Today is my birthday, and I couldn’t be more excited about the future, this year in general, and where I am in life right at this moment. I’m so incredibly grateful for everything, truly. The experiences that have gotten me to where I am today, my friendships, my family, and – wait for it – myself. That last bit about myself is not something that comes naturally to me. It’s something I’ve learned to pay attention to over the past year.
And what a difference a year can make. Last year, the world I had worked so hard to build was crashing down around me, and I was in a total daze – lost and confused. A few months before my birthday, I made a life changing decision after facing reality and admitting to myself that I was not happy despite holding up appearances that I had it all. As a Type A people pleaser, I had pretty much spent all of my energy making everyone around me happy, which in theory should have made me happy in return. But it didn’t. I was at a point where I could continue to live the same life forever or take a few massive risks and see if I could find that all elusive happiness we are all striving for.
Standing on the Edge of the Rest of Your Life and Finding Your Purpose
So what did I do to get from where I was at the beginning of last year to where I am today? Well, for starters I started looking and listening inwards. I’ve learned that, at this stage, answers to most of my personal questions lie within. I am good at seeking advice but have, at times, relied too heavily on what other people advised me to do. That’s just it though – it’s just their advice, based on their accumulated experiences. Acknowledging that you know yourself best is hard but, once you do it, you realize that there is a very rational mind inside of you that can solve nearly any personal question. Start trusting your gut instinct and try to block out the negative noise in that head of yours.
In Christianity, you are taught to help others before you help yourself. Be a good neighbor. Be an even better friend. Be a martyr but definitely don’t be selfless. Well, newsflash – you can’t do any of that if you don’t love yourself first. I was always proud of what I had accomplished but that’s pretty different than being kind to myself and loving me for me. In this crazy world of social media we are constantly being bombarded with messages that make us feel inadequate in some way, shape or form. It hits you in the face the minute you wake up to the minute you go to sleep. The thing is, we are all unique. We are all different. We all have a unique voice inside of us that is bursting to be heard. Same is boring so dare to be just a little bit different.
After everything went down at the beginning of last year, I started doing a few things regularly that helped me ‘find me.’ I started reading a few books, including The Artist’s Way which is a 14-week self guided book to uncovering your inner voice. I also read a book by Osho called Love, Freedom, Aloneness. I have pretty much been in a relationship since I came of dating age. That book really uncovered, for me, why I had essentially run to the next relationship every time there was a breakup. In essence, it was easier for me to hide behind my partner than really face me. There’s that saying that the only thing to fear is fear itself. I also started to religiously journal and meditate every day, and I started to go on dates with myself. Yes, I started dating myself. I even bought myself flowers, took myself to a burlesque show (because, why not?!), and did quite a bit of reflection on what I want in life.
Rather than waiting for life to happen to me, I started to shift my approach and created the life I wanted to live. Yes, it is possible! I had always wanted to travel the world – begged former partners to go with me and nobody ever wanted to commit to doing something like that. Rather than waiting for someone to invite me along, I finally made a decision to do it on my own. Yes, a girl can travel the world by herself despite everyone’s fearful pleas not to.
That saying about listening to the universe, it has your back. It’s true. Being a total control freak by nature, I started to loosen up, let go, and just live. I went to Yacht Week on my own, attended Burning Man for a week, and applied to this crazy program called Remote Year that I’m now on. My grand plans for life had not worked out as I’d imagined so why not throw caution to the wind to see what happens. The craziest part of letting it all go? I was starting to feel happier, more in control and just content. Once I started to get my soul ‘house’ in order, I started to look at all other aspects of my world – friendships, my chosen career path, health. After letting life run on autopilot for years, I chose to hit a big reset button on everything.
I won’t get into all of the nitty gritty details here but the more I started thinking of my purpose, the more I knew I wanted to *try* to start my own company. Once again, I had always given myself 1M+ reasons for not taking a risk and trying. Fast forward and here I am, a week after launching my own company – INA + ILIA. I have had and continue to have great coaches along the way, including Kate Bagoy, a fellow Remote Year digital nomad. I could not have gotten to where I am today without her and all of my friends and family, but I am SO grateful for their encouragement, enlightenment and support. Biggest lesson learned? Be kinder to yourself. Forgive yourself. We are, after all, human.
It hasn’t been an easy year, I’ve shed more tears than I thought were contained in the ocean, I’ve laid on the floor feeling more alone than I thought was imaginable. But if you’re willing to uncondition yourself from negative thought processes and start loving yourself like everyone around you does, you too can start to live the life you want to be living. Photo cred to @Jay_Dred!
