Guest post. All guest posters experiences and opinions are uniquely their own and do not reflect TCM, but I think you all will love their pieces as much as I do. This post also contains some affiliate links
Y'all… WE GOT A PUPPY!!! So I've had my hands full with that which is why I am super excited to hand over the reigns to Jessica Marshall for today's post on how she went from feeling stuck to meaningfully traveling! After reading through your comments on this guest post, This Is Why You Need To Travel Now, I realized a lot of you probably wanted a little more. I know it can feel like it's never the right time (especially when there are more bills to pay and you are still trying to get out of your parents house) which is also why I was so moved by Jessica's story. I think all of us career focused, wanderlusting, confused millennials looking for the next moment to grow, can learn something.
I was eating pizza – in my car – with only 15 minutes of my lunch break left.
The sun was brutal that summer day, and I was wearing my heavy, black, company t-shirt and jeans.
I was so, so hot, sweating profusely, but I still couldn't bring myself to go back inside.
So I stayed in my car, scarfing down my food hurriedly so that I could make it back in time for my meeting – another draining, soul-sucking meeting that would take up my entire afternoon.
And that’s when a little voice – from within – freaked me out. “I’m stuck.”
I started to panic.
“How did I get here? Is this really all there is to life?” My mind was racing.
Didn't I want to be rich by now? No longer living with in my parents' house by now? Didn't I wish I was living in a fun, vibrant city? Didn't I want to travel the world?
Oh my God, I thought. I've only been living a fraction of my life this entire time! My life was on pause, and it'd been on pause for years. Did I really just waste years of my life?
OhmyGod, OhmyGod, OhmyGod.
I tried to calm myself down so that I could finish my day in one piece. But deep down, I knew something was off. I felt unfulfilled, uninspired, and exhausted.
After that day, everything changed. I’d become determined to get unstuck, to get moving again.
I turned to experts who had experienced existential crises of their own. Among those inspirational women, I found my soul sisters (and truly gifted writers!), Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed. I was drawn to their novels, their unique, yet so-familiar, stories.
I felt stirred by their words, by their willingness to shake up their lives. And then it hit me. To shake up my life, I could travel, too. I could finally move forward, take my finger off that pause button.
But I didn't just want to travel anywhere. I wanted to travel, and at the same time, experience something incredibly meaningful to me. I wanted to do something hard and fulfilling, too. I wanted a pilgrimage. My own life-changing journey.
After some journal writing, long walks, and heart-to-hearts with my sister, I figured out what I wanted to do: I wanted to become a fluent Spanish speaker abroad. Feeling excited, I booked a soulful, two-month trip to Chile so that I could study at a language school and reach the highest level of language fluency.
My trip was hard. It tested me in every way. I was surrounded by a sea of Spanish speakers, in a completely new place, and living in a house with twelve other people. And through the struggle, my true self emerged: a strong, brave woman with an insatiable desire to learn. I was a shameless student, and I thrived.
And I did it: I became a fluent Spanish speaker. But most importantly, I pulled myself out of that rut. I finally took my life off the pause button. I felt happy again. I made lifelong friends. I lost weight. I gained real momentum. Benjamin Hardy, social researcher and blogger, says, “Momentum begets momentum” – and I was ready to go back home and ride this wave of fulfillment. I was ready to live the rest of my life with intention, to continue leaning into challenging and meaningful experiences.
That trip was one year ago, and I can say, with confidence, that it drastically and meaningfully changed me. And that's why that trip meant so much to me – I'd grown more in those two months than I had in three years.
My very own pilgrimage, that Spanish-learning trip to Chile, was the catalyst I needed to shake up my life and get moving again. You can plan your own pilgrimage, too – especially if you feel like your life is on pause, or you need a good shake up.
In fact, I learned a lot from my soul-stretching trip. Here are some of my favorite pieces of advice.
How to travel as meaningfully as possible:
Think of your trip as a pilgrimage
A transformative, spiritual journey. It's more than just an itinerary. It's okay to be uncomfortable, in fact, invite the discomfort in, it means you are growing.
Ask yourself deep and introspective questions:
What do you want to get out of your travel experience? Is there a place that is sacred to you, your family, or your cultural group? What lights you up?
Take walks to get clarity and inspiration.
You never know what you will see or who you will meet. Plus the research on the benefits of walking is extensive. We all need a little less screen time and a little more exploring time.
Choose to do something truly challenging while traveling
Something that feels really good to you. You can trace your family roots in Italy, build a house with Habitat for Humanity in Ecuador, go on a yoga retreat in Bali, study the life and art of Frida Kahlo in Mexico. Whatever it is, challenge a dormant part of yourself to come alive.
Feel connected with the destination
Even before you leave home, get familiar with the history, the language, the cultural traditions of your destination. Begin to tap others to hear about their experiences or if they know people you can meet up with while traveling to immerse yourself in the local experience. Make sure you are packing appropriate attire for where you are going. The reality is, for many of us, immersing ourselves in a new culture can feel overwhelming and scary, which could mean sitting in your room in a foreign place because you don't feel comfortable. Don't let that happen. Your pilgrimage begins not when you set foot onto foreign land, but the moment you decide to go.
My last, and perhaps most favorite, piece of advice…
Go with your gut.
For many of us, our entire lives have been listening to others wants, wishes, and desires of us. This is your chance to get to know yourself and learn to trust your gut. Know that I’ll be cheering you on when you do!
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