"When are you coming back to live in the US?" a question that I am asked frequently. Everyone's way of asking, "When will you find a stable job, marry a handsome man, put a mortgage on a house with a white picket fence, own a golden retriever, raise 2 children, etc. When will you stop this life of uncertainty and escape from the real world?" Questions that I can't comprehend. I am not trying to escape anything, nor am I postponing the 'real world.' To me, this life is "normal."
Just because I don't have a permanent address, doesn't mean I am lost. Just because I'm alone, doesn't mean I'm lonely. Just because I live in a city of 7 million people with constant noise and clatter, doesn't mean I'm not at peace. Just because I am without many Western conveniences and a stable job earning a lot of money, doesn't mean I'm not happy.
I'm almost 30 and well... truth is... I couldn't be happier. I'm in a more positive and self aware state. The experiences I have lived through and years of battling with myself have brought me here. Years spent trying to accept myself and befriend this person inside. Years of focusing on what I can't do or what I don't have. The negativity, shame, unworthiness, self-pity, and anxiety have been some of my best teachers. They have helped me grow and have sent me on a quest for something more - for love, justice, peace, and wisdom. They have taught me to take control of my life. Instead of focusing on what I can't do or what I don't have, I appreciate more and more what I can do and what I have. Accepting this person that I am, instead of trying to change them into a person they aren't.
I have learned more in these past 3 years of traveling and living abroad than I ever had from any text book, any TV show, any corporate job, or any university professor. All it took was one step out of my comfort zone and one giant leap of faith that has made me feel more comfortable with the uncomfortable. The challenges only get easier, the time only gets shorter, and the distance is no obstacle. My journey, which started into the world, has turned into a journey of self discovery. Years spent searching for "something" that has been there this whole time. From the top of the Rocky Mountains, to diving below the waters in the Caribbean. From the steps of a Buddhist temple to trekking through the Himalayans. Deep within the Amazon jungle, or to the bottom of the world's deepest canyon. Places that have absolutely moved me and brought me so much happiness in that moment... These places that have helped me discover something. Happiness isn't something that we search for. It isn't on the top of a mountain, or on the bottom of the sea. It isn't something that we find outside of ourselves or even from other people. It's something we find within, and it's there when you are ready for it. Happiness is a choice that only we have the power to make.
My experiences and the people that I have met along the way teach me more and more what it means to be human. Traveling deepens my understanding that we are all one. We may be people of different nationalities, gender, religions, or economic status. However, we shouldn't let those things separate us. We are all human beings who have the same wants, needs, and desires. We all ride the ups and downs; from joy to despair, to pleasure and pain. Maybe it's true we have more similarities than differences. Human journey is a quest; a search for knowledge and comfort. We are all in this together, why should we make it harder for one another?
So I will be celebrating my 30th birthday in China. An age I never imagined turning, in a country I never imagined living in. My heart, my tour guide, has landed me in a place over 7,000 miles from family and friends and a safe, comfortable life. A safe easy life that wouldn't provide my mind and soul with the challenges they need to grow. Like mentioned before, China is a place that confuses me, frustrates me, excites me, and inspires me all in a single day. I feel myself undergoing changes daily. Thank you China.
I am a truth seeker who loves to learn. There is no such thing as too many questions, and if there was, I wouldn't care. Traveling teaches you many things. However, I am finding the more I learn, the less I know. So 30 years of life and 18 countries later, I have found that the only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing at all...