When you take a long trip around the planet, there's a lot of pressure to learn and grow and have this incredible self-actualizing experience, only to return as a fundamentally changed human being. I scoffed a bit, certain that I knew, definitely, who I was, and that I wasn't going on some soul-searching mission.
And that was true. But learning to be alone - truly alone - without the comfort of work, or social obligations or romance, forced me to confront and reconcile with a lot:
- parts of my identity that I thought I wanted to bury or change
- my deepest fears and insecurities
- deeply rooted beliefs that I hadn't previously examined
Without distractions, I had to reckon with thoughts that I would ordinarily keep myself purposely too busy to acknowledge. And rather than running from that, I ran towards it: I forced myself to meditate more. To lay in bed and just be still. To completely disconnect from technology and even electricity at some points. Just me, myself and my thoughts.
And it was the most powerful thing I've ever done. It helped me to healthily experience with the full range of human emotion. To allow myself to feel fear, and anxiety, and deep, intense sadness and longing - and realize that feeling those things will not kill me, and so I shouldn't avoid them and miss out on opportunities for incredible growth. It allowed me to embrace parts of my personality that, after further inspection, I want to nourish and appreciate even more: the ability to find something to love in everything, honesty, authenticity and the appreciation of the "weirdness" in myself and others, ruthless ambitious and the desire to make an impact.
After spending an unprecedented amount of time vacationing, leisuring, and just sitting and walking around and thinking - after realizing that, if I wanted, I could spend most of my days on a beach, I realized a few things, wrapped around a core idea:
My goal in life is not to relax - it's to make an impact. It's work on projects that are meaningful for me. To be generous with material possessions, spirit and love. To connect fully with experiences, and to spend time with activities and practices and people that nourish my mind, body and spirit.
The past twelve months have been a whirlwind. Where did I go & what did I do?
I dedicated the first half of the year to learning and reading and absorbing as much as possible. I carved out time to sit and think and listen and feel and re-listen and take notes and process and experiment and listen more. To consolidate it all would be impossible, but there are a few things that really resonated with me:
1.) Better understanding and adopting new values
I'm not interesting in arguing about "Western" vs. "Eastern" values and "who's right" - everyone's philosophy offers something valuable and makes sense for their lives in the context of their culture, and I've enjoyed learning about and integrating new values that resonate with me, like:
2.) Finding internal stability and peace regardless of location and circumstance
3.) Fear is just a feeling - do things anyway. Courage is more important than confidence. In fact, courage begets more courage. Confidence comes as the result of doing something successfully, or realizing that everything would be okay. It's not necessary to feel confident before taking massive action.
4.) There is beauty in truly learning who you are without the influence of others. Who I am when I'm trying to meet the expectations of my family, or compromise with my significant other, or obligations to friends is different from who I am when I have no one to consider but myself. It's been incredible discover what choices I make when I'm the only person I have to answer to.
5.) It’s okay to feel both gratitude and ambition. Wanting more, and striving for more, despite having "a lot" or having accomplished a great deal is not a bad thing. And related: the best thinkers can hold seemingly opposing beliefs.
Looking Ahead to 2019: I want to focus on expansion, abundance and opportunity. What principles or practices will be my guiding lights?
People want to know where I'm calling home these days, and what my plans are for 2019. To be frank, I change my mind with the mind. Virtually all of my travel plans are subject to change, as I try to move on desire and intuition, but right now, the plan is:
Q1: Portugal, Spain and Northern Africa
Q2: Caribbean & Latin America OR Eastern Europe (Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria) or Thailand, India and Japan - Totally undecided but I will need to leave the Schengen Zone for 90 days
Q3: Italy, Greece and France
Q4: No idea - maybe Mexico?
I'm being intentional about slowing down my travel next year (in February, I literally went to a different country every week for five weeks - exhausting). As usual, I have ambitious learning and business goals, and grounding in one place for months at a time helps me to rebuild routines and consistency, on top of building a community and better understanding the culture. I have target growth goals for all of my businesses / projects, on top of:
- continuing to progress in grad school
- refining my use of four languages (Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian)
- becoming a certified Data Scientist
- enhancing my Positive Psychology Practitioner's toolkit
- publishing 100+ pieces (across writing and media) and finishing my first manuscript
I can't place the source, but there is an electric energy in the air right now. I'm excited about manifesting, intention-setting and doing the work with heroic consistency. I'm excited about the integration of stability, systems and routine in the midst of my travel-heavy lifestyle. I'm excited about the new locations, the art, the architecture, the culinary experiences, and the connections I'm anticipating. I'm excited to unwrap the gifts that the next twelve months will hold, and unlock new layers of learning.
I love the demarcation of new starts: full moons, new months, new weeks, and New Years, but it's never too early to start a new habit, so I've already started working on Q1 goals and testing new systems.
What growth or learnings are you looking forward to in the New Year? What systems are you relying on to get there?
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