When the opportunity was first presented to me, there was no way in hell I was going to trade in my bikini for snow pants and head to Europe in the winter. Laying under a palm tree on one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world, I didn’t have much motivation to go anywhere at all. Let alone to the North Pole in January.
But on a quest to constantly push myself beyond my comfort zone and see what I can discover on the other side, I went anyway. That, and because a deck of tarot cards told me to go. Still with me? Alright.
If you’ve been following for a while, you already know how I went on husky safaris, dipped into ice lakes, ate reindeer, and slept in igloos in the Arctic Circle. Jetsetted to Berlin and partied in Cologne for Carnival. Skied my way through Austria, the Dolomites in Italy, and ended my winter journey in Switzerland. And it was all totally awesome, but I really missed being a beach bumming backpacker yogi. (Read more about that in my post: What I Learned From Enduring Winter in Europe.)
Despite my intense desire to hop the first flight to a tropical island in Southeast Asia, I went to ease myself into Spring in Spain. Once again, not because I wanted to, but because I thought I was supposed to. Because I had six separate people present reasons why I should. I took that as a sign that I was meant to go.
I road tripped down the Costa Blanca, swam naked in lakes in Andalucia, and watched the eerie Semana Santa processions in Granada. It was beautiful but I didn’t fully enjoy it because well, it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I wanted to be home in Costa Rica or on the road in Southeast Asia.
Despite following the signs, I felt like I had gotten completely lost.
After sticking it out for nearly a month, I hopped the ferry down to Morocco. I knew Morocco was anything but “pura vida,” but at least I could get my feet dirty again. Morocco was the first place that I traveled to that no signs led me to. In fact, all the signs told me not to go there.
The train taking me to the South of Spain broke down and when I finally got there, the ferries weren’t even running to Morocco because of the wind. But eventually I made it, because despite the “signs” telling me not to, I wanted to. Once I did, everything made sense again. I found myself again.
While I had some seriously phenomenal experiences, and I live with no regrets, I hope I learned enough this time, to never need to go on such a long detour again.
This is what I learned from traveling to places where I never wanted to go:
New Experiences Can Challenge Who You Think You Are
Something that was so healing about the first time I went to Costa Rica, was how it opened me up to new possibilities for myself. Prior to that trip I considered myself a city girl. Though Costa Rica showed me how happy I could be barefoot on beaches and living on little in the jungle.
In the same way, traveling through Europe in the winter showed me that I didn’t need hot weather or the ocean or vibrant colorful cultures to be happy. I actually fell in love with the snow and everything it involved. I went snow shoeing in the woods, took husky and reindeer safaris, found out that I adore skiing, went ice fishing, and even swam naked in frozen lakes. I loved every moment of it and still consider Lapland to be one of the most magical places on Earth.
To me there is no greater freedom than learning how to find joy and happiness, no matter where I am.
…They Can Also Remind You of Who You Really Are
While unfamiliar environments can show us aspects of ourselves we didn’t know existed, they can also confirm things we already believed. Last year in Southeast Asia, I recall writing these words: “the more you travel, the more you discover where it is you truly belong.” I still believe this to be true.
I tried an experiment this trip, in doing absolutely everything differently from how I normally do it. I ate bread and meat and cheese and desserts. I barely ever practiced yoga. I traveled through sponsorships and stayed in fancy hotels with champagne at breakfast. Yes, I learned that first class train rides and comfortable beds can be really nice. But I also realized, even further, that I don’t need any of that to be happy.
The best moments I had were in the company of open hearted people who taught me about their culture. The women I sat naked in saunas with in Finland and the men who I drank mint tea with in Morocco. The best moments were when I felt the spontaneous magic in nature. In the snow covered forests in Lapland and the rugged desert mountains in Morocco.
Those moments reminded me that what I really love is the real, rough, rugged road of adventure.
I’m a Beach Bum Health Nut Backpacking Yogi For a Reason
I recall the night of my birthday, also the night before I flew from Finland to Berlin, declaring to my friends in a bar that this was the year where I was going to like everything. My goal was genuinely to feel good about every single experience and every single opportunity in life.
While it’s a nice sentiment, I now realize that it’s pretty insane.
There is incredible freedom in not being particular or picky, and really, it’s a necessity on the road. However there’s usually a reason why you like what you like: because it feels good.
It feels good for me to be on sunny beaches with warm water and lush jungle. It feels good for me to stretch my body and breathe deeply and quiet my mind in meditation. It feels good for me to eat whole foods and lots of vegetables. It feels good for me to travel independently and to have my freedom.
I’ve decided it’s time to stop challenging that and to start owning it instead.
Signs are Opportunities, Not Answers
Let’s come back to what sent me on a trip that I didn’t really want to do in the first place. It was the fact that when I made my decision, I was completely lost. I guess because, I didn’t really want to go anywhere. Rather than sit with that and consider how I wanted to move forward, I ditched the responsibility. How? By asking a deck of tarot cards to tell me the answers.
