On a trip of firsts, this is my first time flying across an ocean solo. And while I feel a twinge of sadness leaving Natalie and Katy in Europe, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is calling me home.
The flight map displayed on the screen in front of me shows a long green line from Istanbul, Turkey to Atlanta.
I left Spain last night and flew from Rota to Barcelona landing just after midnight. My plan was to sleep in the airport and thanks to a yoga mat, neck pillow and a sleep sheet, it was a pretty impressive make-shift bed (if I say so myself), though still not really comfortable.
I donned my trusty eye mask and earplugs hoping for some good shut eye, but a few hours later I awoke to the sound of voices nearby. At 3:37 a.m. people were already lined up to check in for the 6 a.m. flight from Barcelona to Istanbul.
Despite my casual approach to travel these days, there are many others who clearly take the “arrive two hours prior to an international flight” advice seriously.
Four hours later I was in Turkey. And nearly four hours after that I boarded this flight back to the States. Staring at the world map, it’s hard to comprehend that only a year ago visiting far off places like South America, Australia and Asia seemed like a dream. And now, in just seven months I’ve completely circumnavigated the globe.
Of course, it didn’t happen overnight or effortlessly. It took months of hard work, research, planning and organizing to deconstruct the life I had built in Virginia and handle all of my physical stuff before Natalie and I embarked across the country for a three-month stint in Mexico. We started writing and called our blog, “The Great Enlivening,” because we hoped and believed our journey, wherever it led us, would be just that.
With nothing but a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina, a backpack and a two-night hostel reservation, we left America on February 6, 2016, not knowing what exactly this adventure would look like, but confident we were supposed to be on it.
Since then, I’ve visited 15 countries and traveled thousands of miles by dozens of flights, taxi rides, buses, trains and two rental cars. I’ve stayed in countless hostels and hotels and converted currency more times than I care to remember. I’ve gathered an impressive collection of passport stamps, contracted two parasites and improved my language skills as I immersed myself in unique cultures around the world.
I’ve climbed mountains like Machu Picchu…
Gone scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef…
Enjoyed exquisite food…
A LOT of food…
Practiced yoga like never before…
Met amazing people from around the world…
Visited with long time friends…
And traveled with two incredible women with whom I not only shared these experiences, but also my heart.
It’s taken me a long time to get here. But I don’t mean 35,000 feet over Port-Cartier, Canada, where I currently am. I mean here.
For the first few months of the trip, I spent a good amount of time looking back at my life. There were unanswered questions I was still wrestling with. Why did my marriage end? What could I or should have I done differently? Where was God’s will in all of this, and how did mine line up with His?
Through lots of prayer, journaling, and hours of heart-to-heart conversations with Natalie, I gained clarity. Sometimes God gave me a fresh perspective and the ability to see things through His eyes. Other times, He encouraged me to consider different questions all together. And on a few occasions I felt Him asking me to let go and accept that there were some questions I might never have concrete answers for (at least on this side of Heaven) and that it was okay. That I would be okay.
During this time, He also brought to my attention several hidden wounds in my heart I didn’t even know were there. God walked me through those too, helping me to heal, grow stronger and open myself up to the possibility of loving again.
Through a completely divine appointment, He even sent a special person to guide me through this process. To this amazing man (you know who you are), thank you for being so genuine and caring with my tender heart. You’ve reminded me that marvelous men exist, that an open heart is a wonderful thing, and that the right man will want to fight for, cherish and protect it.
But during this season, despite some romance, God made it clear that it wasn’t time to be looking for a husband.
It was time to explore the world around me, to “see beyond” what I could see with my eyes. Sometimes it was rethinking my philosophy on life and the expectations I and others have placed on it. Sometimes it was considering the unique ways people live in other places and finding the best practices to adopt from those. But more often than not, it was peering into the eyes and the souls of those I met and discovering that despite differences in age, religion, race and socio-economic status, deep down we are very similar. We’re all human beings on this journey called life and we all share the same innate desire to be loved.
As my focus turned outward, God was birthing something within me: A renewed dream of being an instrument to inspire others to live a truly enlivened life. A desire to become the best version of myself and help others do the same. A longing to follow wherever He may lead and live for His glory.
And God was also helping me synthesize some of the lessons I’d been learning along the way, like:
- There’s no such thing as a “normal life” and I don’t want to live one anyway
- Sometimes it’s okay and really good to NOT have a plan
- Happiness is an inside job
- Life is short, an invaluable gift, and at the same time, not that serious
- Where I am in the world isn’t nearly as important as who I’m with
- Living presently, passionately and loving deeply is the recipe for a beautiful life
- Every person has unimaginable potential within
These, of course, are just a few highlights. I could write a book about my experiences traveling the world and how it changed me. How I am physically darker (thanks Spain for the tan) but Spiritually so much lighter. How according to my bank account, I am poorer, and yet, my life is so much richer. How I am still “single” but I have more love in my heart than ever before.
Maybe one day I will write and publish that book, or I’ll be a famous speaker. Perhaps I’ll be a wife and mother. Or maybe I’ll live abroad in a big city, or end up in small town America.
Honestly, I don’t know what my life will look like in one month, much less one year or a decade. But I know that it’s time for me to head home and see my family. God has been whispering that in my heart for several weeks and He finally told me the time is now. That what needed to happen on this trip has prepared me for whatever is to come. That while I’m not still traveling with Natalie and Katy (who are currently loving life in France), this isn’t the end of of the Great Enlivening for me, it’s just the beginning of a new chapter.
I’ve learned living a truly enlivened life doesn’t require exploring foreign countries, but continuing to explore my heart and what God is showing me. That it’s not dependent on where I am but who I am. That it’s not about what I have but what I share with others.
I imagine one day I’ll look back and tell my kids and grandkids about this year of my life. I’ll show them pictures of unbelievable places and recount the story about how I left everything behind to find out what the world had to offer.
But what I want them to understand is that this Great Enlivening ended being much more than a trip around the world. That it was a deeply Spiritual pilgrimage that challenged me to think differently, act differently and love intentionally. And how ultimately, what I ended up finding was not only myself, but how to truly live.