March 2017 rolled around…one month shy of a YEAR since my “forever” had walked out on me. I was honestly shocked that I had survived an entire year, but also very much still suffering. The thought of dating sounded more like a form of ancient war torture than an enjoyable outlet, and I was feeling extremely lonely. The depression of the holidays alone was still lingering, and the somewhat regular run-ins with S kept me from fully letting go! I was trying to move on, but I was stuck in a rut!
Growing up, my family was more of a road trip getaway family than an international bucket list family! I love those memories and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but the thought of traveling and experiencing new cultures was always a nagging interest in the back of my mind! At the beginning of March (2017). I remember randomly calling my mom one day and telling her I wanted to get a passport! I felt like it would be a good thing to have “just in case!” I went to work getting the process started, and I submitted my application sometime that week! They informed me it could take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to arrive. I obviously didn’t have any rush for it, as there were no potential travel dates in queue!
About 8 days later, on a Sunday evening, I was on the phone with a good friend! We were catching up on life and checking in on each other. During our conversation, he mentioned that he was heading to the Philippines that week with a girl named Bri Jackson (who I had briefly met about 3 summers earlier through my cousin.) My stomach started doing flips…I wanted in on that trip!! I told him how bad I wanted to go and he explained that they were leaving Wednesday and I was more than welcome to come if I bought a ticket! In my heart I knew I needed to go, but my head brought logic to the table. 1. My passport wasn’t coming in for several more weeks. 2. I had work, how was I supposed to get 2 weeks off with 2 days’ notice? 3. This was wayyyy outside of my comfort zone. I wasn’t super close with anyone going and the thought of being on the other side of the globe without a “safety blanket” terrified me.
I was full of hope and told him I would try to figure it out, but in the back of my head I knew I probably wouldn’t make it. About 30 minutes later I pulled into my driveway, walked through the door, and saw a package waiting with my name on it. I opened it up to find my passport inside! A week after submitting for it, I was holding it in hand! (Plus it was delivered on a Sunday, which doesn’t happen?) This felt like a huge green light for me!
With the legalities covered, I decided to dive in and see if I could really pull this off. I sent a few texts, got all my shifts covered at work, bought a ticket on Monday morning, and I was boarding the plane to the Philippines on Wednesday!! Who was this girl? I was a planner. I liked structure, preparation, and logic. But here I was, the new me! Ready to say yes to life and experience whatever the universe sent my way!
I fully believe that everything happens for a reason, and this was no exception to that belief! This was a very vivid example of how everything literally fell into place to get me where I needed to be! I share these details with you, not just to tell you a cool story, but to paint a picture of a principal I know to be true!
We will go through hard things in life. All of us! There are no shortcuts, no good behavior pardons, and no ‘get out free’ cards! It is simply part of life! All of our trials will look different, but each person has their own “hardest thing.” My point is, regardless of what we go through, I promise there is a greater purpose behind the trials and a greater force leading you to the other side (who can see a lot further ahead that we can!) Trust in the journey! In the moment it can be very hard to see the good or the ‘blessings’ coming into your life, but they are always there! Looking back, I missed so much good, because I was focused on the bad! So look up, and watch the universe align for your best life!
After a 30 hour travel day and far too much diet coke, I officially landed in the Philippines! Aside from cruises to the Caribbean, this was my first true ‘international trip.’ Last week at the end of my post, I told you that I was going to be sharing the single moment that changed everything…and here it is:
We had an absolute blast on this trip! We got cheap massages every day, got fried to a crisp, zip-lined, snorkeled, and so much more! We started our trip in Manilla, but flew to Palawan a couple days later. We arrived in Palawan right at sunset, rented our scooters, and set off on a 2+ hour scooter ride through the pitch dark jungle! There were monkeys and animal noises screeching all around us, we were in a foreign country, had all of our luggage on our laps, and me, a tall blonde first time scooter driver at the wheel. Hahah I’m sure they thought the circus had come to town!
When we finally got to resort, I stopped and thought about what had just happened. For the first time in a year, I wasn’t thinking about my divorce. I wasn’t missing S, I wasn’t feeling bad for myself, I was simply LIVING in that moment! And even more than that, for the first time in my life I wasn’t living in fear or living to please anyone else! I was doing what felt right with no fear of the “what-if’s.” I felt pure bliss in that moment! This goes back to the mindfulness that I touched on last week! I wasn’t dwelling on the past, I wasn’t worried about the future, but I was happy NOW!
The next day, we had an opportunity to do some service on the beach we were staying on. We were able to spend time with the local kids roaming around there. We played with them, taught them, took them to dinner, and made them feel special and smart! Something I don’t know that they had ever truly felt! Now this is the moment I am talking about when I say everything changed…I could pinpoint it down to the second. I was on this amazing beach, a gorgeous sunset in the background, beautiful Pilipino children surrounding me, and some amazing new friends (who would go on to become the best friend I had ever had) there to enjoy the moment with me. We were in a circle digging in the sand, laughing and playing! It was one of those nostalgic moments that seems to stop time right in its tracks. It was as if I was watching from above. I felt gratitude, I felt peace, and I knew in that moment why I was supposed to go on that trip! I cried many times during this trip! Not tears of sadness, but tears of gratitude and thankfulness! Finally I had found the key to a happy life! I had stopped focusing on me (in fact I don’t think I thought about my divorce once that week) and I focused on serving those around me!
It may sounds like a little thing to you, but I am tearing up just thinking about it now. For an entire year I had spent every day feeling sorry for myself and focusing on me. I was depressed, I was sad, and I was miserable. Yet here I was, in one of the poorest places on earth, surrounded by people who were the happiest on earth. They lived in shacks. The girl’s couldn’t’ go to school when they were on their period because they didn’t have the means to care for themselves. I saw many of them showering in the rivers. They plowed their fields with oxen and they made their living by selling cheap trinkets on the beach, yet they were so happy! Who was I to complain? Sure, my trial was so hard, but man I was blessed. This was the first time I had looked up and chose to see my blessings. That is when everything changed!
The mind is truly the most powerful machine on earth, and once I learned to reshape my thinking, I was set up to discover true happiness and fulfillment!
So this is how traveling changed my life. Not only did this trip introduce me to my best friend ever, but it introduced me to the possibilities inside of myself! Maybe I could have done this down the street from my house in Utah, but it took me traveling to the other side of the world in the humblest of circumstances for me to learn this lesson. Focusing on myself would never bring me the happiness I desired; I needed to turn outside of myself and live in the moment, every moment!
I know that there are moments in our lives that shape us forever. This moment in the Philippines is one of those for me! Because of it, traveling has become a passion of mine as I had finally found the escape for my soul! I often tell people that traveling changed my life, but the truth is, it’s not the traveling itself, but what I choose to do with those opportunities that have changed my life! I understand that not everyone can pick up and fly across the world with 2 days’ notice, but I encourage you, and actually beg of you, to get out and experience something greater than yourself! SERVE! Forget yourself! Learn to find joy in the small moments! Find your voice, find your reason, and make a change!