Celebration + Self Indulgence in Thailand – Burning the Candle on Both Ends
So, I’ve now been on the road for four months, and I’m nearing the end of my Asia leg of Remote Year. The time has flown by, and I have loved seeing more of this beautiful world we live in. Asia is incredible. I have been welcomed with open arms wherever I go. I’ve eaten some of the best food I’ve ever come across. I’ve learned to navigate crossing a road during rush hour traffic where nobody stops. I’ve learned to say hello and thank you in several languages. I’ve gotten to experience the luxurious and not so luxurious living arrangements across Asia. I’ve gained a new travel family. I’ve enjoyed the endless summer heat. I’ve earned a bigger appreciation for history and the shifting sands of politics over time.
Overall, I have loved, loved, loved traveling. Before I arrived in Thailand, I made it a goal this month to celebrate. Celebrate living, traveling, starting my own company, turning a year older. And celebrate, I have! I went on the most wonderful island-hopping tour of Thailand. Sand between my toes, sea breeze in my hair – it was pure perfection! From reggae bars to jungle parties and a full moon party on the beach, I enjoyed every single second. If Thailand were a human, she would be nearly perfect. She has it all – the beauty, the brains, the mystery, the cooking skills and an adventurous, wild side. She has been an absolute blast to hang out with these past 3+weeks and, as a result, I haven’t written nearly as much. I’ve simply been enjoying living and touring this stunning country. BUT, all that fun did take a bit of a toll. I hit a complete and utter point of burn out when I reached our 4th island destination.
I know – you’re laughing right now because who would ever get sick of seeing more islands? And seriously, the most gorgeous islands I have ever laid my eyes on. Weeeellll, there is such a thing as being islanded out. I was also just a tad tired from having been up perhaps too many nights in a row and working on my business launch during the day. And I was a bit exhausted from sharing a room with 2 other people for 10 days. While I love being around people, I do need downtime to recharge and just get some headspace. If you’ve ever worked with me, you know I usually need to go sit in a quiet room to just think and get work done. I hadn’t done any journaling, meditating, reflection, or exercising (beyond dancing on the beach), and it all totally hit me like a semi truck!
My electronics also started failing me. My phone started to die and my camera stopped working. The Universe was just telling me to STOP. So, on a whim, I cancelled my plans to go to another island – Koh Phi Phi – and chose to cash in some of my Chase Sapphire credit card points so I could stay at my favorite hotel chain in the world – COMO – in Phuket. It was the best decision. I checked into the hotel and didn’t leave the property once for forty-eight hours. It was heaven on earth. I’m learning to set boundaries for myself, call it like it is, and just be more honest with what I need and want.
Almost a week later, with more travel plans canceled and a lot of time spent on my business and me, I’m feeling back to my normal self. Tonight, I am going to ring in my new year in style with some of my new Remote Year family members, and I couldn’t be more excited for the continued adventures and self discovery that this year holds.
Recentering Myself – Persevering and Continuing the Journey
At this point, it would have been pretty easy for me to drop out of Remote Year. A lot of people have, including a few of my best friends in the program. Everyone’s reason is different, and as a prior Remote Year participant said – life happens. I even had a few days where I was convinced I would be quitting. I could definitely have travelled throughout Asia more inexpensively on my own, and living in a fish bowl is exhausting if you don’t know how to set boundaries. Plus, we have been on the road for a pretty long time. But I’m not ready to quit. Who knows how I will feel in a few months but, for now, I’m sticking to my plans. I’ve opted out of a few of the planned countries – Serbia (for India) and Bulgaria (for Sweden) but I can’t imagine not completing this year around the world. It’s also incredibly rare to be in a group of such incredible people – many who I’ve still only had a few conversations with.
I still don’t know where I’ll end up at the end of the year and what more transformation is in store for me, but I’m ready and open to what the Universe has in store for me. Thus far, it’s been an exhilarating ride and I’m going to trust that things will work out the way they are meant to.
34 Goals for My 34th Year
- Spend less time starting at a screen
- Eat more greens
- Continue to build my business
- Do more yoga
- Meet more locals
- Drink more water
- Be a better friend
- Meditate more
- Journal daily
- Go on more dates with yourself, and others
- Speak up more
- Set better boundaries
- Be kind to yourself
- Have more fun
- Be more positive
- Go on more solo trips
- Have less fear
- Care less about what other people think
- Listen to more music
- Work hard/play hard
- Do a tour of the Greek isles
- Go parasailing
- Hike Patagonia
- Go to Ibiza
- Visit Machu Pichu
- Drink a beer at Oktoberfest
- Judge less, love more
- Lift more weights
- Find your next home base
- Love yourself
- Throw yourself a party
- Listen more
- Dance more
- Be more kind to strangers
A huge thanks for all of your support thus far. Next up, I head to India solo for what is sure to be an eye and heart opening experience. Hopefully, my camera will be fixed by then, and I can continue to share my journey with you!