For the past few years I have been on one Hell of a trek. In a moment of pure restlessness I decided to give up on school and the traditional path, and go off in exploration in hopes of discovering my dream life. No one said this was going to be an easy journey, and I had no idea what I was even searching for to begin with, but despite the fact that I still find myself staring into the abyss, I am comforted by the fact that I am still moving forward.
On one unseasonably warm October day in 2010, I sat in the courtyard of Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, chatting with my mentor and favorite author, Sark. She was helping me to untangle this mess of ideas and dreams that had knotted and rolled together in my mind like a tangled ball of yarn. I was holding onto one strand very tightly, and refused to let go: this idea that I had to continue with my education despite the fact that I was desperately unhappy with my school, and restless for travel. I told her I’d applied for the national student exchange program for the following January, and already purchased a one way ticket to the island. “Well, maybe that is your path then. Perhaps you should follow that instead.” she encouraged. At that moment, I knew I had found the right end of the string, and quickly began to discover what my true dreams were.
While I adore intercultural communications, writing, and anthropology, I was not suited for the typical classroom setting. I learn best through experience and first hand observation. I wanted to interact with the cultures I was learning about. Travel would give me a chance to do this, as well as give me the sense of adventure and the challenges that I crave every day. I dropped out of school, couchsurfed for the summer, and began my journey in January 2011.
My plan was to live at the Polynesian Hostel in Honolulu, Hawaii for one year. I would save money and then move on to Australia, following the summer. I would work in Australia on the working holiday visa for one full year, and then move on to New Zealand, SEA and up and across all the way back to Europe and then home again. I would write my travel memoir, and would hopefully know my next move from there.
Things didn’t go nearly as planned.
Instead my path took a different turn: Two weeks into my stay at the hostel, I met and fell in love with a wonderful Swedish man. He stayed for only a short time, but we stayed in contact after he left. He came back for another visit, staying a few weeks, and I fell even more in love- the tropical island adding to the bliss and romance that already comes so easily to me. After the Japan tsunami, I was reluctant to stay on the island, fearing something similar might happen while I was there, and the invitations to visit Jens in Sweden were tempting and sweet. I decided to check it out, and if all else failed, I could always return to the islands.
My first visit was during the summer of 2012. It went smashingly, and I enjoyed the sunny, quiet summers of the Swedish countryside- a drastic change from the chaos of hostel living. Jens and I were still in our honeymoon phase of the relationship, and I loved playing housewife and spending time tending to the garden or cooking meals (or at least attempting to cook. Jens was so much better than I.) Time soon came for me to return home to Vermont, and as sad as I was to leave Jens, I was happy and excited to spend some time back home in the Green Mountains again. Jens and I decided on my last day that we would apply for my visa to move to Sweden so that we could live together.
After spending several months at home in Vermont, I was ready to get out again. I had yet to submit all of my paperwork for my visa, but found out I could still continue the process in Honolulu, so back to Hawaii I went. This time was a much better experience. I was reunited with old friends I had met the previous winter, and also met new and amazing friends with whom I grew very close bonds. I acquired the best job in the hostel, Kayak Tour Guide and Island Tour Guide, and proceeded to network with people and businesses around the island. I developed an online presence for the hostel, and did the best I could to maintain that image around the hostel. It was simply the best gig I’ve ever had. A great way for me to utilize my networking and interpersonal skills, and I carried great pride in the image I set for that place. It was hard for me to leave in the end, and I think that is partly to blame for some of my unhappiness after I moved back to Sweden.
Sweden, although a very lovely and friendly culture, is a very difficult place to make friends or find a job as a newcomer. The system and etiquette for applying for jobs is very different and difficult from the standard here in the US. I found it difficult to communicate effectively in both professional and personal situations, and soon found myself very depressed and lonely. I won’t go into too much about my second experience in Sweden, as you can read about it in my post A New Chapter. What matters most is where this entire experience has brought me: Back home to Burlington, Vermont. The same place where I began almost 3 years ago.
While this does feel a little bit depressing at times, I do not regret a thing. My life is more full and richer as a result of meeting and getting to know Jens, one of the most amazing people in my life. I love him ever so dearly, and my life wouldn’t be the same without him. It wouldn’t be the same without any of the experiences I have had in the last 3 years. And while I find myself struggling a bit in this moment, I know I am still moving forward on this amazing path toward my dream life.
This ball of yarn is still knotted and a bit confusing, but I now have a neat roll beginning on one end, and I am working through the remaining knots. I may have taken a round-about way in the last few years, certainly not a direct route toward the life of my dreams, but I have learned so much about myself and what I want out of this life. I have made discoveries and came up with ideas I never would have had I taken a different path. I have made friends with people I would have never crossed paths with had I stuck to the original plan- people who have made deep impressions on my life. I have healed age old wounds that I had forgotten about or didn’t even know existed altogether. I am lucky for this path I have taken, because I wouldn’t see my life with such clarity as I do now. I wouldn’t change any of this for the world.
I am currently taking an even deeper leap of faith in order to delve further into the rabbit hole that is the question of my dream life. I have shaved off all parts of my life that were not serving my overall purpose. I quit the job that was taking all of my energy and time, and left the apartment that was forcing me to work so hard to afford. I have chosen to spend a summer in self imposed homelessness, depending on the kindness of others for a place to sleep. I have stored all of my stuff here in my art studio, and plan on spending a great deal of time here doing the things I love: Painting, crafting, printmaking, screen printing, video production, and writing. My hope is to produce my art and sell it online and at local venues.
If all goes well, I hope to raise enough money to fund my travels, as well as to produce my own travel show, which I am currently working pre-production. I also have 2 incredibly fabulous ideas for inspirational documentaries, also in pre-production that I hope to gain funding for through crowd funding sites like Kickstarter or Indie Go Go. Now, I’ve had ideas like this before, but I found that they never panned out because I couldn’t stay in one place long enough to actually put the project together. Since I just signed a one year lease on this art studio with my friend Natasha, I am committed to sticking around long enough to get these projects off the ground and actually heading in a productive path. I am sick of walking away from half finished projects. It’s time to get some shit done.
I don’t know where my life is going from here, which scares the ever living hell out of me, but I do know this: I am following through on these projects, and when they are finished, I know the path will be more clear to me. Everything is coming together as it should, and I really need to trust my path. I have great ideas, and a strong vision. The next step is to follow through with the process and tasks- step by step. This is where my dreams become tangible objects, the missing link for me. Up until now, I have been all theory with little to no follow through. Now I will ground myself and push forward slowly, completing each task as it arises, and not biting off more than I can chew. So far, so good. Scary though it is, I am determined to achieve these tasks. There is nothing else more important to me right now. This is the hardest part, but determination will see me through.