Freedom is a word we throw around in America as casually as a Frisbee. We place our hands over our hearts and bellow, “o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”
We discuss ideas like “freedom of speech” as soon as we learn to read and associate war with “fighting for freedom.” Remember how after 9-11 the US Government even replaced the word “French” with “freedom” in front of “fries”?
Yet despite how much the word “freedom” has been programmed into our brains, so many of us seem to feel trapped.
We work absurdly long hours for jobs that don’t fuel our passion, we stay in relationships that don’t feel good, we habitually practice patterns that lead to unhappiness, and many of us lead lives that leave us discontent.
What kind of freedom is that?
When I left my life as I knew it to wander the world, I discovered a freedom more expansive than I ever dreamed possible. And frankly, it wasn’t because other places and people in the world are more “free” than Americans. It was because I stepped outside of the box I had built around myself.
If you feel trapped, I want you to know that the path to freedom lies before you. The path to freedom is open and ready. The question is, are you?
Yes? Keep reading.
Acknowledge Your Personal Power
Before I started traveling, I often blamed others for the limitations I felt in my life. I blamed my friends for not being more adventurous or available. I blamed my boyfriend for not being more loving and open. I blamed my family for raising me to be who I was.
But the blame never got me anywhere.
Traveling on my own, I had to take responsibility for anything from how I would find my way across a country on chicken buses to where I’d be sleeping that night. I realized that I alone determined how my day, and ultimately my life, would unfold.
Freedom is not something that your parents, your boss, or even your country can give you. Freedom lies in your hands. If you want to truly live a life without boundaries, the first step is to acknowledge your own personal power. Acknowledge that you alone hold the key to your cage. Pull it out of your pocket and have the courage to open the door.
Have the Courage to Change
Many of us speak of the ways we want to change our lives or ourselves. Yet we often spend years repeating a cycle that we already know doesn’t work. Why on earth do we do that? Why do we do the things that we already know don’t lead us to happiness? One word: fear.
We adamantly resist change, no matter how much we want it, out of fear of uncertainty. We’d rather repeat a limiting behavior than face the unknown. However to step onto the path of our personal greatness, we must have the courage to change.
This means letting go of the ideas you have about who you think you are. It also means letting go of the expectations that others place on you. You are a multi-dimensional evolving being. What serves you in one moment may not serve you the next. Be open and adaptable to change.
Read my post 10 Ways to Get Unstuck and Create Change Now to help you get out of this cycle and moving in the right direction.
Start Doing What You Want
How is it that so many of us have become conditioned to be people pleasers? We tie up our self worth in what others think of us and what society tells us we “should” be doing. To truly embrace freedom you must be your authentic self, which starts with doing what you want. Prioritize yourself, set boundaries, and take responsibility for your happiness.
For me, this is the most liberating part of traveling alone. Each day I decide exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it, and how I want to do it. I get to do the things that bring me, and me alone, the greatest bliss.
If this sounds selfish to you, it doesn’t have to. You can march to the beat of your own drum while creating a beautiful melody with the rest of the world. In fact, the better you take care of yourself, the easier it is to show up for others. By embracing and expressing your authenticity, you inspire others to do the same. By doing what fulfills you instead of what is “expected” of you, acts of service come from the heart free of resentment. Most importantly, it’s much easier to release expectations of others and love them simply for who they are.
Get Out of the System and Create Your Own
I remember a time when I looked to those around me for guidance. I thought my options were limited to what others were doing and what paths already existed. However nothing that already existed could possibly be my true calling, because I’m completely unique. Just like you.
Once I stepped out of the system that I knew, living in the jungle in Costa Rica and eventually traveling all over the world, I realized that anything I could conceive I could create. If you truly want to live the life of your dreams, you need to do the same. Not necessarily in the same way. You need to do it your way.
Challenge yourself to look beyond the system and the programming that you know, and consider a life of possibility. Forget what everyone else is doing, forget what has already been done. Ask yourself what a life of bliss looks like to you, and how you are best suited to make the world a better place. Then go out and do that.
If you’ve got no idea, read my post How to Figure Out What the F&*K You Should Be Doing With Your Life.
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
Freedom is absolutely being able to choose where you want to be, who you want to be, and how you want to live. But freedom is so much more than that. Freedom is ultimately about experiencing happiness no matter your outside circumstances. To discover that freedom, you must learn to surrender.
Things will happen in life that are beyond your control. Delayed flights, natural disasters, and perhaps most notably the way that others decide to live their lives. You can complain about it or fight against it, or you can choose to accept what is beyond you and move on. The former brings struggle, the latter brings peace. Choosing to surrender can be as small as taking a deep breath in heavy traffic or as big as deciding to accept others without criticizing them or expecting them to change.
Know when to fight and know when to let go.
See the Positive Over the Negative
Some might say there is no quick fix to happiness. I happen to disagree. I believe that happiness occurs the moment we decide to choose a positive outlook. If you feel trapped by something in your life, decide to change your perspective. Decide to look at the situation positively.
