I had also been through a few tough breakups over the years. I lacked independence and clinged to the men in my life for identity. Instead of being who I wanted to be, I just dated who I wanted to be. I felt accomplished in knowing they read great books, they could play musical instruments, they could fix old sports cars, they knew about music and movies and politics. As if it somehow reflected back on me. I had a void and instead of becoming whole myself, I looked for someone to make me whole. But each time it ended tragically and I felt more empty. Then- a real breakthrough. Why did I look for these qualities in someone else- instead of having them for myself? If I thought fixing up old cars was cool- why not learn to do that myself? If I found world religion interesting- why not study it myself? If I wanted to see great movies or hear great music- why not discover it on my own? And it was taking on different tasks that really built me up. Made me feel complete. Made me who I was. There is nothing that will take you out of a depression like trying to do something and not stopping until you achieve your goal. Achieving things are like self esteem points. If you don't want to leave the house you have to throw yourself into things even when you don't want to, and often. And then you will finally see that you are awesome. It just takes discomfort and effort and trust. Believe in you and you will be more. I went back to school. I got my Associates degree at that community college. I started to write. I took writing classes. I did national novel writers month each year. I felt like a million bucks. I wasn't even thinking about dating. I was in love with who I was and it felt awesome. And oddly enough, it was when I finally was not looking for a man to make me feel loved, and was loving myself wholly that I met the man who is still in my life today. Funny how that works out huh?
It really began when my mom pushed me to get my license. For years I was carted around by boyfriends, my parents, my brother, anyone I could find or the bus. My mother always stressed independence for me. She knew all too well the struggles women had when they were taken care of by men. She didn't want that for me. As a young housewife she didn't want it for herself and so she got a license and went back to school and made her own money. And that was a game changer for her. She wanted the same for me. The strength and experiences my mother had really impacted my life. It was not uncommon for the girls in my neighborhood to be pregnant at 13 or 14 years old. There were many girls in my 7th and 8th grade classes with children many of them ended up dropping out. My mother always talked to me about how hard it was to not have your own money. Although she loved my father and he always provided she wanted me to make my own money so I never had to answer to anyone. Her influence on my life is one of the main reasons why I steered clear of that life. Thankfully I still had dreams and I knew they would be much harder to accomplish if I couldn't finish school or if I had a baby to take care of.
Getting my license was my first real feeling of independence. There is nothing better than knowing you can go anywhere and you don't need help from anyone to do it. It also allowed me to find work a lot of times in places that were farther away and I was able to do so many things I couldn't have done before.
When Andrew and I began dating it was different than all the times before. I felt that we both brought so much to the table. We had so much to teach each other. We pushed each other. We made goals and we kept them. We were both writing and discovering things together. And for the first time I had genuine mutual love. We even tried to elope on our second date. We are now coming up on 6 years. And I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's like that first date still. And I am forever grateful to have found him and to have found myself beforehand which I know played a huge role in our happiness.
I started doing a lot of research and reading on road tripping. It intrigued me to just go- and see all the things we hadn't seen before. It was also during this time that I started using Yelp, to really look into new places nearby to eat and stay. We planned our first real road trip to Connecticut with as many stops as we could find to see and do along the way. It was amazing. We were watching a lot of travel shows and one of the goals I had was to cook more so cooking shows too. A combo of the two was diners, driveins and dives a show about finding cheap good food. This was exactly what we needed so we mapped out all the places he said on the show and we went to find them. We also found a bunch of parks, a castle, a river, a winery, and much more. But more than anything it really pushed me to think of what I wanted out of life. I really liked this travelling thing. And it wasn't too hard to do. Save a little money and go on weekend trips. One thing we knew for sure we didn't want to spend another weekend on a couch or in a bar drinking beer and shooting the shit. We had a whole world to see.
Now, it was around this time that I became really fascinated with Europe. I had audiobooks, podcasts, the travel channel, movies all luring me in. I wanted to see the countries of my ancestors. I studied geography like I never had in school. Learning all European countries, then all the world's countries, then all their capitals and anything else I could learn. I was trying to understand life from a world perspective. I wanted to know what made us so different and what made us all the same. And so I fantasized daily inputting my locations on the around the world ticket sites. How would I do it? So I made charts and lists and calculated totals and looked up ways to save money and make money and calculated new totals and planned and planned but never purchased anything and never made concrete plans. Also, in my life, I started to really truly for then first time feel a bit of patriotism. It was something I had always teased my family for, their houses adorned in American flags. But the more I read, the more I saw that America was pretty damn awesome. I mean, all these mountains and rivers and oceans and different cuisines and different cultures I was reading about- I could experience all those things here. We had it all. We not only had it all, but we had it without a passport, without a 1000 plane ticket and without learning 20 new languages. So, I started doing some research on roadtripping in America.
