As the plane touched down in the states, all I could do was laugh. I had just returned from a 30-day venture through Southeast Asia and felt like I hadn’t seen a thing. Having planned a very “touristy” vacation full of beaches, cheap drinks and excursions, I felt like I had come home empty-handed.
Most everyone has those times in life when we feel lost and start to wonder – what is my purpose here? Where am I going? How do I get there? I call these transition periods. Some go through these gracefully, while others, not so much. Being the latter of the two, I’d like to share a few lessons I learned while transitioning through Thailand.
Few of the things that had happened during my trip were planned, but as I’ve come to realize – my transition period was exactly what I needed.
Lesson One: You can’t hide from yourself
No matter how many planes you hop or seas you cross, you cannot escape yourself. We have become masters of distraction, repression and avoidance; myself included. When I landed in Bangkok it was four days before I had a real conversation with anyone. My first contact was on a water taxi with two Delta pilots. That, my friends, is A LOT of time to be in your head, spinning thoughts about your future. As my journey continued I dared to go into those shadowy mental places I’d been afraid of, discovering my inner truth. Time alone is truly one of the biggest blessings of traveling solo.
Lesson Two: You are NOT in Control
Oh baby, this was a difficult lesson for me. I’m the type of person who likes to have a plan, a goal, and know what the next step will be. It took several slaps in the face, lost items, and missed flights to realize that I had little control over my trip. The universe had an agenda and it was going to remind me until I finally surrendered and let go. So I gave up on the trip I had planned to visit Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Koh Tao. Instead, I spent almost a month up north in Chiang Mai, wondering “why am I still here?”
Lesson Three: Trust is a MUST
Once I relinquished control, I had to trust I was exactly where I was meant to be. Everything was happening for a reason. From my days spent buckled over in bed from food poisoning, sprinting to the nearest toilet to an impromptu trip to Cambodia with a mere stranger, everything was as it should be. I started looking at every encounter and experience differently, using each to learn more about myself. I watched in awe as possible career opportunities fell in my lap and all the pieces began to come together. I quickly realized that I wasn’t merely on vacation, but creating a new life. If you’re closed off or too worried about what will happen next, you’ll miss out on some of the greatest lessons life has to offer. Learn to trust the universe, complete strangers and most importantly, yourself.
Lesson Four: Embrace Change
I remember looking at myself in the mirror one morning and thinking A) that I really needed a shower and B) I didn’t know who I was anymore. So much had happened on this trip and I had transitioned without even knowing it. Honestly, it scared the living crap out of me. I kept thinking, isn’t this what your 20’s are for? Going off to Thailand and “finding yourself?” I’m too old for this. Guess what? I was wrong. We will be continually changing for the rest of our lives. I was either going to embrace it or spend the rest of my days struggling through it.
Lesson Five: Love Thyself
Hands down, the easiest way to survive transition periods is to show yourself the same love and compassion that you would a child. Let go of all self-judgments, old programming and the idea of how your life “should” look and start embracing you. I let go of my obsessive need for daily workouts, vegetables and desire for a plan. If I wanted a day to rest, I took it. If I wanted Singha for dinner, I drank it. I let go of what I “should” do and finally gave myself what I needed. I got rid of right and wrong and made the decision to love myself completely.
In the end, I had not only journeyed through Bangkok, Cambodia and Chiang Mai but through the depths of my soul. A new path now lay ahead of me with an exciting business to build. A path filled with inspiring soul mates and a new place to call home. I knew that many people would not understand, but for once in my life, I didn’t need them to. I had uncovered the true me and when you have that, nothing else matters.
“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” –Danny Kaye
I hope you all get the chance to do the same, at every age.