You can imagine how often people reference Elizabeth Gilbert’s quintessential tale of self-discovery in my presence.
Single white female flees to Costa Rica to find herself, develops a yoga practice, becomes a writer, and never comes back.
A likely story.
Indeed I have eaten my way across the globe, from devouring fried street noodles in Thailand to sipping harira in Morocco during Ramadan to cleansing with a coconut water fast in the South Caribbean and sampling every variety of spring roll in Vietnam. I definitely know how to eat.
Prayer materialized in my travels through yoga. I overzealously took classes two to three times daily during the rainy season in Puerto Viejo, immersed myself in a meditation center in Cambodia, taught backpackers asana on a hostel rooftop in a party town in Colombia, saw clearly with my eyes closed in a dance meditation in Chiang Mai, and chanted naked in the dirt inside of an Indian Sweat lodge in the Caribbean jungle.
But on this two-year journey across the world
I evaded the most important element of any good story:
While for the better part of my life I wore my heart on my sleeve, on the road I kept it tucked inside of a money belt.
That is, until recently.
You may remember my romantic episode that took place in Chiang Mai. When I left Thailand for Cambodia and he continued on to Malaysia, I wondered how things might have unfolded if only I let my walls down.
Weeks later at a yoga retreat in Sihanoukville, I meditated on my past pain that caused me to build these walls in the first place. I envisioned a life where these barriers did not exist; where the stories of my past no longer influenced my present. In that life, free from my fear of being hurt again, I imagined myself doing something that to me felt really brave: leading with my heart.
I decided to do exactly that.
I left the center, I got more passport pages in Phnom Penh, and I flew a few days later to meet him in Bali.
So fittingly, poetically, and full of cliché
I came to Bali
Yes, you heard me right.
The “fearless”, independent, solo traveler
changed her plans
skipped over the Thai Islands
spent only three hours in Malaysia
and flew to Bali
for a guy.
I figured Ankor Wat would always be there.
He, on the other hand, would not.
This time, certain I didn’t want to have regrets
I opened myself.
I no longer rejected his attention or affection.
I allowed him into my heart.
But I did not find love.
Instead I felt trapped in a disturbingly familiar, insecure place. One that reminded me of the near numbing pain I experienced for three years in a relationship with someone severely ill suited to me.
So a few days later
when he left for the next chapter of his journey
I felt so relieved.
Free from my quest for love
back on my safe little island
and boy did that feel good.
Then, despite my best efforts, regret crept in.
Rain hailed furiously all over Indonesia; I arrived at the peak of the rainy season.
My financial situation became dire as every editorial department in the Western world shut down for the holidays.
Negative comments on the blog left me questioning my mission, my authenticity, and my character.
Leaving Cambodia seemed a blaring misstep.
The consequences of coming to Bali before exploring the rest of Cambodia and Thailand flooded me with guilt.
I wanted to share so much more of those countries with you.
I was no longer certain if I could afford to go back.
I believed that I failed you.
By the time I reached Ubud on Christmas Eve, disappointed in myself and my blog, longing for a man who I already knew was wrong for me, I contracted a flu that knocked me off my feet. I saw how far I drifted from self-care and the costs I incurred as a result.
Finally then, delirious with a fever, my love story began.
Because laying in a bathtub, sweating and aching on Christmas day, I remembered for the first time since landing in Vietnam three months ago what this journey was actually about.
This is not just a trip through Southeast Asia, an extended holiday, or a quest to document the world and share it with my readers.
This is my life.
And I discovered two years ago
when I landed in Costa Rica
where I learned to feel content, happy, and free
that life is first and foremost
about loving yourself.
So here starts the chapter of my journey where I go back to doing exactly that.
that the more love I give to my body and my soul
the more I have to give to you
my family my friends
my international communities
and one day the more I have to give the man
who doesn’t dim my light
but who ignites it instead.