I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list

There is so much beauty in this world and I want to see it all. When I first saw the quote, “I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list” I thought, that’s me!  That Aries fire in me makes my mind constantly spin and dream about the places I could go. I have been fortunate enough to travel to some breathtaking places and look forward to what the future will bring. Growing up, our family couldn’t easily budget getting a family of five on a plane and travel the world. We were, however, lucky enough to have my father’s father reside in the Sunshine State. Those two-day road trips carry many fond memories; packing everything in our full-size van, watching Disney movies on our mini box television and VCR in the backseat, building forts to escape from each other and laughing/arguing/hugging/crying with my two older brothers.

I remember feeling so lucky that we were able to travel across multiple states, arrive in the beautiful Tampa destination, swim in the pool with our grandpa, eat delicious home-cooked meals at his house, visit the beaches and once in a while, visit a theme park. These trips were not inexpensive by any means but they were what fit into my parent’s budget and the best way they knew how to expose us to a world outside of the norm.

My father also traveled occasionally for his job and during a period of time, had an annual trip to Chicago. He would always invite the entire family and while he was in seminars, we would get to stroll Michigan Ave and gaze longingly at the seemingly unattainable riches. My father made sure to carve out plenty of family time on these trips and always made the experience an unforgettable one. The point is, my parents taught me at a young age that traveling in invaluable.

As my father’s hard work paid off and career advanced, we were able to take what some may label as “elite” vacations. We started traveling by plane, even leaving the country on a couple of occasions.  When I went off to college, I immediately began exploring the options of studying abroad and upon delivering the desire to my parents, I was met with an immediate positive affirmation.

Living with a host family in the town of Differdange, Luxembourg, studying in a chalet and traveling every weekend to various countries throughout Europe was when I knew I was forever changed and would always choose to live for experiences rather than things.

After graduating from Miami University of Ohio, I followed my heart and moved to the Windy City, Chicago. The diversity of the city was intriguing and traveling with friends to various places continued. After five years, I found myself missing the comforts of home and decided to move back to Columbus, Ohio. This was somewhat out of character but it ended being a blessing in disguise.

Over the next few years, I would gain an even closer relationship with both of my brothers, all three of us living within a mile of each other. Columbus had done quite the amount of developing while I was gone and proved to be an exciting and attractive place to call home. However, I did start to get a little too comfortable.  After my brother passed away unexpectedly, I knew I needed a major change of scenery.

I quit my ten-year corporate sales career which was a difficult financial decision but easy mind/heart/spirit/soul decision. I had done the big city and I needed a place that would be beneficial in assisting with healing so naturally, I thought “beach therapy”. I did a quick search for a beach house and within 72 hours, booked the vacation abode, put the majority of my house full of belongings in storage and jumped in the car with my dog and boyfriend and headed to the beach. Arriving in Siesta Key, Florida, an entirely new place for all three of us, was an adventure of its own. Driving 16 hours to the unknown was extremely exciting and the beach town did not disappoint.

Living footsteps away from the whitest sand in the nation is when my journey with yoga began to really transcend.  I found a studio I fell in love with and asked if I could work there in exchange for unlimited yoga classes. The amount of knowledge I learned from the studio owner and every single teacher there was an unexpected pleasant surprise. I started to notice that by eliminating the stress that my previous work carried, I began to open up emotionally and spiritually in ways that I never had my entire life.

I devoted time to healing by walking my dog more often than ever before, riding my bicycle as my main mode of transportation, practicing yoga daily in the studio and on the beach and meeting new people who left an everlasting impression on my heart. I probably could have stayed there forever but I had the sense that it was a good time to check back in at home as the Christmas holiday neared.

We drove back to Ohio and did our best to enjoy the holiday time while our hearts were hurting from missing the laughter, hugs, humor and all around positive energy my brother had. I started to contemplate what was next. I knew I needed to get back to work but would I go back to the corporate world? Maybe. It’s the obvious choice. Did that make my heart flutter? No.

I decided to post on Instagram asking the yoga community if they had any recommendations on Teacher Training programs abroad. I wasn’t at all interested in taking a local course. Not that there is anything wrong with this option but it is a choice and I knew mine needed to involve traveling. I wanted to being fully immersed, living in seclusion, cut off from the outside world and entirely devoted to my study.

A fellow yogi replied about a specific teacher and after clicking the link to her bio, the first word I saw was Thailand. Oh my gosh! One of my good friends has traveled there multiple times and my brothers and I had decided we were going to take a trip there in the next year or two. I knew that I had to go. Todd was no longer able to and I could not let this opportunity pass me by, for both of us.

As my heart fluttered with excitement, I continued to read on about the program before sharing this revelation with my family and then I saw: SOLD OUT. What? Oh, no. It can’t be! Just as quickly as the butterflies appeared, they vanished.  A few hours passed and I suddenly had this strong sense (maybe someone had something to do with this) that I needed to reach out directly to the teacher, share my story and see if she would make an exception or if something changed at the last minute. Slim chance but I was guided to at least try. Within 24 hours, I had an email back stating that someone dropped out at the last minute and the spot was mine! They say the universe listens and that was proven true on this day.

I had three weeks to renew my passport, read all the assignments, book my flight, arrange my travel plans and mentally prepare for this experience!  I actually prefer to plan things last minute and see how things unfold as you know from my move to Florida.

While my primary reason for going wasn’t to travel but rather to study, I knew that I needed to squeeze a little backpacking in there. I wrote a post in our group on Facebook and made a connection with a girl from Germany who was the only person left to not have set travel plans already. This allowed us to create our itinerary together and forced me to have a strong sense of faith that I would bond with this stranger.

I remember getting to the airport with such a rush of emotions streaming up and down my body; excitement, fear, hope, anxiety, freedom, loneliness, desire, passion and above all love.

I was loving life, loving others and loving myself and the result was me on a journey that would take nearly 35 hours to travel across the world to a continent I had yet stepped foot on, traveling toward people, places, conversations, food and experiences that would ultimately change my life.

Thailand was beyond amazing and I will share exact details of this experience one day.  For now, I’m going to save most of my memories in my personal journal but you may get a glimpse into the book that allows me to be completely present, honest, raw and vulnerable sooner than later.

I won’t leave you with a huge cliffhanger, though. Andrea, my German born-wanderlust legitimate world traveler-stranger, turned out to be someone that was predestined to be in my life. It was by no mistake that we were the only two left with no set plans but dreams to explore who trusted in this process called life. Not only did I find one undeniably true friendship on this trip but I found multiple.

There are times now that I question what I did without a couple of these girls but then I am reminded that life works itself out and people enter at the exact correct times. Not everyone stays and that is okay, too.

You are always presented with what you need.  You just have to listen.

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