From then on I gave up most of my decisions to the universe. I allowed the road and the signs to lead me instead of forging my own direction. Which, I’m not saying is necessarily a bad thing. I’ve received plenty of support and wisdom that has truly helped me by consulting cards and asking for signs from the universe.
But I also believe that ultimately the weight of my choices rests on me.
Through this experience, I’ve come to realize that signs and synchronicities are not the answers. Rather, they’re the universe asking us to pay attention and look around. They’re doorways that lead us to opportunities that we may be consciously or subconsciously seeking. But we’ll get completely lost if we open them without a clear vision of what it is that matters most. This is why, when presented with these options, each one of us must fearlessly look within our own hearts to know the way.
You Can Never Make the Wrong Decision
The good news is, no matter what you choose, it will always be the right decision.
I cannot tell you how freeing it was the moment I realized this. I remember how much I had stressed over where I was going next when I first decided to go to Europe. Then, in Europe, I remember how many times I stressed over where I was going next. It reached critical mass my first night in Morocco where I wondered if I had made a huge mistake. I actually considered getting back on the boat the next day and trying to sneak into Spain even though my visa had expired.
Then, four days in, sitting up in the mountains overlooking the town of Chefchaoeun, I had an “aha” moment. I had placed so much emphasis on where I was meant to go and in that moment I realized that it didn’t actually matter. It never actually matters.
Whatever decision I made, and whatever decisions I will make throughout the rest of my life, will lead me to whatever experience I need to evolve my consciousness. Therefore, I can never make the wrong choice.
How do I know this to be true?
Because in every single experience in every single place in the world, there always lies an opportunity for miracles. There always lies an opportunity to choose compassion, to choose happiness, and to choose love. That, after all, is what life is all about.
The moment I made a decision I felt an immediate relief. It was the indecision, the inability to move forward, that actually caused my struggle. Once I took a step forward I instantly became unstuck.
Just Because It’s Someone Else’s Dream, Doesn’t Mean it Has to Be Your Dream
One of the greatest sources of confusion for me throughout this trip, was that I kept being presented with opportunities that sounded spectacular.
How could being offered carte blanche at any summer festival in Europe ever be a problem? Or a free camper van to use for a month long road trip through Spain and Portugal? Or a free place to stay in Greece or London or France or, or, or, or.
(Bear with me if that sounds totally annoying and ungrateful, there is a point to all of this.)
Here I was presented with so many trips that would be someone’s absolute dream. The thing was, I was tired and I just wanted to go home. I wanted to write poetry from within my heart instead of a hotel review. I wanted the freedom of the open road not the responsibility of working with a sponsor.
Maybe to some people those opportunities sound like a dream, but none of them were MY dream.
All of us have so many talents, so many opportunities, and so many possibilities for how we can spend our lives. So why do we discredit ourselves in thinking that we have to choose whatever comes easily?
What is your dream? What do you really want? Focus on that and decline with deep gratitude that which does not support the way that you want to channel your energy into this world. In doing so, you create space for what you do want.
Happiness is Who You Are, Not Where You Are
This one was inspired by a song that my Dad sent me when I told him I was feeling lost and confused in Spain. The song goes, “Wise men, don’t you know, the Christ is who you are not where you go. Wise men, follow your star within.”
The places where we feel disconnected, where we fail to feel the magic, where we don’t feel like we belong, these are the places that give us the greatest opportunity to remember who we really are. Those are the opportunities to look inside and remember that no matter what’s outside of us, we have happiness inside of us. We have happiness inside of us because happiness is not what we are. It is who we are.
It’s Ok to Peace Out
Sometimes a detour is nothing more than a road that brings us back to the one we actually belong on. As soon as you realize what road that is, feel free to take the exit.
Now I’m turning it over to you. Have you ever traveled to places where you didn’t want to go? What did you learn about yourself in the process?
I love this! It’s great to expand yourself, but being true to yourself is just as important xo
Camille, this reminds me so much of something one of my good friends said when I had made a cross country move and realized six months later I needed to go home and I felt like such a failure for not having made the “right” decision at the beginning and she said, there’s no wrong decision, there’s only the decision of the present moment and then if a better one comes along, go ahead and make that one. I’m certainly not as eloquent or succinct as she was, but it’s stuck with me and given me a lot of confidence to actually MAKE decisions in the moment because I know that life will give me more opportunities and decisions and if a better one comes along, I can make it then. I’m happy to see you having some of that realization too and bringing it into your quiver of tools.
Totally! Love this perspective. The former business major in me sometimes frames it as “it’s a sunk cost.” You can’t recover the “cost” of a decision that’s already been made. There’s only the cost of the opportunity moving forward. Perhaps dry and nerdy, but it helps my logical brain make sense of it 😉
Sounds just like the Alchemist.
