mountain trails, I let go of the constraints that were forming a tunnel around my life.
Now the world seems like a place with endless possibilities. There are so many fun, exciting, fulfilling things to do, and I have an entire lifetime to do them in.
We humans are always confining our lives with what we think we should do, never thinking about what we want to do or what we could do if we only tried. The biggest gift this trip has given me is the realization that the only thing that was stopping me before from doing what I wanted to do and being happy with my life – was me.
What would you do if you could do anything you wanted?