Far off lands and luxurious castles — this may sound like your cliché Disney setting, but two years ago I made it my reality. At 23 years old, I realized that my life felt like it wasn’t my own. Unauthentic and controlled, I had authored chapters in a novel I refused to put my name on. With a passport as my storybook, I decided to take ownership of myself from nearly 5,000 miles away.
The feeling of packing your life into a 45-inch box on wheels is a hybrid of both terrifying and exhilarating. Brought on by the ever-so-strange phenomenon called my twenties, I needed something that wasn’t only fresh but foreign. Without realizing it, I had concocted the perfect ingredients leading up to my own quarter-life crisis.
My recipe was simple:
- Gather low self-esteem
- Mix with toxic boyfriend
- Add one diamond ring
- Extract all independence
- Bake for a tumultuous five years
- Enjoy a horrendous breakup for two
During what were supposed to be the most transforming years of my life, I felt unrecognizable and desperate for change. From serial dating to blog writing, I threw the stranger I had become at every idea, waiting for something to stick. I finally met myself at a Barnes and Noble, thumbing through Lonely Planet’s Guide to Spain. My travel bug had always been itching at me and as its bite got stronger, so did I. For abandoning everything familiar (or what my parents would call “my sanity”) and hopping on a flight to Seville, I certainly was discovering something — myself.
Of course, everyone wants his or her own Eat, Pray, Love tale to tell. It’s the story where you wake up in a strange city only to feel at home. You meet a handsome stranger and eat endless amounts of gelato without gaining a pound, all while a girl power-induced soundtrack streams in the background. This isn’t the case.
Finding yourself isn’t a scripted journey.
You’ll be raw with emotions that range from confusion to elation. You’ll feel entranced some days and utterly homesick on others. Self-discovery won’t always be as pretty as the postcard you send home, but the growth you experience will be beautiful.
You’ll never feel alone.
I’ll tell you a secret: you’re not the only twenty-something with a backpack and a passport. Wherever you go, you’ll be pleased to find inspired nomads living out life’s curiosities. Some have been traveling for days and others for years. No matter who you encounter, they all have one thing in common: the craving to feel. They, like you, are empowered by exploration and adventure. Don’t be surprised to find that everyone has their own reason for fleeing their everyday life. Learn from their quests while on your own — you won’t regret it.
This isn’t an excuse to run away.
Don’t confuse a need to escape with a need to explore. Whatever you’re running from at home will follow you on your journey. It will rear its head in quiet churches, peaceful palaces, and blaring nightclubs. It will ruminate as you stare at the stars on the steps of Plaza de España or tuck itself in as you lay in the twin bed of your hostel. Physically distancing yourself from yourconflicts won’t create an internal divide — it’s important that you realize this and react. The past will wait until the opportune moment to remind you that this trip isn’t a vacation, but an awakening.
It won’t make any sense until it suddenly does.
Getting caught up in late nights and early mornings is expected. Sometimes you’ll be so carried away that you may lose sight of what brought you there. As lost as you may feel, it won’t be long until that one justifying moment sets in. You’ll capture it, cherish it and reminisce about far after it happens — you’ll do everything but put it into words. I realized this on a night when the sunset fell over the highest hill in Granada; I lifted a plastic champagne-filled cup without question and toasted to myself and to the woman I wanted to become. I was finally able to pen my name to a story that was my own.
You’re going to make it. In an awe-inspiring mixture miles and moments, you will catch the next flight to completeness. When you get there, don’t forget to raise your glass and say cheers to a life that’s yours.