By the time I turned 29, I had a concrete list of things I wanted to do before I was 30, and one of them was travel across America. I had wanted to be a travel writer all of my life but I felt that I didn't have the knowledge or vocabulary. So I tried to write everyday, take a writing class and I set a goal to read 100 books in a year. Which I accomplished and really gave me the confidence to do more things. I had quit smoking after 10 years of it and felt like a million bucks, I could do anything. Now it was time to start doing. What better place to start this travel quest then in my own backyard! Looking back it seems like something so easily accomplishable but at that time it was my Everest. I had trouble driving to work without getting lost. I had never left my hometown for anything more than a vacation, in a plane. How would we do it? I spent about 8 months planning all the places I would hit along the way, also planning to move to the west coast when it was all over. That would be another goal off of my list- get out of this town. My nights were spent reading travel guides, reworking the trip in an online mapping program to estimate times to wake up, times to drive, times to stop for meals and places to see. That way, I could optimize our time. I wanted to be spontaneous but I was coming to realize the more carefully planned, the better on the pocket. I could buy groupons, and makes sure that with arrival times we could see all the big things we wanted and not arrive after they closed. I found an awesome site- Airbnb for us to use to get cheap rooms. And this site is so close to my heart now! What an awesome way to meet fellow travellers and feel the comforts of home. The lifesaver of it all was My Scenic Drives though. This site was the only mapping site online that could input say, 300 stops on a cross country trip- it ran much faster than roadtrippers and had driving times, gas prices, and stops all logged in. I used this site in accordance with about 5 other sites to really optimize our plan. And in the end it was me, my cousin Brenda and Andrew and they loved everything we had planned. I left some days open for us to really just find out was locally fun- and we added some stuff that everyone liked (Comicon for Andrew! Omaha Zoo for Brenda!) All and all it was the best experience of my life. After that, we lived in Portland for two years. Exploring as often as possible. Now, we are in Virginia for the 2nd time after a 2nd cross country trip that included the whole west coast and then all the way across the south! We are in the process of taking it to a whole new level and planning a year long trip to SE Asia!
Sometimes making the most of my life is just enjoying myself where I am. I won't say I am only doing doing doing. I like to watch tv for hours if it's something awesomely written like Homeland or Breaking Bad. I definitely have days where I just read music reviews or lay on the beach. I am forever still developing into who I am as we all are. But what really makes me happy is to see new places and just do new things. I love to write about them and I love to take pictures and map out everywhere we've been and where we are going. Most of all I love to make myself uncomfortable. It sucks. But we are a generation of people who are babied. I like to think of this as my un-coddling. I like to think of the buddhist idea of suffering and how each new experience is pushing me to be better. To never get to comfortable. And when you feel cushy, when you feel like you are relaxed- its time to move. Train your spirit the way you would train a muscle. Don't let it get comfortable. Don't stay in one place and do one thing over and over. Be a part of a growing changing world. This next trip is different because travel has taken on a new level. I have been enjoying learning about how people live differently. I enjoy the new cuisines and the genuine outlooks the varied for east to west coast but I don't want to be an observer anymore. I want to be the change. I want to do something that makes this world better. So we w
ill be looking to volunteer and really get to know people around the world. That;s a purpose I feel deep in my core. And I will be also rewarded with the beauty of the world while doing it!
I know a lot of people get excited about the new year. It's the time when resolutions come out and the gyms are packed with people who want a new start. I try to make that new years feeling last every moment. What I mean to say is- you get a new chance everytime you breathe in. If you don't like how that last moment went- breathe again. And give thanks to the universe or your god for that breath. You are here for a reason, you have a purpose and you will and can achieve it. Believe that you are more than the couch. Believe that you deserve just as much out of life as anyone else. Don't let money or judgements or any decision you made before keep you from your dream now. You decide who you are in each moment. It's time for you to be the truest and happiest form of yourself now.