We are the biggest advocates of travel — and not just for the stamp in your passport. Travel has a way of making the world look so big and so small all at once, and I never learned this more fully than in my first time traveling abroad. On the coattails of a particularly draining time in my life, I decided to take the plunge, buy a ticket, and haul my under-traveled suitcase onto an international flight to Spain. I expected yummy food, golden sunlight, and a little change of scenery. I did not expect to find one very important thing: me.
It’s no secret we live in a highly-connected world: nowadays, you have the power to communicate with friends, become ordained, and have tacos delivered to your house, all in the palm on your hand. Without even realizing it, you become attached to this little rectangle in your pocket, a quiet slave to its every buzz, ring, and chime, and pretty soon you feel you can’t live without it. It’s a strange bit of escape, to be able to look down at your phone and speak with someone while you’re alone or fill the silent slivers of time waiting in line for coffee with cat videos or Instagram feeds. But, I came to find that the way to escape it is to make your reality greater and more beautifully adventuresome than the virtuality. Suddenly, I realized I hadn’t picked up my phone all day, or felt the need to check Facebook, or mindlessly scroll through a newsfeed — and better still, I didn’t even miss it. I was too busy drinking in every sight, every smell, each gorgeous image of humanity, soaking in every last drop of excitement I could, and bit by bit my insecurities and envies faded to black. Weeding out all of that white noise somehow brought me back to center, and I could truly feel my heart beating in my chest for the first time in a long time. I realized that we aren’t built for comparison, that’s why it eats away at us. We’re built to live perfectly within our own humanity — there’s a reason why a sunset over the European landscape just doesn’t translate as well in a cellphone picture: it was never meant to be viewed through anything other than our own naked eyes.
There’s a lot to be said about self-care, and when we fall into our daily grind we become so wrapped up in the momentum that somewhere along the way we leave ourselves behind. Self-care bolsters workplace satisfaction, it increases productivity, rest is scientifically proven to improve your quality of life, and I’m not just talking about sleep. Did you know that half of all Americans don’t take their full paid vacations? HALF. We are the reigning champions of hustle — but that doesn’t mean we really win in the end: sooner or later the engines burn out.
Travel turns those tables. Not only did it increase my experience and cultural awareness, but it awakened my soul to what it is that makes me want to work so hard in the first place. It taught me to truly feel my purpose in all that I do and focus on fostering what I had instead of skipping hungrily from one thing to the next. Somehow, it took an hours-long plane ride across an entire ocean to bring me far enough away from my hustle to bring me home.
Between politics, daily news, and the wedding industry, I had pretty much lost all faith in humanity. I’d had ideas stolen from beneath my feet, suffered tremendous betrayal at the hands of people I trusted, and just all-around been jaded by the suffering I had witnessed. People can be the absolute worst.
But, where there is darkness, there is also light: for every horrible thing that ever happens there are a thousand kindnesses. And, there’s something about meeting people that are so unlike yourself that taps into that little place in your soul that knows we were all made to love and breathe and laugh in each other’s company. We all just live and stumble blindly through this mayhem we call life, and the craziest blessing we have is a planet full of loud, vibrant, and beautifully messy humans to teach each other what it means to simply connect.
To say I returned home with a new perspective on riches is an understatement. When I got home, I pressed reset: I decluttered my heart and my business, put stock in my family and my bliss — I even put my beloved BMW convertible up for sale. I downsized all the needless, joyless buffer, brought my spirit back to ground zero, and lifted the burden of things from my life! I put myself to work investing in the wealth of people and connections, family and love, above the empty temporary happiness of stuff. So much stuff. And what I was left with cultivated the truest abundance I could muster: abundance with worth and absolutely no price tag.
The image above was taken on the last evening of my trip on top of the art installation in Seville, Spain. Moments before I turned to pose for my friend, I stood overlooking the city with tears pouring down my cheeks, struggling to gain composure and catch my breath. Shame, guilt, and humiliation were washing over me, and the fear of ever turning back into my pre-Spain self was rocking me to my core.
Everything that felt fulfilling in my life before this trip now all the sudden seemed ridiculous. I had been giving too much power to the wrong things and the wrong people, allowing each of them to nibble at my soul until I had almost become an empty shell. And now, I was truly awakened to myself for the first time; everything I thought I knew was no more, and I was left with the rawest, purest, most human version of myself. To this day, the twenty or so minutes that surrounded this exact moment remains the most profound of my life. Spain gave me that.
I left pieces of my heart and soul in Spain, but I also brought back purpose and my most honest sense of self, and I can only hope that you’ll be inspired to do the same. So, seek on, Mad Dashers! You might be surprised with what you find on the opposite side of the world. It might just be yourself.
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