There are some things about traveling that I will just never tire of. For every hot, sticky, exhausting travel day there are one hundred fascinating days that make my heart feel alive and full. Days that provide vibrant cultural immersion, mouthwatering tastes of new cuisine, and the immeasurable gift of precious new friendships that will forever shape my life.
I am full of gratitude for the ability to learn and grow abroad. This incredible journey has been one of profound self-discovery; with every new adventure providing abundant lessons and every stranger, in one way or another, helping me to better understand Who I Am. Like a mirror, these people enter my world (sometimes just for a moment) to reflect back exactly what I need to see. And, like all mirrors, they don’t discriminate. They simply show whatever’s before them; illuminating both the gracious and the indifferent, the beautiful and the ugly. Presenting just the reflection I need to shake myself awake and call to my own attention the traits about myself that are holding me back.
Of course, amongst these transient mirrors are some that glisten brighter than others. And I will continue to be in awe how almost every travel destination has become an opportunity to cultivate a relationship that gives gifts beyond my wildest dreams. And furthermore how, when it comes to matters of the heart, it takes only one instant to know with certainty that I’ve met someone who will stay with me forever.
For me, it’s just a pleasant reminder that time means both everything and nothing all at once. That, regardless of what I used to believe, I definitely don’t need years of history to feel a meaningful connection with someone. And that the only thing more precious than time itself, is who I choose to spend it with.
It wasn’t so long ago that the quantity of people in my life was far more important to me than the quality. And if I’m being really honest with myself, I believed that number of guests attending my parties and group gatherings said something about the person I was. Even if it said nothing else, it at least reassured me that I must be somewhat of a decent human-being to have so many people in my presence. I suppose I designated being well-liked as an affirmation that I was doing something right in my life; and therefore popularity became not only my emphasis, but my identification of self-worth.
But like so many other things, a year and a half of solo travel will completely transform ones perspective about what it means to be popular, as the word simply doesn’t exist abroad. The past twenty countries have graciously provided both moments of togetherness and moments of separateness; as soon as I begin to crave one, I receive the other. Being in the glorious position of meeting dozens of new people each day has completely shattered everything I thought I knew about what exactly I am looking for in my personal relationships. More times than I can count I find myself befriending people that the old me would have never even thought to speak with and falling in love with those I may have once deemed unusual. I’ve completely changed my tune about what “influential” looks like, as I recall countless moments in which the most unsuspecting of souls open their mouth only to fiercely inspire me.
And that’s the amazing thing about travel, it highlights and strengthens the relationships you least suspect – including the one with yourself. The more time I spend away, the more and more obvious it becomes that there is me and there is me. It has been (and always will be) my most valued relationship, but only recently am I choosing to invest my time and energy into it. I’ve discovered that it’s nobody else’s responsibility but my own to like me, and my value does not increase or decrease based on anyone else’s ability to identify my worth. Plain and simple, I am more than enough.
This isn’t to say that I fail to miss the people who have left tiny footprints on my heart. That I don’t still cry when I hear a song that reminds me of the man I spent more than half of my life loving. That I never get lonely being without him. Of course I do. But for me, this journey of self-awareness is about getting up close and comfortable with this feeling of loneliness. Embracing the solitude, and deciding that I will never again use another person’s body, emotions or presence as a disposable scratching post for my inner feelings of unfulfillment.
And in turn, the better I know Who I Am, the more I tend to attract the people who inspire me to be the best version of myself. Those who set my soul on fire and ignite my heart with their sheer presence. The light bearers, magic makers, world shapers, and game changers. Friends who at times challenge me, break down my walls, elevate and expand me. The people who show me with words and actions just how special I am and simply won’t allow me to play small with my precious life. These people are my inspirational souls, and these souls make up my irreplaceable tribe.
It was during my two month ‘breakup’ with India that I truly realized my incredible fortune in having attracted such beings into my world. The spectacular Croatian sunsets, charming Dutch landscapes, Austrian wineries and delectable French cuisine were not nearly as memorable as the people I enjoyed them beside. Special souls that have crossed my path in various countries since I left Canada (some for just a day, some for just an hour), who graciously opened their doors and their hearts to welcome me into their lives.
Like a cultural internship, I was provided the luxury of totally immersing myself into their fascinating existence; befriending their friends, cooking in their kitchens, visiting their workplaces and meeting their extraordinary partners. I became so inspired by the healthy, loving and respectful relationships I was surrounded by. I saw, for perhaps the first in my life, people simply being exactly Who They Are without ever trying to change, fix or correct one another. And although many of my beautiful tribe never met each other, it was a common thread amongst all of them, and something I witnessed over and over throughout my summer. Effortless, supportive, admiration for one another.
As I reflect back on those unforgettable weeks amongst such unique and remarkable beings, I wonder how I could ever fully express to each of them the abundance of recognition I feel they warrant. Acknowledgement not just for the over-the-top kindness and hospitality they showed me, for but everything they unknowingly provided by simply leading through their shining example. For giving me a precious glimpse as to how I aspire life and love to be. For holding up the mirror and being the awe that I, at times, felt I was aimlessly chasing in this world. And for graciously showing me that I can never settle for anything less.
“Every person who has ever come to you has come to receive a gift from you. In doing so, he/she gives you a gift. The gift of you experiencing and fulfilling Who You Are. When you see this simple truth, when you understand it, you see the greatest truth of all. . .
YOU HAVE BEEN SENT NOTHING BUT ANGELS” – Donald Walsch