This might mean appreciating how a challenging situation serves you in your life. If it doesn’t serve you, this might mean seeing that you have the capacity to change it. No matter the outcome, the moment you choose to see things positively, you start owning your circumstances instead of letting your circumstances own you.
Bring Down Your Walls
Imagine how much more freely you could live, if you not only tore down the boundaries between you and possibility, but if you tore down your walls of self-protection?
We all have them. Some of us built them after an intense heartbreak. Others from a long series of rejection. Or maybe some of us were so afraid of feeling too deeply that we built them before anyone could come in to touch us. Those walls may keep us safe, but they come at a high cost. They prevent us from ever being truly free.
Despite our physical bodies that separate us from one another, we are all composed of the same matter. Actually, everything in the universe is composed of the same matter. When we stop seeing ourselves as separate, and start realizing how we’re all connected, we experience a far greater expansiveness. Lean into that expansiveness and you will know the true meaning of freedom.
Are you living a life of freedom? If yes, how did you do it? If no, what holds you back?
I find your words so, so inspirational today. While you talk about having the courage to create your own system and acknowledge your own power in regards to travel, it applies to everyday life too. And understanding that these lessons apply to other things like seeking a job change, moving across country, getting out of a toxic relationship, etc, really helps me out today. So, for that I thank you.
Thanks Kimberly I’m so happy to hear that!! 🙂
Very well written and inspirational post. I totally agree with everything you say. If you’re not happy with the life, you have to change something. Think positively and overcome your fears.
Thank you so much Stef <3 🙂
We’ve just discovered your site and are having so much fun reading about your experiences. We live in Miami and (as of a few months ago) Playa Guiones as well. While we’re in CR less than FL, we’re are so in love with our little jungle home full of surfboards. It feeds our family soul and gives us space to recover from high pressure jobs and big city life. More than anything, it allows us to show our teenage girls they can make life choices that are their own. You are such an awesome example of that. We actually read your posts out loud while we’re hanging out after dinner. I don’t care what my girls ultimately do, but I do care that they own their life. Thank you for being such a badass example 🙂 (Dinner is on us if we’re ever in Playa Guiones at the same time!)
Aw thank you so much Laura that means a lot to hear! I too love Playa Guiones 🙂 <3 Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter xx
I want to express how much I love your blog! It truly speaks to my heart. I am traveler and dream of living Abroad again. I am currently working toward my plan of moving to Central America. I hope to obtain my YTT and make a living teaching yoga and English.
My one request to you, is there any chance you could add captions to your stunning pictures so we know what the photos are of?!
Thank you again! Xo
Thank you Kristina that means so much! Awesome that you will be teaching yoga and English, sounds like a wonderful life 🙂 I will look into the captions, meanwhile check out this page with lots of photos of all of the places where I’ve been: https://www.thisamericangirl.com/travel-destinations/
Thanks Camille for sharing your journey of transformation and all of the inspirational insights. You have a wonderful writing style. My one question, was their any one specific event that was the tipping point, that caused you to take action?
Looking forward to future posts,
Thank you so much Raymond. Yes, in fact there was! You can read the whole story here 🙂 https://www.thisamericangirl.com/2015/06/03/why-i-left-my-fancy-city-life-to-become-a-globetrotting-gypsy/
Minor political rant:
I hate it when people say military members fight for our freedom when as you eloquently put it, most of us don’t feel free in our lives – regardless of what happens overseas.
I think the times I’ve most free in my life is when I’m doing what I want – whether I’m backpacking in Southeast Asia or traveling for fun. Actually, I had two seven-month teaching stints in France and the first stint – because I enjoyed it so much – felt like freedom because I was really having a lot there and I know what I was doing.
Unfortunately, the times I’ve been doing what I really want have been short-lived – or too short-lived for my liking. But to me, that’s freedom.
I agree. How can you make the times when you’re really doing what you want longer? And how can I help you?
Thanks for your willingness to help. Actually, this blog is very much a great resource for those seeking to accomplish their goal of traveling the world. My problem is I’m stuck in the job hunt – and I would like to have a little more money before I travel the world again. That said, tomorrow night, I’m flying to England for a few days so I’m ecstatic about that.
Awesome! Make sure you’re signed up for my newsletter, soon I’m sharing a FREE ebook on how to Quit Your Job, Travel the World, and Create the Life of Your Dreams 🙂
Thanks for a great post. I have always wanted to go white river rafting and zip-lining, but have been afraid. I love the water, so I am not sure why this does, but it does. Your post helped me to maybe get the courage to try these on a future excursion. I need to take charge of my fear. Thanks again for the post and great pictures.
You’re so welcome! There’s usually tremendous growth that comes when we do what we fear most 😉 x
Freedom is people’s mains achievement. Who doesn’t want freedom? People will live for free. I really enjoyed the article. I appreciate your thoughts and views. Thanks for sharing.