My first day of solo travel in Dublin, Ireland in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
In September, while watching the Tudors on Netflix as background noise for another day of work at home, the feelings finally boiled over. I couldn’t figure out why I needed to go, I just needed to go. It was as sudden as not having enough air and needing a breath or the desire to get off the couch and go outside for a long, long walk to clear your head- sometimes, you just know when you need to explore.
I am assuming, the trigger was seeing the actor playing King Henry VIII mounting a horse to ride out from his castle- and seeing the landscape and the historic storyline unfold that made me stir crazy. I had been watching British shows for years- Doctor Who, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, The Tudors, and pretty much every historical documentary about WWII and British History that I could load in my queue. It was a world I had seen so many times before, and having only had 2 stamps in my passport, ever, and I was starving for travel abroad.
Initially, I intended to jaunt just to London for a week, then, realizing that a direct flight to Dublin was nearly $600 cheaper and that savings could help me stay an extra week and explore the northern UK, aka, my beloved Scotland, it was a sealed deal. After some hurried Facebook posts, posing questions to friends in the know about international travel, I booked the flight that same afternoon. It needed to be done.
It wasn’t until the return trip home that I realized why I needed to go. It was an act of rebellion, or maybe a simple statement of autonomy- after years of living off checklists of “shoulds” in my 20’s, many of which no longer resonated with me, I was bucking against all of the things I had to do in my 20’s, many of them unadventurous at best.
I just wanted to go alone, and while that scared some people I met along the way- I found I wasn’t the only one. I met nearly a dozen solo travelers, many being female, from all over the world- who simply had the sense I did of wanting to see the world and reflect. Sometimes, you need to be crazy and just explore it on your own to find those other crazies. 😉
I have been very frugal, and financially conservative since I was granted “adult status,” at 18. My college choices were financially conservative, I chose a community college, then a local university since it was the closest and allowed me to take care of my Gram, since the cost of full time care was astronomical. I worked, I went to school. Then, I worked and I went to graduate school. I graduated, and I worked. It was a serious of checklists to make sure I was adulting properly.
Yup. I got to hang out at Hogwarts- well the movie set. Still waiting for my acceptance letter.
Then, I decided the next check off my list would be to find a fella, get married and start a life together. To me, marriage is the most important decision you make in your life. You cannot control where or to whom you’re born, which is one of the biggest determining factors of your life’s outcome, but you can control who you wed. Your partner impacts every impact of your life’s story and it permanently alters the course of your life, and you must choose wisely.
We all know how that last bit ended up. During those years, I worked and was determined to be frugal to save up $20k for a wedding. I worked nonstop, as I did to ensure I graduated from undergrad debt free, I was determined to have a debt free wedding. It needed to be a reflection of my values- and I hoped it would be the start of a new story. The rug got pulled out. Things didn’t go as planned, and that’s the beauty of life- it can be jarring and heartbreaking, but at least it’s not dull, it ensures you still have a pulse if you’re broken heart keeps beating.
Fast forward to this fall and I booked a trip on a whim, simply to get some fresh air from across the Atlantic. I’m now 29 and have no idea where to go with my life. As a woman who lived her life on spreadsheets and checklists, with a path that thrived on a 5 year plan, I have had no idea what I wanted anymore and I had no idea why.
A view I will never forget in the Scotland after a walk in the rain through the woods.
You can imagine that my lack of goal sheets was quite distressing. I hoped a trip would help me sort it out in my head and heart. I’ve always been a woman who jumped quickly on intuition. I can make a decision quickly, and I always had vision boards, checklists, and yearly goals, thus accordingly broken down into monthly goals. The idea of doing any of that seemed to stop me in my tracks- all the things before me that I could be wanting- married life, children, a mortgage and a permanent address anywhere, seemed to drain me. Nothing that should have been on my 5 year plan seemed to fit. I couldn’t put pen to paper.
At first, it was an awful feeling, but I packed my bags hoping I’d get inspiration to point my arrow for the next year or five years, but what I didn’t realize was that I’d find something different entirely on this trip.
My choices have always been deliberate and below budget- if I couldn’t afford something, it didn’t get purchased. Many times, things still don’t get purchased as I live with this thought in mind- “often we buy things we do not want, which we cannot afford, to impress people we don’t even like.” This was something I could afford, and it was to impress nobody but me. There would be many moments I will never share on Instagram, like going bar hopping with a bunch of random travelers in Dublin, or that gorgeous grandeur of simply being able to wander around a castle that’s older than the country you were born in, reading every last sign and pamphlet about what the architecture meant, just to soak it all in.
There will be things your heart calls you to do. You can’t always explain it. For me, buying a plane ticket to Europe was one of those things, and since I was able to pay for it in cash and by using credit card points and by staying in hostels- it was totally freeing.
I learned that my hair excellently curls in the wind and mist of the isles. I got to walk the halls of a palace of King Henry VII and use a loo where Queen Elizabeth I used to hang out. I dealt with a bout of anxiety and jet lag in Dublin, and finally found my stride in Edinburgh after several restless nights traveling solo. I quietly reflected in the woods of the Scottish Lowlands, and worked my calves keeping up with the rush hour crowds in the London Underground. Through all of it, I was quiet, and it was delightful and sometimes, it was hard- but it was just what I needed instead of just rushing to the next list of goals as I’ve always done.
They say you can’t get lost in Edinburgh (because of the giant castle on the rock), but I did. Several times.
So, what did I get out of this trip? Did I get that checklist of goals and inspiration I set out to find? Nope, I found something better- peace. Peace with not having the answers, and the confidence to know that I don’t need a giant checklist to make myself feel secure anymore.
I’m still not sure what I want to do in 2016, or even with my life. I am taking a step back from the reckless anxiety that comes to most of us when we get ready to turn 30 and we don’t want most of the things we are told we should want at this stage (namely, stability)- but I will say, I am still an advocate for being conservative, frugal and that each of us should live within our means, simply for the fact that our hearts need an adventure and our bank accounts should be ready for when the desire arises.
For you, your inspiration may be different than mine. It may be the desire to start a family, or the need to go back to school and explore talents you left on the back burner for too long. It could even be a chance to start over in a new city or start your own charity. If your heart leaps, saving now allows for your body to follow. You don’t always have to know what you’re saving for, but save a little, as much and as often as you can for that moment when something wonderful needs to happen.
Your finances should be both sane and responsible in order that your heart can be carefree and adventurous. Life is short, and there will be times in your life where nothing makes sense, and your sense of self is being reformulated.
I wish you a very happy holiday and hope to come back soon with more info about my travels, but for now, thanks for listening and best wishes for a frugally beautiful Christmas!