Haha, oh my gosh would you believe that I was actually reading The Pilgrimmage while I was sitting up in the hill in Chefchaoeun and had my epiphany?! I had been looking for a book to read since my kindle broke, and it was the only book in English in the tiny little bookstore there. At first I thought maybe it was a sign that I should have walked the Camino de Santiago like everyone kept telling me. Then reading the book I figured out my own way 😉
I’ve lived now for eight years in a place I don’t like nor ever intended on living because I met a man I loved and married. We’ll hopefully get out of here soon, but in grappling with my distaste, I’ve deepened my yoga practice and became a teacher, which gives me immense joy, found meditation, come closer to my purpose and feel a much greater sense of peace than ever before. While we should all strive to create our lives as we wish, sometimes we learn more by not getting what we want.
It’s funny because I also moved here on a sign. All the U-haul trucks in Idaho, where I was living, had AZ license plates. I took that as a sign and later realized like 90% of UHauls in the West seem to have the plates. I also now look at signs differently. 🙂
Haha, oh Suzanne I love this and I totally feel you on it. I too know from my yoga practice that we can feel peace anywhere, but the thing is… we don’t always have to! We have the choice to go somewhere that naturally feels good too. Hm, that should’ve made the list “You Can Find Peace Anywhere… But You Don’t Have To.” Lol.
Reading your post I just realised that solo travel is like a crash course in life… you learn so many life changing lessons, even in a single trip. And those lessons stay with you for life, which is brilliant. It made me realise that I am doing the right thing. So thank you!
Totally agree, and that’s so wonderful to hear that my experiences helped remind you of your path!! 🙂 <3 Keep on keeping on xo
Marvelous and heart warming writing 🙂
All the choices will eventually lead to home. Heard somewhere.
After my experience going a place i never wanted to go cause had some preconceptions. Yes it was that also but only in my attitude. When i let all judgement and let go of my preconceptions i found myself enjoying and learned a lesson which i needed 🙂
Most definitely letting go of expectation is KEY! 🙂 Always appreciate your wisdom.
wow Camille beatifully said, one of my favorites, reminds me completely of an auyasca journey i was on ,my message was, home is in your heart. Also I love so much where I am , and now call home I have fear and no desire to travel to cold places but also know that there is beauty there also. I also love to travel but there is always one favoirte place that will always be #1 in my heart. Walaba One Love
I hear you sister our hearts share the same home <3 <3 <3 Hope to see you soon xoxo
I too did a cross country move to AZ based on a job that fell in my lap and other “signs”. I don’t fit in in AZ, in 3 years I’ve found very few friends with whim I connect. In fact, I don’t actually like the people I spend time with. While I’ve always been independent and I’m quite social, the past 3 years have taught me to spend less with people I don’t really like, just for the sake of having something to do. I’ve learned to appreciate the few friends that I actually have something in common with. It’s also taught me moving for money is unimportant to me. Reese
I hear you Reese. It’s all about keeping only what serves us and letting go of everything that doesn’t. May I ask, what keeps you in AZ?
Yes! Thank you for this. I battle things in my brain all the time…Should I go there because I think I have to? You’re right. Just do what you want, you never have to. But on the same note, there really isn’t right or wrong. Everything in life is an experience and a lesson. 🙂 <3
Absolutely, thanks Nina 🙂 x
I enjoyed reading this! I’m not a full time traveler and have been struggling with where to spend the month we’re able to travel abroad to someplace new and exciting, instead of Costa Rica, which is also my love, but have been many times. Feeling like “i should” experience someplace new, but nothing was revealing itself, until I realized that going back to Costa Rica was revealing itself all along.
Thanks Sue, I totally relate. But you know there’s something about Costa Rica that no matter how many times I go, it’s always a very new experience where I learn so much.
Not so much I didn’t want to go to but more a place it never even entered my mind to go to…Ghana …the oppprtunity arose and I thought, why not? And not the usual adventure type travel I’d normally go for. I went with my daughter’s scout group who were doing some voluntary work out there. I’d forgotten how much I loved Africa. It was a chance to travel and experience a month with my daughter helping others and a memory we would both cherish in years to come. She has flown the coop now. A humbling experience which showed that despite hardship and poverty people can still laugh and be so welcoming and that deep down we are all the same and have the same needs and wants……..Food , shelter, security, peace, education, acceptance, a better life for our children but most of all, we all want to love and be loved.
PS …she was 14 at the time and that was now 10 years ago
You’re right on the money here…no place will make you happy in itself. Then I’m reminded of the quote that says travel happiness isn’t in the destination, it’s in the journey.
But what if your heart isn’t following your mind? I’m glad to see we can agree to make decisions with an awareness grown out of thoughtfulness and being centered. Thanks for the share Camille!
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment Dave! 🙂