Somehow over the last twelve months I learned how to stop letting fear get in the way. Somewhere in between all of the traveling, working and socializing, I discovered how to build a foundation that I’m proud of.
People ask me how I do it. How do you live so far away? How do you not get homesick all of the time? How do you walk away from everything? How do you start all over again? I don’t have a definitive answer to any of those questions. I can’t give you a step-by-step process of how to start over again in a new country or how to travel the world solo. I don’t really know how I got to this point except that I did a lot of soul-searching, trying and doing to get me here. I spent a lot of time alone examining my bad decisions over the years, accepting the failures, and admitting the real reasons behind my excessive drinking habits for most of my 20′s and then figuring out a way to forgive myself for the past and move forward.
The most courageous thing we can do is admit when we need to change.
I spent five years living in Philadelphia climbing the Corporate Ladder and when I made the decision to leave in December 2010, I felt like the only things I had to show for it were empty bottles of vodka (and rum and whiskey), emotional wounds that would never heal, and a laundry list of mistakes and bad decisions that would continue resurfacing the longer I stayed.
The real, honest reason for my radical decision to move to the Czech Republic (and eventually Australia) was because I was desperate to start over. To wipe the slate clean and build a new foundation that didn’t consist of empty bottles of alcohol and bad decisions. I didn’t know how else to fix myself and repair the self-destructing path I had created, so I left.
I risked everything - friends, family, a career and money. I didn’t know what would happen when I boarded that flight to Prague. I had no guarantees that my friendships would survive the distance, that my family would support my decision to leave, or that I would be able to support myself independently abroad. The only thing I did know is that I needed to try to start over because even if I would end up broke and homeless at the end of my journey, at least I could look back on all of it and know that I tried.
It wasn’t until I arrived in Sydney, Australia on May 26, 2011 when everything finally clicked. It was the first time in my life that I experienced love at first sight with a city – the people, the accents, the weather, the culture – and now that I’m here, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Yet.
It’s been sixteen months in Australia and so much has changed. I think about the kind of person I was when I first arrive in this country (broken, damaged, lost) and the kind of person I am now (confident, passionate, happy) and I can’t help but wonder why the hell I had to travel around the entire effing world to get to here.
It’s not the destination that matters, but the journey you take to get there.
My birthday somehow snuck up on me this year. In some ways I feel like I’m exactly where I want to be going into the final year of my 20′s and in other ways I feel like ‘holy sh*t, how am I already 29!?’
I’ve spent the last three months focusing on the importance of honesty – learning what it means to be honest with myself and learning how to dish it out and be honest with others.
In early July I made the difficult decision to turn down a teaching contract in China because I wasn’t ready to leave Australia yet. It was something that I accepted at the time because my work and holiday visa was expiring at the end of August and I didn’t know what else to do or where else to go. I just knew it wouldn’t have been fair to those children to spend a year teaching without really putting any effort, passion and love into it. My heart just wasn’t in it.
Shortly afterwards, The Australian and I moved in together and then traveled to Thailand and Cambodia for two weeks. And towards the end of our holiday, I found myself sitting on the beach in Koh Phi Phi dishing out a big plate of honesty and admitting that he’s one [big] reason why I didn’t go to China. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to give up on him just yet. Upon returning from Asia, we made the decision to apply for a Partner visa so I can stay in Australia for the next 2-4 years and I found myself overwhelmed and stressed at the amount of paperwork entailed. The application has been lodged, I was granted a Bridging Visa until Immigration decides on our application and I’m incredibly thankful for his willingness to do it for me because it isn’t something everyone would do.
But it’s not just about him; it’s about the kind of foundation that I have built in Australia over the last sixteen months. It’s about the friendships that I’ve formed, the challenges I’ve overcome and the experiences that have shaped this large chunk of my life. It’s about all of the adventures, excitement, thrills, challenges, opportunities and possibilities that are yet to come.
You can’t expect to find your own kind of happiness if you never take any chances.
So here I am on my 29th birthday, grateful for having the courage to start over again. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken that risk and boarded that plane to Prague because it somehow put me on this worldly adventure and landed me in Australia.
It’s the risks we don’t take that we regret the most.
Now here’s where I ask you for a birthday present (calm down, you don’t have to buy me anything): take a risk, take a chance, make a change. It doesn’t have to be as bold and gutsy like moving to a new country, but do something that you’ve been meaning to do but you’re too scared to do it. Quit your job and start that new business. End a relationship that doesn’t satisfy you anymore. Travel the world because you’re just dying to visit the other side. Walk away from a friendship that isn’t being reciprocated. Tell someone you love them and mean it. Do something every day that launches you forward because if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Take that chance to create a life worth living.