Traveling the world doesn’t just happen, I’m not just lucky – I worked hard and made many sacrifices to bring this dream to fruition, but often people seem to think I’m just lucky and that all this just fell in my lap. No way.
I quit my job. I ended my relationship with my partner. I moved back in with my parents. I saved every dollar I could. I sold/donated the vast majority of my material possessions. I canceled my cell phone. But most of all, I’m about to leave behind all of my friends, my family and my home for the last 22 years.
The decision to give up my entire life to travel the world for an indefinite period of time was one that came easily, naturally; I hardly had to think about it. I knew this is what I wanted to do and I would do anything to make it happen. This was my dream after all. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago when my dear friend Jahliele gave me a powerful tarot card reading that revolved around my decision to travel, that I realized how much I would be leaving behind. The card was the Eight of Cups. I pulled the explanation from Biddy Tarot to give you a better understanding of its meaning:
“The Eight of Cups is a card of change and transition. The card evokes an immediate reaction of sadness and a sense of solitude. The young man in this card has turned his back on all he has accumulated or accomplished before. He disappears by night into a barren and difficult terrain with only a cloak on his back and a staff in hand. The character in the Eight of Cups has lived and experienced life’s joys and sorrows. His journey is undertaken because of a sense of restlessness and unhappiness experienced as the result of achieving all he has desired, yet finding those things to be less fulfilling than expected. This individual has chosen to forsake the familiar and the comfortable in the pursuit of higher goals. He is embarking upon the spiritual journey because he has not found deep satisfaction in the things of the world, the things with which he is familiar.”
You can imagine how strongly this card hit home for me, how powerfully it resonated with all the planning I had recently undertaken to follow my dreams and travel. But up until that point, I hadn’t thought much about what I was leaving behind, and instead focused only on what lay ahead. This tarot reading helped me to realize that I was embarking on this journey completely alone, and that in doing so, I was leaving all I had ever known behind: the security and stability of a good job, a steady paycheck and old age pension; the creature comforts of home and routine that I had accumulated and fallen into over the years; a strong, supportive network of friends and loved ones; and a beautiful place that I was so lucky to grow up in and will always consider home. This tarot reading brought all of this to the forefront for the first time and I had visions of myself saying goodbye to friends at a farewell dinner, saying tearful goodbyes with desperate, clutching hugs to my parents at the airport. Visions of myself all alone, my backpack and my decision to leave it all behind weighing heavily on my shoulders, as I wandered through strange foreign streets, listening to the undecipherable jabber of the local language fluttering around me.
These visions scare me, terrify me. I worry that I will feel utterly alone even though I’m surrounded by thousands of strangers. I worry I will be shy and won’t meet other travelers. I worry I will get lost, and be unable to communicate with locals to help me find my way. I worry I will get dreadfully sick and have no one to help take care of me. I worry I will miss a flight and have a panic attack. I worry, I worry, I worry. My mind has been filled with these anxieties, and rightfully so- I’m a complete backpacker virgin: I’ve never backpacked in my life. The extent of my travel repertoire includes an all inclusive to the Dominican when I was 7, Mexico when I was 17 and Jamaica when I was 28, along with a few road trips through Canada and the United States. But I can hardly even call this traveling, so it only makes sense that I’m shaking in my hikers about this wild journey I’m about to embark on – I actually have NO idea what I’m doing…!
The cherry on top of all of this is that I have anxiety. Not the kind everyone gets when they have to stand up and speak in front of a crowd. Not the kind you get before a dentist appointment, or an interview. I have diagnosed severe anxiety, an unwanted remnant of my time spent struggling with severe depression. I have panic attacks. My anxiety causes me hide from the world at times. It cripples me from engaging in so many of what would surely be amazing adventures. It climbs up my throat, chokes me, squeezes my heart until I’m sure it’s going to burst, pulls every ounce of warmth from my extremities, and darkens my vision. When I feel anxiety, I’m absolutely certain that I am about to vomit, pass out, have a heart attack and/or die all at once. Even though none of these things has ever happened, I cannot convince my mind when it’s in the grip of anxiety that it is not about to happen this time.
I’ve learned to deal with my anxiety over the years, yet it never seems to get easier. But I am a fighter. I fight like hell to get through struggles, to get what I want, and so overcoming anxiety is no different for me. I push myself and my boundaries because I would love to live a life without crippling anxiety. And so I will continue to push and push and hopefully one day come out free from the vice like grip it seems to hold me in. The strange thing about it all is that I’m extremely outgoing- I adore people, parties, socializing, taking the lead – it’s simply in my nature. Yet I suffer from this terrible anxiety that accompanies all of these things. Everyone I meet, including my closest friends, would never know I suffer from such bad anxiety; they always tell me I come across as so confident and calm, and speak so well in public. But they can’t see or feel what goes on inside my racing mind and heart when I’m anxious. I’ve always been good at putting on a mask of calm, but it is only that- a mask to cover up the true emotions.
I am slowly getting better with the social aspect, but so many other things terrify me. Like getting lost in a new city, missing a plane or a bus, getting sick in a strange country, speaking in front of crowds, teaching- and the list goes on and on.
You’re probably wondering what in the hell I’m doing then, going traveling around the world by myself, aren’t you?
I have anxiety, and yes it’s crippling, and yes it makes me feel like I’m going to literally die – but nothing- not even that could stop me from following my dreams. The closer I get to my departure date the more I feel intense anxiety creeping up, threatening to choke me. I’m absolutely terrified about what I’m setting out to embark on. I’m leaving my entire life behind- my friends, my family, my job, my home, security- all of it- just up and walking away from it to pursue this wild dream of mine to travel around the world.
When the anxiety creeps up and takes over, I find myself reverting back to those visions. I see myself in Latin America, alone, trying to navigate myself from city to city on strange unreliable transportation, attempting to use my broken Spanish, arriving at a hostel disheveled, apprehensive. Once I’m checked into my room I have a ‘what the fuck am I doing?!’ moment where I realize I really am alone. And the anxiety sets in. But of course, I know I need only to leave that room, leave the anxiety behind, venture into the common area and begin to meet my fellow travelers, to hear their stories and tell them my own, before I realize, no, I’m not alone… I’m home. I’m alas among souls who share the same wild passions, the same nomadic desires that have haunted me for years. I’m not stuck back in Yellowknife, in -40, in my little office, buried beneath paper work, counting down the minutes each day until break, until lunch, until home time, so I can go home and dream about travelling the world. Instead of dreaming about the life I always wanted, I’m finally living that dream!
Yes, I’m terrified. But I’m also ecstatic. All of my planning, hard work, saving and sacrifices are paying off as my departure date looms a mere 3 weeks away. It’s okay to be scared when you leave everything you know behind to follow your dreams. You’re taking a chance, a risk, and I promise you, it will be worth it.
Too many people in life lack the courage to follow their dreams- don’t be one of them.
Be brave. Be passionate. Be adventurous.