I slowly smile as I look through the ferry windows and into the Helsinki harbor. I never expected to be in Finland, but then again, that’s kind of the theme of this trip. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow morning I’ll be on a plane to Los Angeles. I feel like this journey just started, yet at the same time, I feel completely ready to go home.
Rachel left us a few weeks ago, and since then, Katy and I have had some amazing adventures. We spent a week in Paris where we wandered the beautiful streets…
Visited with my college roomie, Renee…
Gained some culture…
Watched the opening game of the 2016 Euro’s (that’s soccer for all you Americans out there) from the Eiffel Tower Fan Zone…
And after many years, caught up with my old Annapolis friends Lisa and Elle Wells!
After France, we made our way to Berlin, Germany, where we took in the sites…
And studied the history.
After that, we headed to Tallinn, Estonia – one of my last stops on this journey. Coming to the end of this adventure made me contemplate the beginning, when I was so uncertain about the future and the world was yet to be explored.
Before I left on this Great Enlivening, I stood in the living room of my home in Virginia and prayed for the season ahead. I asked God to bless Rachel and I, to show us what steps to take, and to help us navigate the uncertainties ahead. When I finished my prayer I turned around and noticed one of Rachel’s signs in the living room that I’d never paid attention to before. It said “It all starts and ends with family.”
And that’s exactly how the journey began – with a month-long road trip to visit family and friends. And as poetically as only God can orchestrate, that’s how it ended.
After Berlin, Katy and I travelled to Estonia to see my cousin, Eve, graduate from her Masters in Cyber Security program.
My sister, Katie, Eve and I grew up together in Salisbury, MD. Katie and I like to joke that Eve is “our” little sis. We all had dinner together on Sundays, went to the same high school, and played for the same volleyball team. So it seemed fitting that I would spend my last few days on this Great Enlivening with Eve. Since nine months ago, I started this journey with my sister, Katie.
The differences between life today and life then seem unreal. When I started this trip, I was a ship adrift. I was lost in a sea of uncertainty, insecurity and broken heartedness.
Looking back on that season, all I desired was to be the strong, brave and confident woman who God created me to be. But just wishing to be different doesn’t make you different. So even though I didn’t feel ready, I jumped into this Great Enlivening anyway.
Lots of people were skeptical about this journey. Some were incredibly supportive. And others were outright against it. And I don’t blame the naysayers one bit. We live in a world and a country that values ‘the plan.’ And when you’re a smart and successful 31-year-old, it doesn’t make sense to trade in your life for a backpack and a one-way ticket. But sometimes, getting lost in this world is the best way to find out where you’re supposed to be.
So that’s what I did. I pushed past the boundaries of my comfort zone and experienced the world. Luckily, God gave me two amazing women to travel with. And we all laughed, cried and grew together. It’s safe to say that I am forever changed for the better by this experience. Now, instead of wishing to be stronger, braver and more confident – I am those things.
So to answer the popular question – what’s your ‘plan’ now? The truth is, that I don’t know. I spent a lot of my life making plans, some that came true and some that never will. And what the next season of my life looks like is trust, not blueprints. Trusting that God will lead me to the people I need to meet, the places I need to go and the future I’m supposed to embrace.
Sure, I have ideas about the next steps, and I have hopes and dreams for the future. But right now, what I have is a lighter heart, an emptier bank account and a shorter bucket list. Oh yeah, and a one-way ticket to California, where I get to see my amazing family who I’ve missed so much.
I may not have the next three years mapped out, but this Great Enlivening has shown me that that’s not what I need. Up until now, I spent the majority of my life striving to be everything I aspired to be and have everything I thought would make me happy. I achieved a lot, but at the end of the day I still wasn’t fulfilled. It wasn’t until I packed up and left it all behind that I found out what this life is all about.
So what does this mean for The Great Enlivening?
Katy continues to travel and will post about her amazing adventures.
Rachel is busy reconnecting with her niece and nephews in Louisiana…
But for me, it’s the end of this season. It’s time for a new adventure. I don’t know what it will look like or where it will take me, but I have no doubt that it will be more beautiful than I can imagine.
So thank you to everyone who read this blog, who wrote to us, who prayed for us and who supported our journey!
If you’d like to stay in touch (and I hope you do!), you can follow me on Instagram @nataliesactthree
-Natalie Hunter, signing off 🙂