I couldn’t be happier with my transformation that I often cringe when I look back at myself.
Have you ever done that? I have. I do all of the time. I look back and think ‘wow,’ mostly because I’m secretly embarrassed to admit that was me.
I’m far more happy with myself now. Some days, I even feel like a completely different person. Here is a closer look at my transformation:
Six years ago, I spent most of my days measuring my achievements and those of others with tangible items. Insignificant things like clothing, jewelry, and cars made up this scale. The more expensive the item, the higher it ranked. Money, so it would seem, was the driving force to my existence. I couldn’t fathom a life without having a lot of money. Or at least enough to support the life I ‘needed.’
I equated designers to quality which was enough to justify any of my expensive purchases which I lovingly called ‘investments.’ (Investments! I cringe at the thought of it now.)
I invested in mostly shoes, clothing, gadgets, and experiences. I have always been an advocate for “experiences over possessions,” but my idea of experiences back then consisted of fancy dinners, front-row-tickets, and exclusive shows. I never ‘invested’ in anything for the outdoors, though. Spending time outside was something I didn’t voluntarily do. I hated the beach. Would never think to go camping. I had never even been on a hike, nor owned a pair of purposeful shoes besides flip-flops. I much preferred strappy sandals and wedges. You know, that kind of footwear.
Needless to say, I was a little borderline high-maintenance.
If not, I was still impractical, naive and worst of all materialistic.
I mean, my life goal at the time was to work as an editor for a big, fancy magazine in New York City. I wanted the six-figure salary. To wear pencil skirts, Manolo Blahniks, and to tote around a Prada bag. I wanted my hair done at only the best salon. To drive only a Range Rover. And to live in a revived brownstone furnished with an expertly curated interior. Yes, I wanted it all.
But the funny thing is, six years later, I don’t want any of that.
It’s liberating to say: I really don’t want any of it. Not the job, not the attire, and definitely not the lifestyle. Those desires mark a time in my life when I was narrow-minded and unchanged. If I kept my trajectory, perhaps, I might have some of those things. But I’m glad I don’t.
Today, I like to think I am neither narrow-minded or materialistic, and that wouldn’t be possible without the influence of travel.
Booking my first trip overseas was the best thing I did for myself. Never mind that the ticket might have cost me two paychecks from my job as a barista or that it was the single most expensive thing I purchased in one transaction (yes, I still had some level of financial consciousness). It didn’t matter. My first trip abroad gave me one of the greatest gifts I never knew existed: a new perspective.
There are some things a traditional education can never teach you about life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my degree, but life takes on a different form outside of textbooks and research. It’s more organic, romantic, tragic, and joyful. And things are never black and white.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you. Things differ so greatly from individual to individual.
But at some point during that first trip, I realized I didn’t need a lot of money to be happy. And that was the beginning of it all.
Since then, traveling has influenced many if not all of my lifestyle choices. After graduation, I shifted my career to running a business from home and freelancing to make transiency easier. Every purchase I make, I tend to tell myself, “or I can put this towards Kilimanjaro.” We’ve put off house projects and appliances upgrades because we’d rather spend the money on a meaningful and memorable experience. It’s a real investment. Not the kind I once pined for. Those “investments” haven’t done much for me but sit and collect dust. They haven’t given my life any more meaning. They certainly don’t make me any more successful. But traveling is a different story.
I’ve discovered a new passion for nature, and I think I’m addicted. I can finally say I love hiking and camping without being sarcastic. I recently spent a week camping in Death Valley’s backcountry, and it was lovely, eery, and perfect in every way. I don’t think I would’ve said that six years ago.
Travel also has a way of constantly reminding me about the fleetingness of time and relationships. Everything is temporary. When I’m out there, I see it and feel it everywhere I go. I see it in the people and feel it in the places and things. I love the thought of growing old with my memories, something I couldn’t do with a pile of worthless designer things in an oversized house.
Ultimately, travel makes me believe in humanity—in all of the good we can do. I find happiness in these observations. To see that every culture is different, but at the end of the day, we are all the same. And then the world doesn’t seem as scary.
When you hear that travel changes you, it really does. It’s not an understatement. Truthfully, I find myself a little different each time I come home. After six years, I hardly recognize the person I was in 2010. My fiancé often teases me about this, and as much as I hate to reflect on who I was before, his teasing reminds me that I’m not that same person anymore. I love it.
In the end, I admit, I might’ve been a little spoiled growing up. I’ve never had to struggle to live. I never starved. Never had to get a job to pay for anything I wanted or needed.
But my change in perspective makes me appreciate my upbringing even more. To have the fortune to look back and only remember the good parts of my childhood speaks great volumes about who my parents are.
I used to think people never changed until I made changes of my own. Now, I think everyone has the ability to. It’s not too late. It’s never too late to change. Travel. Discover.
And then find someone who equally loves it, and spend the rest of your lives building a meaningful, unbiased life.
travel makes me believe in humanity—in all of the good we can do. I find happiness in these observations. To see that every culture is different, but at the end of the day, we are all the same. And then the world doesn’t seem as scary.