All throughout my childhood I hated when teachers welcomed students back from school breaks, because there was always that moment where everyone was able to share what they did over vacation. Deep down I resented each person who was able to raise their hand and say that they went on a trip outside of New England. I was never able to share any experiences, because my days of going to the park with my cousins were of no comparison to a week in St. Thomas or a month in Egypt.
My family never strayed from the ordinary. Well, there was one time where we went to Toronto, Canada. That was when I learned that my family was not meant to travel. The anxiety and stress of trying to take a vacation caused my parents to fight throughout the entire trip… and that’s pretty much all I remember of Toronto.
One of the major turning points for my young mind came when I was a senior in high school. One of my teachers asked our class if anyone had special plans over Christmas break. Eventually this lead up to him telling us about how he and his wife travel to the Caribbean every year and so they would be in St. Thomas for Christmas. As silly and trivial as this sounds, my mind was BLOWN! All I could think about was “He must be rich. Who goes to paradise every year? I wish I could do that! How??!!” I didn’t get it. This was the equivalent to someone telling me that they go and live on the moon for a week every year. How is that possible?!? Well, from that point on, I had my eyes set on being able to take a yearly vacation, because that was how my little brain defined being successful.
I always knew I wanted to travel. I would look through magazines or see images on TV and just think “I want to see that in person.” At the time though, the thought of traveling and expanding my world was unimaginable. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know how to start and the whole experience just seemed overwhelming. I’m sure my experience (or lack thereof) is an extreme, but because of my lack of exposure to anything besides my hometown, my vision was so narrow.
But keeping my desires in mind, one of my goals since as far back as I could remember was to see the world. Every stage of my life thus far, I’ve had traveling in mind. In high school this meant exploring Boston. In college, it meant taking the bus to explore NYC. When I graduated, it meant interviewing in LA and NC. And after I began working my first nursing job, it meant saving up money and planning some sort of ‘big trip.’ Little did I know that this trip would include moving across the country via a ginormous road trip and then making my way to the Philippines for a month before settling in LA.
Going to these new places and experiencing firsts is what brings me happiness. It makes life intriguing and always keeps me yearning for more. In an ideal world, I would constantly travel. There would be no stress with family, no financial problems, and everyone would be happy. Obviously, this doesn’t exist. So being able to escape, even into the forest for a day, is my way of resetting. And knowing this, I try to make the effort to get out there despite how lazy or down I may feel in the moment. It’s my way of feeding the soul and making everything good again.
So now I have a dope Instagram with pictures from everywhere I’ve been to. I write about my travels and show off even more dope photos. And I actually use my Snapchat when I’m off exploring a new place. But despite what you may think, I’m not just trying to show off. I swear!
Well, in a sense, maybe I am… I want you to see the awesome places I’ve been able to experience, but not because I want to make anyone jealous. I want you to see what I’ve been able to experience, because I know it’s freakin’ awesome. The places I’ve seen are spectacularly-unbelievable-mindblowingly beautiful! And they’re all attainable and share the same Earth that we all live in. And the best part is, if it’s what you want, you can experience these places too.
I’m not a pro traveler or expert outdoorswoman. Actually, I’m far from it. I still camp in a $40 tent from Walmart, use sleeping bags that my mom got from Foxwoods, and don’t even own hiking boots. I went on my first big trip to South Africa as part of my senior thesis course in college and if you exclude my travels from the past year, that’s more or less the extent of my travel resume. But you have to start somewhere…
I’m a true believer that happiness requires conscious effort. It requires you to examine your likes, dislikes, passions, dreams, failures, etc. You have to question what defines you as a person. What makes you you. I know that I crave exploring and it’s part of my key to happiness. I need to see new places and experience new things in life. As a result, I’m fighting to keep exploring.
I’m not saying to book a trip now and become happier. Exploring might not have the same effect on you as it does for me. You might like gaming, bboying, inventing things, fostering animals, going to dance festivals, etc. Whatever it is, find that one thing that makes you happy and fight for it. Start somewhere because there may never be an ideal time.
I’m broke. I’m often exhausted. I miss my family. And I’m in constant fear that my rescue puppy (who is keeping my parents company) will think that I abandoned him. But you can’t have everything. In return, I’ve had a helluva year with memories to last a lifetime. I feel a level of happiness that I’ve never been able to feel before. I know what it feels like to be excited for every new day. I’ve exceeded my own expectations, breaking down walls that I built for myself, and I feel unstoppable. That level of happiness has become my new marker for success.
So find your passion. Start living your life. And feed your soul today.
Create the life that you’re eager to wake up to.