About 6 months ago, I decided it was time for something new. What new? I wasn't quite sure, but a trip to New York City bit me with the travel bug and I haven't looked back. But how was New York City the catalyst to the something more I began to yearn for? Was it the intoxicating bustle of the city or was it the ability that I now had to leave on a dime?
Since I was 8 years old, I have dedicated my life to being the best athlete I could be. I swam for 12 years and have rowed for the last 8. I was recruited by Drexel University to row for their Varsity team and found a family in my athletic community. I have been given more opportunities and experiences than I could ever imagine because of my athleticism, but it always kept me in Philadelphia. And while that's not necessarily a bad thing, as I've had the privilege to stay near my family and watch my brothers grow up, it was limiting. There were boundaries as to how far or long I could be away because I had to keep in mind my obligation to my teammates. And while it may come off that I felt burdened by this commitment, that was seldom the case. Rowing was and will be forever a passion. So no, I didn't hate the limiting factors of rowing because I had always thought that was my designated path in life. However, once the obligation of being a student-athlete came to an end, I found myself on a jagged and winding road. I began to question my love for the sport that had given me everything. I questioned my own dedication, my motivation, my purpose. All of a sudden, it felt like the path that had once been illuminated with possibilities had gone dark and I struggled to find my way. I became frustrated and angry with myself. I admonished my lack of dedication that failed to reflect the serenity I felt being on the water. I was stuck. Do I continue to push myself or do I take a step back? But you know how the cliché goes, "If you love it, then let it go." I decided to let go of the only thing I truly knew... which ended up being myself. What I hadn't quite realized was that I let Rowing become my identity, which left me feeling purposeless in its absence.
So I left for a quick trip to New York to see a dear friend. I needed realignment and comfort. I needed her to show me that everything would be okay. And while we didn't talk too much about the depression and anxiety I was going through, her light shown bright and began to illuminate a new path. Her courage, strength, and spontaneity reminded me that I no longer had permanent ties to Philadelphia - my home of 19 years. I could finally set myself free.
Oh, the liberation that followed!!! Coming home from that trip had me feeling like a new person. A fire reignited inside of me and a flood of possibilities barreled through my brain like a hurricane. I realized I could go wherever I wanted, when I wanted. I didn't have a partner, or a pet, or a job keeping me in the city. I was about to graduate college and had no immediate plans set up for post-grad. Quite literally - my opportunities became boundless. Two days later, the fire that was burning inside awoke me to a beautiful and crisp morning. I made some coffee, packed a bowl, grabbed my headphones and went out to the high-rise green space I was living next to. I sat on some steps and watched the sun illuminate the sky, turning it from soft pink to a bright blue... and I began to wonder what the sunrise would look like on the other side of the world. But where in the world? Lisbon? Moskow? Sydney? Hm... maybe Sydney??? But what about Bangkok? Yeah... Bangkok sounds good.
And then it happened.
The hurricane of possibilities that had taken residence in my head began to pour from my eyes as I realized that I needed to see the sunrise from the limestone mountains of Halong Bay and the serene, sandy beaches of Bali. For the first time in my life, I realized it was time for me to leave Philadelphia. It was time to venture outside the comfort of recognizing childhood friends on the corner of 18th and Walnut, outside the comfort of calling my parents to share a lunch with, outside the comfort of a city I have learned everyone hates and we don't care!
So I began doing research - so. much. research. I began by doing a google search on "affordable places to travel" and quickly found my intuition to be true - Southeast Asia is by and large one of the most affordable travel destinations in the world. So I followed that search with "how to travel Southeast Asia on a budget" and bing! the internet lit up with pages upon pages of incredible resources and information. I quickly found myself staying up until 2am on any given weeknight reading other travelers blogs, how to live out of a 45L backpack, and ultimately, how to make money abroad. The path illuminated farther, it was starting to become clearer. Travel was the answer to my woes. I knew that if I could just get out of the United States and see how others lived, then maybe I could find a new piece of myself. Maybe someone else's culture could help shed light on my own, broaden my perspective.
There's no real rhyme or reason as to why Southeast Asia has become the center of my attention, but it would be remiss for me to not mention my curiosity of Eastern culture since I was a young girl. When I was going into 6th grade, my grandparents told me they would take me wherever I wanted to in the world and I said China. And while I ended up on a Dude Ranch in Colorado, that curiosity has never dwindled. If life was a movie, one could argue that my initial request was just foreshadowing for what was to come.
So now, 6 months later, I find myself here, writing this entry and I have an overwhelming sense of peace. I'm sitting on the patio of my childhood home while rain sprinkles the lawn in front of me, reminding me that life happens in cycles. I have felt purpose once and I will find it again... and again. I walk confidently into this next phase of life and welcome the unknown with open arms and a giant smile. This new beginning is just that and I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I'm sure I will in this upcoming year.